Claudio Gutiérrez is the first Costa Rican scholar to exercise philosophy systematically applying techniques of logic and the constant dialog with science peculiar to the analytical school. He is the pioneer within the first native generation of philosophers with international academic education, who left behind the somewhat literary essays to move towards research, with the thoroughness and originality required in more demanding international settings. Before him, there certainly were several other outstanding philosophers in the country, among them Roberto Brenes Mesén (1874-1947) and Moises Vincenzi (1895-1964), but Gutiérrez was the one who introduced an exacting and professional way of doing philosophy, very different from esoteric mysticism, religion disguised in philosophical clothing, provincialism, or philosophy reduced just to its history, approaches that, at different times and supported by each other, had prevailed before.
In philosophical topics already existing in the university curriculum, such as logic, epistemology, and philosophy of science, the changes he brings about, especially after his doctoral thesis, are easy to document. His book Elementos de Lógica, 1968, is the first publication on the subject in the country that bears the correct title, since what had previously passed by logic was a mixture of psychology, grammar, metaphysics, and a simplified version of Aristotelian categorical syllogisms, with no modal operators or theoretical justification of the distinction between validity and invalidity. Originality, present in all his writings, already appears in this work on his treatment of the enantiomorphical properties of some connectives, topic that appears once again on a wider context in his weighty 1977 article, "Ambigüedad y Comunicación," to which we will return later. In new fields such as computer science, he can be included among the region's pioneers. His interest on this area of knowledge shows a personal preference toward the modernization of processes and the social applications of science, which collides with the tendency of previous pretended philosophers to anchor themselves on previous ideas and practices, still obvious in some of his contemporaries, who kept insisting on the supremacy of metaphysics, or in new versions of ideologies immune to confrontation.
Thus has he been seen by other researchers of his thought. Introducing Gutiérrez' lecture “La nueva filosofía de la mente,” Carlos Molina [1993, 160] aptly describes him as
the person who perhaps has contributed most to introduce in our midst that different way of philosophizing developed in English speaking countries, and in which –despite his having studied extremely formal and abstract subjects– social preoccupation has been, nevertheless, a constant of his thinking.
And in the words of Juan Diego Lopez [2004, 34]:
His systematic spirit, the depth of his reflections, and the variety and richness of his intellectual production, constitute a true pleasure for the spirit and entail a professional challenge of irresistible force.
The difference brought about by his work in the national context stands out, even when it is not explicit.
Although in his foundational work of 1975, Historia de las ideas en Costa Rica, Constantino Láscaris places him within the section entitled “Filosofía General” [Láscaris, 1975, 315], immediately after Vincenzi and Brenes Mesen, the summary of his thinking obviously shows that he does not fit within the positions of his predecessors, also differing much with those following his name in the list, with the exception of Alexander Skutch, world renown ornithologist residing in Costa Rica, whose essays on the origins of ethics combine scientific knowledge with philosophical reasoning in a similar way.
From a foreign point of view, the role of initiator performed by Gutiérrez stands out in the book El Análisis Filosófico en América Latina [Gracia, Rabossi, Villanueva and Dascal, 1985, 472-4]:
The center of philosophical activity in Central America is certainly Costa Rica.... In the fifties, there is no evidence showing any major interest in philosophical analysis. But in 1960, in an article written by Claudio Gutiérrez for the Revista de Filosofía, entitled “El consentimiento civil a la luz de la lógica moderna,” the author uses symbolic logic to explain some problems regarding philosophy of law. This is the first of a series of articles written by Gutiérrez that manifests the presence of philosophical analysis in Costa Rica.
Further on, they mention the speech delivered at an international conference held in Costa Rica in 1961, adding the following:
From here on, Gutiérrez' effect is felt not just through his publications but also in the university curriculum.... Claudio Gutiérrez studied at the University of Chicago in 1965, where he received his doctorate. After returning to Costa Rica, he continued to actively publish. Among his works, there is a text on logic, Elementos de Lógica (1968), his doctoral thesis Epistemology and Economics (original in English), published in Revista de Filosofía in 1969, and several articles about systems of natural deduction and paradigms (for instance, in Crítica, 1968), and later on about cybernetics. His philosophical activity diminishes somehow when he is appointed president of the University of Costa Rica. During this period, though, he publishes three articles, among them “Knots and Blanks: The Pragmatic Foundation of Logical Principles” (Theory and Decision 6, 1975) and “Ambigüedad y Comunicación” (Revista Latinoamericana de Filosofía, III, 3, 1977).
