Jul 112013

On May 10, 2013, a special tribunal ordered to judge the case against Ríos Montt found the former dictator of Guatemala guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. This decision was received by the international community with great relief and approval, having demonstrated the country’s desire to end the reign of impunity in its justice system. Ten days later, on May 20, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala annulled the tribunal’s decision, setting the stage for a new trial. It was clear to most observers and to the two dissenting judges of the supreme court that something more than merely due process and rule of law was at work in the decision of the majority judges.

The annulation was in fact the latest, most extreme expression of the culture of impunity and racism that has long gripped Guatemala. It should, among citizens and within the national discourse, raise a flood of questions about the prospects for democracy in Guatemala and the legitimacy of the state itself. Yet there has been strikingly little reaction at all–in comparison to the gravity of the crimes–among those, particularly politicians, whose responsibility it would be to raise such questions of national concern. The following reflections are offered as points of discussion toward a better understanding of what the future may hold for Guatemala.

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May 252013

In his essay There is No Progress in Philosophy, Eric Dietrich argues that, while the sciences progress as new theories are confirmed by empirical data and become accepted, philosophy does not and cannot make progress. Philosophy, he says, only modernizes itself, incorporating advances made by society in areas like morality and science, but it is never ahead of any progress. When he says, “philosophy is exactly the same now as it ever was; it has made no progress whatsoever,” the idea may first appear scandalous and radical, but on closer inspection–and by following Dietrich’s argument–it begins to make sense.

So why does philosophy not progress? Dietrich begins by showing up the similarity between science and philosophy, namely, that in both fields competing arguments cause seemingly intractable disagreements. Holders of competing theories or explanations of data try to convince each other of the truth of their positions, but often the disagreements are never resolved, no winning theory emerges, and no progress is made in the field.

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