Ezequiel Chomer (Argentina-Sur)

It is difficult to find, in the Latin America twentieth century, philosophers who reach certain significance outside its mere historical context. There are too few, and those trying to break the mold of sociocultural encapsulations, either fail deepening the great themes that philosophy deserve or do not reach diffusion that is found in other more central areas of modern thought, mainly located in the cultural and academic capitals of Europe and USA.

It seems that since the time of scientific empiricism in the nineteenth century, Latin America in general have been auto set aside, on major philosophical currents, being considered the role of the intellectual as a mere observer, until the mid- 50s in which the mission became that of a Redemptory of a Latin American emerging counterculture against imperialist domination of the Central Powers. The work of the
thinker, then became, with honorable exceptions, from a pious way of entertainment intellectual elites, to the complaint of the imperial – capitalist exploitation and injustices of North-South relations, be they economic, social or cultural. The irony of this is that with the intention of circumventing the prevailing materialism in the so decadent philosophy in the twentieth century in the core countries, it ended up falling into a sort of periphery´s materialism, in its ontological historicist liberationist, aspects.

frondizi01Like a flower that grows in the desert of mediocrity, we can rescue in Latin America of the twentieth century, a man who was more than just an intellectual. Risieri Frondizi was born in Posadas, Argentina, in 1910 , within a large family of Italian immigrants . Risieri was the youngest of fourteen children, most of them prominent on various disciplines of teaching, literature, law and politics. Brother of Arturo, who would in 1958 arrive to the Presidency of Argentina, his own career in the world of philosophy, anthropology and education in some corners replicate the footsteps of his older brother, in a way were part of the zigzag trail that had to walk Argentina and other Latin American countries. However it took almost no part in politics, nor accepted undeserved privileges or charges. He endured exile with the same equanimity, ostracism and periods of academic and personal prosperity, which earned him a reputation for Socratic behavior observed by themselves and others. Obviously, the difficult context in which he lived generally speaking to any Latin American intellectual in the twentieth century was also an opportunity for many to cement and strengthen their convictions, their style, their own way of life, as in the case of Frondizi, in his own work. Frondizi did not hesitate to criticize the shallowness alike and lack of originality of Latin American thinkers, such as the brutality and illiteracy vigilant states discourage or even devour their own intellectuals.

He won numerous awards and scholarships, including one that allowed him to study at Harvard, where he met several important philosophers who would guide his first steps as Alfred Whitehead, Ralph Barton Perry and Wolfgang Köhler, and the historian and philosopher Francisco Romero, with whom will share a friendship of a lifetime.

In Argentina, during the most liberal periods, he founded and directed the School of Philosophy at the University of Tucumán, was dean of the University of Buenos Aires, driving the years of its further development as a study center, which reached a recognition among the most important universities in the world . During the persecution of the first Peronism and the dictatorship of the Revolution, in which he was banned, he directed classes of philosophy in Venezuela, Mexico, and especially in universities in the United States (Harvard, Yale and Michigan among others), where politic stability and greater resources facilitated the post war development of the social sciences and humanities. He even served as president of the American Philosophical Society. But hardly finished settling anywhere permanently, always looking for new horizons and a generosity of heart that kept him tied to teaching until the day of his death in Texas in 1985.

The most important of his works was the book “What are values?” Written in 1958. It raises its central thesis about the inherent nature of human beings, from a structuralist methodology.

Values, for Frondizi, emanate from archetypes proper of the human being nature. Some of them are material and changing (economic), others are perennial (axiological). Economic values can mutate throughout history as they are worth in relation to its being material and exchange well, which is not similar to each and every one. However there are transcendent values that do not vary, or may be soiled or degraded by human behavior. He gave as an example that the opinion about a beautiful object as a work of art does not depend on the opinion of it by an observer, no matter if it is a majority. Beauty, like Justice or other archetypes can not be captured in its entirety, except flashes of the same, that in every society, time and place, they become what is called “good taste” or “sense of justice “, but these values themselves are mere perceptions and not the value itself, which remains unchanged.

frondizi02Another way to illustrate this concept is the given based on the existence or not of sound. Frondizi raises the sound (analog to archetypes) whether there can be heard or not. Different people can hear different sounds, and animal ears or mechanical sensors can only achieve some, but the sound waves move the same. The senses, in this reasoning are fallible experimentation to achieve in the world mechanisms, so they can trick us while enlighten.

Such thinking denotes a strong Platonic stamp, as it puts the man as a being with the potential to approach the Archetypes, but being not a whole being cannot reach them all. The means to approach the Archetypes is philosophy, and it is especially nourished through the experience.

Consistent with the structuralism methodology used as boarding, Frondizi creates a scale of values: tastes, emotions, moral (or ethical) values and religious (or metaphysical) values, each category autonomous with respect to its predecessor.

Ethical values are based on the premise of preserving life and form a social order, germ of what would be the state. To do so, takes up Kant trail, another notable on the Platonic line thinker of the eighteenth century, based on the categorical imperative, which upheld “Work so you can only wish the maxim of your action should become a universal law.” Biblical commandments or laws are made to universalize behaviors that lead to social order, not the solution, hence the appearance of terms such as ” thou shalt not kill ” or ” thou shalt not steal “, etc. If all stolen, killed and lied freely, society would disintegrate immediately or there would come into being.

Risieri Frondizi had not the same impact that other philosophers of his time did manage. This is probably because each society rescue from itself what it wants to see. But to paraphrase his own work, this does not have to diminish the intrinsic value of his work, which took a proper and important flight to its social and historical context. His own life is inseparable from his work, not just their academic work, as well as being an intellectual was a man of action, an educator, and an example of life.