The reference to the presidential period (1974-1980) as being less intellectually productive must be qualified, since the three above-mentioned articles for that period (the one not quoted is
“La contradicción: ¿vicio formal o cifra de contenido?”) include some of the author's most original ideas. Nor did his position as Minister of Education in 2002 prevent him from continuing writing his master piece,
Humanism Revisited. Due to that succession of technical, administrative, and teaching posts, it is difficult to think about the University of Costa Rica throughout a period of several decades, without bringing to mind the memory of his multiple avatars: dean, vice president, president, professor, researcher, and writer. When one considers the first set of posts he held, it is natural to recall the image of knots, so important in his epistemology, although applying it to a totally different context. To hold an administrative or teaching position in a university means, in great measure, to have to unravel the countless knots created by the incompetence and the mediocrity rooted within the institutional machinery; the excess of rules, created and constantly reformed by university councils –with too much time on their hands and little work to do– as well as the administrative entropy, as real as the physical one.
When one thinks about the researcher, professor, and writer, another image comes to mind, equally important in his epistemology: the blanks which has to be filled when trying to explain reality, generated at the moment when each paradigm reaches its blind spot, the problems with no solution within the given way to look at things.
Both to untie knots and to fill up blanks, intelligence and imagination are required, as well as flexibility and the ability to find connections where no one has seen them before; also, constant, disciplined, and persistent work, often underestimated by others. Practical blanks join the theoretical ones, characteristic of underdevelopment, shortage of means and stimuli, and lack of recognition. More recently, we should add the conceptual blank of positions according to which philosophy must disappear to be replaced by political critique, frequently reduced to simple opinion over economic and social problems, without previous studies of either economy or sociology.
“Knots and Blanks,” topic of the 1975 article, are concepts that emerged in a period quite original in Don Claudio's intellectual activity, centered in the idea of the depletion of paradigms, the interpretative frames wherein the data of experience gets organized. Both depend on context, on the paradigm wherein they emerge as disturbances, and are resolved differently: the knot, by means of its replacement for a theoretical term that overcomes the formal contradiction; the blank, with the introduction of a category, residual in that particular paradigm but not in another.
The formula "untie the knots and fill up the blanks," which we find repeatedly in his writings, describes a theoretical resource, practical as well; their ways differ depending on context, although there is continuity between the diverse fields of theory and the varied experiences of practice. In “Reflexiones sobre el relativismo” (1987), included in the volume Informática y sociedad (UNED, 1992), the two methodological precepts are also presented as rational imperatives. Likewise, we have their connection with ethics and politics, explored later in “Virtualidad y política,” article included in the volume Virtualidad y Derecho (San José: National Commission for the Improvement of Justice Administration, 1998). Ethics, necessary to the experimentation required for the progress of knowledge, is equally necessary to guarantee that the exercise of freedom will not be hindered. As logic debugging of moral automatisms, it cannot be based on a single absolute principle. Ethics and technology relate inversely: the means to avoid recurring to ethics are increasingly available due to technical progress. For instance, if we see crime as the devil's spawn of shortage, then the improvement in production and distribution of goods and services has ethical implications, although not in the superficial sense usually meant by the expression.
Politics is a residual category, that is, what is left once we extract everything we know with certainty about a situation. It is thus a synonym of ignorance, but a field that keeps reducing itself because technical criteria increasingly replace the political ones. This article ends with a criticism of representative democracy in favor of direct democracy, where people make decisions with no need for mediation.
Perhaps his university experience lies behind these considerations: instead of having permanent and well paid collegiate organs, constantly deliberating even when there is nothing to deliberate about, it would be much better to develop direct participation in decision making from all the community members, a process made easier by technology.
We must distinguish several different periods in the author's intellectual production, but before entering any differentiation of stages within his work, and in order to understand them better, it is necessary to recall that, as a privileged witness of the events and an agent of change, Claudio Gutiérrez has been present in several of the most important social processes that Costa Rica has undergone during the second half of the 20th century and the beginnings of the 21st. His life appears interwoven with projects and processes that culminated in permanent changes in national life, which reflected on his autobiographical notes: the expansion of the agricultural frontier, part of his childhood experience in his father's estate in Matina; the 1955 University Reformation, which begins two years later with the creation of the “estudios generales” pensum in 1957; the introduction of philosophy in the high school curriculum from 1960 onwards, and of symbolic logic in university careers; the beginning of regionalization in higher studies as of 1968; the implementation of the 1972 3rd University Congress agreements, with the subsequent re-organization of the University of Costa Rica; the dissemination of Paulo Freire.s pedagogy of the oppressed; the application of computer science to management and teaching processes; the emergence of the cognitive sciences; the struggle to reorganize the Ministry of Education and, more recently, the reformulation of humanism built on scientific bases.
