Many thanks for agreeing to this. Could you please start by saying something about your story, who you are and what you do?
Thanks for preparing this interview, Steve.
Who am I? This is a very tough question, indeed. When I was very young this question made me reflect a lot. It is the question that the caterpillar asks Alicia in Wonderland. When she replies “I am a little girl”, he retorts: “Yes, but who are you”. The only reply that I found at that time was that I am I. Granted, this is not terribly informative, but, as Calvin said: “it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself”. What this means is that we don’t know who we are until we have a knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. But then, as Dooyeweerd says, we are an expression of God’s image. Out of that we are really nothing, nobody.
Now, it is obvious that you are not asking for my passport, but, I guess, some information about my existence in the totality of meaning, in relation to concrete things that we all know, like my country, profession, and things like that. I would say that I am a servant of Christ placed in the Mexican Republic. My profession is philosophy, and I am a research professor at the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Veracruz. I have two sons, Rodrigo and Adolfito, and I’m married to Luz María Suárez. We live in Coatepec, Veracruz, in the outskirts of Xalapa, a beautiful town surrounded by coffee plantations.
Who or what are your key influences?
I am son of Marx (and Coca-Cola). I was raised as a Roman Catholic and even was an altar boy. But the influence in the public Mexican universities was quite Marxist. Everybody spoke about the revolution, Marx’s Capital, and it was taken for granted that the only decent position was that of a revolutionary like Che Guevara. Yet, my early formation in philosophy was strongly based upon mathematical logic, and so I developed a curiosity, an interest in understanding Das Kapital from a logical point of view. That’s how I began to make logical analyses of theories. My first influence after Marxism was logical positivism, especially Rudolf Carnap’s writings, then Mario Bunge, but I was a disciple of C. Ulises Moulines, who taught me the logical methods initiated by Alfred Tarski at Berkeley, and Patrick Suppes at Stanford. I ended up working under the advice of Suppes at Stanford, where I wrote a rather technical dissertation on the logical foundations of the labour theory of value.
On the other hand, I was still very young when I began to deeply dislike Marxism. It was an instinctive rejection, but I really did not have a very firm and clear philosophical position, although I was close to Spanish Scholasticism, mainly Francisco Suarez’s Disputations. My full liberation came many years later, thanks to the Gospel and later Reformational philosophy.
I knew about Reformational philosophy thanks to a lecture by Dr. John Paul Roberts in the Juan Calvino Seminary of Mexico City. He has been a great influence upon me, as well as Roy A. Clouser, who is, in my view, the greatest (albeit neglected) American philosopher alive now.
Your book A Structuralist Theory of Economics has recently been produced, could you say a little something about that?
It is a very technical book where I use the structuralist view of theories in order to discuss and reconstruct the logical structure of several economic theories, as well as their methodological issues from that point of view. From the point of view of WdW, it is a book devoted to the retrocipations of economic theory in the arithmetic, spatial and logical modalities. This means that it deals with representations of economic phenomena in those realms. I think, in particular, that representational measurement can be seen as a theory of the analogy of different modalities in the mathematical modalities. I intend to develop this point in forthcoming papers.
Why has a Christian philosopher written on such a topic?
Because I am interested in the logical foundations and methodology of economic theories. Actually, I have been teaching economic theory for many years.
Is there such a thing as Christian economics?
I don’t think so. Economics is like physics: there is no unified theory, no unified field, as I discuss it in my paper “The Economic Sphere” (Axiomathes 20 (1): 81-94 (2010)). We have a philosophical view of the economic sphere (that I present in this paper), but not a theory properly said. In my book, Chapter 6, I present a very general view of what an economic system is.
You have recently translated the first volume of Dooyeweerd’s New Critique of Theoretical Thought into Spanish. How did you first come across Dooyeweerd and Reformational philosophy?
When I returned to Mexico from Stanford, back in 1986, I became Christian and all philosophies, even that of Suárez did not quite squared with my new faith. Then I was invited by a brother to a lecture by Dr. John Paul Roberts, who used to come to Mexico often to teach Reformational philosophy. I fell in love with this philosophy at first sight, back in 1992.
The translation of the New Critique could not be an easy task! What was the motivation behind doing it?
One of my projects has been to provide the Spanish-speaking Christians with Reformational literature. I have published Willem Groen van Prinsterer’s Unbelief and Revolution (I ignore who made the translation, but I revised it no less than five times, and made the typography). I have also translated: Dooyeweerd’s Roots of Western Culture; H. Evan Runner’s Unionville Lectures, all in a single volume; and Roy Clouser’s The Myth of Religious Neutrality.
What were the highlights of doing the translation?
It is just delightful to see how the great Dutch philosopher destroys Kant’s philosophy, and exhibits the miserable apostasy of German Idealism. After understanding the degradation and religious uprooting of Humanism by its successors, mainly Nietzsche, one wonders why National Socialism did not erupt before the twentieth century.
What were the difficulties you faced?
Naturally, at the beginning you have to make decisions regarding the terminology. A particularly difficult term is “naive experience”. In Spanish “naive” is usually translated as innocent, kind of stupid; someone whom one may abuse easily. I have translated it as “experiencia intuitiva”. Another term could have been “experiencia natural”, but I think the first one is more accurate.
How has Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven ideas been received in Mexico? Is there much interest in their work?
There is increasing interest. There are already schools and universities where Dooyeweerd (more than Vollenhoven) is being taught. I think that the movement already has no less than fifty or sixty enthusiastic followers in Mexico. There is an organization in Chile, Reforma Chile, that has more than one hundred members, with influence in the government, that is well acquainted with Kuyper’s and Dooyeweerd’s work. A translation into Portuguese of Clouser’s Myth has just appeared in Brazil.
What do you think are the strengths and what are the weaknesses of the Reformational approach?
Even though the Reformational approach is very strong in itself, it is rather recent. The main problem, at least in Hispanic-America, is that public universities are controlled by Humanism, that the Reformed churches are still a minority, and that private universities are mostly Catholic. But I am very optimistic and I think that a huge growth is coming in the forthcoming years.
Are there any other projects you are working on?
I want to revise Dooyeweerd’s philosophies of logic and mathematics, especially his criticism of Dedekind’s construction of the real numbers through cuts, as well as its implications for Non-Standard Analysis. Within this framework, I intend to prove the existence of a representation of the geometric segments of the straight line in Non-Archimedian Euclidean space into the system of hypererreal Non-Standard numbers, following the steps of Otto Hölder’s “Die Axiome der Quantität und die Lehre vom Mass”. The nature of these representations, as “jumps” among modalities or analogies, has to be philosophically clarified.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like TV, cinema, scuba diving, music listening. I love food, a nice wine, liquor (tequila, whiskey and Spanish brandy) and not very often a nice cigar. And I don’t care that the Pentecostals have excommunicated me for this.
If you were stuck on a desert island what two luxury items would you take with you?
You mean on top of essential stuff like the Bible and a knife? Well, a good mask with snorkel, fins and a harpoon. A musical instrument like a flute. I’m afraid that tablets, computers and cell phones wouldn’t be of much use. Perhaps a box of powerful tools and a boat would very luxurious.