Latin American Society

Philosophy always influenced on the development of the society and its cultural development. In different times, different philosophical views dominated peoples’ lives and beliefs. The philosophy of Latin America was formed under the influence of European philosophy that had a great impact on the development of the New World.

Latin American philosophy begins long before the 1492, in other words, before it was discovered. “Autochthonous cultures, particularly the Aztecs, Mayas, Incas and Tupi-Guarani, produced sophisticated thought systems centuries before the arrival of Europeans in America” (Oliver, 1998, During these times, the philosophy of tribes that inhabited the territory advocated “the harmony between human and nature” (Sanchez, 2008, p. 299).

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A new period in the Latin American philosophy began in the 16th with the colonization of the New World. At this time, Catholic churches established schools, monasteries and seminaries. The philosophy of colonial period was inspired by medieval European philosophy. According to Guttorm Floistad (2003), “Latin America philosophy has no originality. This is simply a sequence of the mentality of the colonial power”. (p. 2).

In general, philosophy of the New World can be divided into four periods: colonial (starting with the 16th century), independentist, positivist and contemporary. Each of these periods had a great influence on the development of Latin society and culture.

However, the leading idea of every period was independence of Latin people and consecration of the native cultural heritage. During the colonial period, many authors were influenced by humanistic movement. The most famous Latin American humanist was a folk caudillo Bartolome de las Casas who saw the first person to fight for the freedoms of native Latin Americans. He claimed that European culture should not be trusted on cultural values of people.

The independestist period began with the interest to modern European philosophers and prepared ground for the “emergence of radical and conservative political movements and parties” (Floistad, 2003, p. 12). However, before the wave of revolutions that occurred in Latin America (Cuba in particular), another period of philosophical development influenced on the culture of Native Americans. Positivism was a respond to the political, economic and social changes in the countries.

The main figures that promoted positivism theories in the country were Juan Bautista Alberdi and Andres Bello who emphasizes that Latin philosophy should be independent of the European one. In the 19th and 20th century, there were many revolutions based on the Marxist theories, “the philosophical and pedagogical theories of liberalism were intimately related to the historical situation” (Floistad, 2003, p. 14).

A contemporary period in the Latin American philosophy begins with the reduction of positivism. The main interest was focused on the development of the “philosophical anthropology based on a spiritual conception of human beings” (Honderich, 2005, p. 595). This philosophical movement was established after Ortega y Gasset brought into Latin American culture the ideas of Max Scheler and other philosophers.

Between 1930th and 1940th, Latin American philosophy was subordinate to European ideas. “After the Spanish Civil War, many peninsular philosophers settled in Latin America” (Honderich, 2005, p. 595) and reform the philosophy that soon became independent and was established as a reputable discipline.

Thus, European philosophical traditions had a great influence on its social and cultural development. Inspired by European philosophers, Latin American philosophers provides their idea of the independence and freedom of Native Americans. These ideas were reflected in works of many literary and political activists.


Floistad, G. (2003). Philosophy of Latin America. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Honderich, T. (2005). The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Oliver, A. A. (1998). Latin America, philosophy in. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge. Retrieved from

Sanchez, G. (2008). Security in Latin American Philosophy, Ethics, and History of Ideas. Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace, 3 (III), p. 299-310, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-75977-5_20.


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