Antonio Caso

Antonio Caso was born in 1883 and died in 1946 in Mexico City. Renowned philosopher and writer, his contribution to Mexico’s intellectual development had a decisive influence on the country’s philosophical views and awakened its academic spirit in education. He received a Law Degree from the National School of Jurisprudence but dedicated his life to being a professor of philosophy, sociology and literature in the School of Philosophy and Literature at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

He was director of the National High School in 1909, secretary of the National University in 1910, vice-chancellor from 1920 to 1923, member of the Mexican Language Academy and founder of the National School in 1943.

The universities of La Habana, Lima, Guatemala, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro granted him the title Honoris Causa.

He was a great promoter of contemporary philosophy, especially the works of Henri Bergson and Edmund Husserl in an effort to stray away from the systematic discourse and supporting a trend towards the value of intuition. His revolutionary ideals were focused on converging ethics, art, science and culture as the goal of philosophical knowledge. Among his many famous works, some of the best known are Discursos a la Nación Mexicana (1922), Doctrinas e Ideas (1924), El Problema de México y la Ideología Nacional (1924). Principios de Estética (1925), Historia y Antología del Pensamiento Filosófico (1926), La Filosofía de Husserl (1934), y El Peligro del Hombre (1942).

He had a notable influence on Mexican ideals, founding in 1906 the Ateneo de la Juventud, together with Jose Vasconcelos and Alfonso Reyes, the trench from which the great thinkers of his time fought against the prevailing positivism and supported the revolutionary uprising of 1910.

His philosophy was guided towards a metaphysical spiritualism of Christian roots, synthesized in his 1946 masterwork: La existencia como economía, como desinterés y como caridad (Existence as economy, lack of interest and charity). This work highlights his motto, summarized in: “do for others more than you wish they would do for you”.

Antonio Caso was devoted to understanding the individual as an indivisible being that must sacrifice to achieve a comprehensive development, always aspiring to common good. He sustained that human superiority is evidently not centered on its biological nature, but on its intellectual and moral capacity. This stemmed from his definition of man as a being of multiple facets that continue their formation throughout existence.

Caso conceived the spiritual facet above the psychic, recognizing man as a creator of values. He sustained that will is a must in order to desire continuous education, in a broad formation that transcends mere intellectual instruction, because the latter, on its own, turns individuals into selfish and inscrutable beings. The base of his philosophy is freedom, without which there can be no education or culture. This love for freedom made him act in favor of human rights for all marginalized ethic groups in Latin America, fighting for a humanist formation of the natives on an endeavor of social unity.

Naturally, in an attempt to defend freedom of conscience, he condemned totalitarianism and the exaltation of the State, because these subordinate and underestimate the communities’ will.

Article Produced by the Editorial Team of Explorando México.
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Photo: Biblioteca Virtual Ignacio Larramendi