Augusto Salazar Bondy was a major twentieth-century Peruvian philosopher. His work, however, is virtually unknown in the world of Anglophone philosophy. Where English-language accounts of Salazar Bondy’s philosophy do exist, they focus almost exclusively on his contributions to the philosophy of liberation and Latin American metaphilosophy.1 This limited engagement is unfortunate for two reasons: first, Salazar Bondy also made significant contributions to metaethics and the philosophy of value throughout his career, and, second, understanding Salazar Bondy’s philosophy of value is helpful in understanding his political and metaphilosophical views. This paper has two major aims. First, it will be the first detailed English-language account of Salazar Bondy’s metaethics and philosophy of value. Second, it will show how Salazar Bondy’s views on these topics informed his work on the philosophy of liberation and metaphilosophy that has thus far occupied his North American interpreters.
The first task in this paper will be to provide an introduction to Salazar Bondy’s metaethics and philosophy of value.2 Because Anglophone philosophers are unlikely to be aware of Salazar Bondy’s work or much of its context, I will provide an extensive reconstruction of his core philosophical commitments and argumentation in this section. We can distinguish three stages in Salazar Bondy’s development of his philosophy: phenomenological–ontological (1958–1964), analytical (1965-1969), and praxis-based (1969–d.-1974).3 Each of these stages is marked by distinct philosophical commitments. In the first stage, Salazar Bondy holds that value is not an independent ontological entity but rather the fulfillment of being (cumplimiento del ser), which corresponds to the concept of transcendence (el concepto de trascender).4 In the analytical stage,5 Salazar Bondy maintains his interest in transcendental approaches to value, but he shifts away from the ontological focus of his earlier period. Here Salazar Bondy begins to think about value and the valuable as a “condition of the possibility of human action”6 in the context of intersubjective practical rationality.7 Salazar Bondy argues that “to value is not in essence to describe, nor to prove objectivities, nor is it to report, express, provoke, or prescribe states of mind, but to recognize and communicate a demand of acceptance or rejection, agreement or disagreement, that transcends the factual.”8 Value is transcendental because it makes intelligible “an order of human actions and interactions.”9 Salazar Bondy’s reasoning behind this account of value is technical and complex, and this section of the paper will devote considerable effort to explaining it and making it clear.
In the final section, I will connect Salazar Bondy’s philosophy of value to the final period of his philosophical work, where he focused on political questions of domination and liberation in Latin America.10 I will argue that, once we understand Salazar Bondy’s philosophy of value, we can better understand his views on domination, liberation, and philosophy’s relation to them. One reason for this, I will suggest, is that Salazar Bondy’s connection of value to the possibility for human action. He remained open to original or “proto” valuations. These are interpretations of value that result from the subject’s spontaneity, not a pre-existing pattern (such as from the culture of domination). Because value is for Salazar Bondy a condition for human action and interaction, proto-valuations may allow for radical reconfigurations in possibilities for human action and interaction.11 This may help to explain what has been called his “surprising optimism concerning the potential of philosophy to dispel domination.”12
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