In several of these projects, the international repercussion of Gutiérrez' works is easy to recognize: his studies on artificial intelligence found a projection basis outside the country at the University of Delaware, where he worked as visiting professor from 1981 to 1983, tenured professor from 1984 to 1995, and where he served as director of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences during the years 1987 and 1988. A similar international echo is also to be expected for his recent book, Humanism Revisited, whose character of synthesis based on current science opens doors for discussion with no borderline limits. Molina rightly says [1993,160]:
Claudio Gutiérrez possibly is the Costa Rican philosopher who has most transcended our borders, and who has enjoyed more international recognition. Likewise, he should be considered among the major Latin American representatives in the research field of Artificial Intelligence.
In order to place such a broad and sustained intellectual work, as well as to further distinguish its stages, we should refer to the intellectual movements that have wrought our national debate during the second half of the past century and the beginnings of the current one. After World War II and the 1948 Civil War, the country entered a period of intellectual effervescence during the mid fifties, where the onset of Gutiérrez' intellectual production can also be located (his first public conference was in 1954). The agreement reached by the faculty of the University of Costa Rica on April 30, 1955, to perform an in-depth reformation involving the creation of a central faculty of science and letters and a “general studies” department, can help us to satisfy our wish to accurately date intrinsically flowing processes. A phrase in don Claudio's speech as president on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the University, is quite suitable: “As it happens in every historical process, each stage brings within itself the germ spawning the stage which will follow it.” [1980, 23]
It is worthwhile to extend this story by searching for previous connections, since the peak of the fifties was preceded by a downfall or interruption of a brilliant beginning in Costa Rica's trajectory as a nation. In order to find a similar period of change to that of the 20th century 50s, we would have to go back to the 19th century 80s, to the years when Bernardo Soto was president of the republic and several events happened simultaneously: the enactment of the “General Law of Education,” the hiring of European scientists as teachers for the newly created high schools Liceo de Costa Rica and Colegio de Señoritas, and the development of government agencies devoted to meteorology, seismology, and other sciences. This brilliant age produced a first generation of Costa Rican scientists, among whom Fidel Tristán, Anastasio Alfaro and, above all, Clodomiro Picado, deserve to be mentioned. The first native philosophers then emerge as well, such as Roberto Brenes Mesen and Moisés Vincenzi. But by the mid fourties and the first half of the following decade, when the country's political situation becomes unstable, and throughout a period of approximately ten years, a premature exhaustion of the first impulse towards national production in science and technology is felt, with its corresponding philosophical reflection.
This lost impulse is recaptured again in 1955, with the approval of the university reformation, implemented in the years 1956 and 1957. This is the period when another wave of foreign professors arrived. In 1957, the Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad de Costa Rica is founded, and in 1958, the Asociación Costarricense de Filosofía emerges. Journals and associations have been founded in many other countries around the world, but just a few have been able to survive for so many years. Fifty years after their foundation, the Revista and the Asociación continue fully alive. During this period, Costa Rica has enjoyed a wide philosophical production and an intense activity in this field. Moreover, it is logical to think that such activity has been somehow related to the historical development of the nation. In a long article published in La Nación on March 4, 2007, p.38A, Don Claudio recalls in detail his participation in this process, as member of the triumvirate appointed to implement the 1955 agreement, whose other two members were Enrique Macaya and José Joaquín Trejos.
After this lengthy digression, let us now turn to the chronological stages recognized in Gutiérrez' intellectual life. They constitute five levels of interests, publications, and activities, but the relationships between the whole are more complex than the rigid distinction of parts, what explains that the date of some publications are subsequent to the period when the ideas exposed were forged.
The period of his training in philosophy and literature (1949-1950) begins with his studies in Madrid, where he attended classes with Ortega y Gasset and felt attracted by Dilthey's historicism and existentialism. When Gutiérrez later participates in the University Reformation of 1956-57, Ortega's ideas still had an influence on his inspiration to create the “general studies” program, although the closest reference would be the experience already put into practice at the University of Chicago, which he was able to witness later on, in 1960.
