Volume 18, Issue 1, Spring 2014
Aesthetics In The Latin American Tradition
Amy A. Oliver
Context and Kant in the Aesthetics of José Enrique Rodó and Samuel Ramos
In the classic essays Ariel (1900) and Filosofía de la vida artística (1950), the Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó (1872–1917) and the Mexican Samuel Ramos (1897–1959) present distinctive and divergent claims about aesthetics. While Rodó asserts the existence of an innate and abundant aesthetic sensibility among Latin Americans, Ramos believes that aesthetic experience is relatively rare and that aesthetic sensibility needs to be cultivated. While historical grounding in the Latin American context is missing in the works of both Rodó and Ramos, Ariel contains an argument for an innate Latin American aesthetic sensibility linked to high moral development along with the hope that Latin America's youth will use their aesthetic and moral gifts to advance Latin America's place in the 20th century. In Filosofía de la vida artística, Ramos argues that the aesthetic experience in Mexico is far from innate or even widespread: on the contrary, it is rare and much in need of further development. Kant, referenced by both Rodó and Ramos, in his Critique of Judgment, argues against a relationship between aesthetic sensibility and moral capacity. Rodó, then, is at odds with Kant while Ramos's view is closer to Kant's.