The second stage is his studies in history and law at the University of Costa Rica. He received his Licentiate Degree in history in 1953 and in law in 1959, obtaining his degree in philosophy and letters with summa cum laude on the basis of a dissertation with the suggestive title “Teoría del nexo real.” Besides his article "Ensayo sobre generaciones costarricenses 1823-1953,” which appeared in Revista de la Universidad de Costa Rica in 1954, his main interest during this period was legal logic, attested by several of his articles, for instance “El consentimiento civil a la luz de la lógica moderna,” published in the Revista de Filosofía of the Universidad de Costa Rica No.7 in 1960. Other logic article is “Sistemática de enunciados indiferentes,” in the proceeding of the 2nd Extraordinary Inter American Philosophy Congress (Imprenta Nacional, 1961). In 1983, when he writes the preface to Nueve ensayos epistemológicos, Gutiérrez points out that during this period, which in his opinion starts at his graduation in philosophy and letters, he was mostly driven by theological concerns and existentialism. His first public conference in 1954, regarding the three states of mind according to Comte, belongs to this period. When writing the aforementioned preface in 1983, Gutiérrez confirms the influence of the Comtian theory of the three states of mind evolution in his own philosophical trajectory, summarized in three stages: theological (1953-1966), epistemological (1966-1979), and scientific (1979--).
Later on we have his studies at the University of Chicago, between 1965 and 1966, with a one-year prelude in 1960. The academic freedom that prevailed at this university, in agreement with the Humboldt's tradition, made a big impression and influenced the young student's profile. During his first stay in Chicago, he enrolls in logic courses and, when he returned in 1965, his doctorate studies are in philosophy of science. As we have seen, his doctoral thesis
Epistemology and Economics:
A Contribution to the Logical Analysis of Economic Theory, was published in the Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad de Costa Rica (N. 25) and, according to the Preface of
Nueve ensayos epistemológicos (1982), three articles are its direct result:
“La abstracción y los límites de la imaginación paradigmática” (Crítica, Vol. II, No.5, May 1968), “The Extraordinary Claim of Praxeology" (in English in Theory and Decision, Vol. 1, No.4, June 1971), and “Epistemología y Economía,” a summary of his thesis, prepared to be included in the Nueve ensayos.
On his return to Costa Rica in 1967, his teachings and publications on logic are the first ones to adjust to an international character in the subject matter. This is also the period when logic was introduced in the high-school curriculum of Costa Rica, a project in which he became involved for some time. In the preface of Nueve ensayos, Gutiérrez justifies publishing the volume, saying that therein he collects the subjects of his mature thought on epistemology, a product of this stage.
His period of theoretical and practical interest in computer science lies between 1969 and 1988, starting with his participation in the automation of processes within the University and extended in research on artificial intelligence and expert systems. The social applications of the new computer technology and science continue to be present later on in the rest of Gutiérrez' production. Particularly, the brief article mentioned above, "Virtualidad y política," is so suggestive that it should be mandatory reading for all applicants to public positions.
The fifth stage begins in 1988, as an extension of his interest in computer science, when he devotes himself to the cognitive sciences after being exposed for the first time to the subject in a conference celebrated in Edinburgh in 1980. His research, teaching, and administrative experience at the University of Delaware belong to this period. A first synthesis of Gutiérrez' thought during this period is the book Epistemología e informática, in two volumes (Antología and Guía de estudio), published by the Editorial de la Universidad Estatal a Distancia (EUNED) in 1993, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Omar Dengo Foundation. What Gutiérrez calls .powerful ideas, which appear on pages 46-48 of Epistemología e informática, summarize his convictions: continuity between thought and the rest of nature, need to review the meaning of the term 'mechanicist' before applying it to electronic machines and brains, the faculty of the mind to change itself, the plurality of explanatory principles, and the increasing complexity of mental processes stemming from a physical basis.
The inspiration behind the project of cognitive sciences can be found in Hobbes: The best way to understand something is to try to build it.. In this book, don Claudio expounds his ideas regarding recent developments in epistemology, the scientific nature (theoretical and practical) of computer science, the relationship between logic and knowledge, the comparison of computer science with other disciplines, and the relationships between mind, consciousness, and devices.
At the end of this fifth stage, we find a new scientific-philosophical synthesis which serves as a basis for the new humanism exposed in the voluminous work Humanism Revisited: genes and memes on a Global Earth (to appear 2009). In this book, the central notion is that of “the generate and test” algorithm, which operates in the organic evolution as well as in social processes. Already in 1968, in his first writings on logic, the notion of algorithm was already central although not explicit. Years later, the idea has filled with content in order to function within different contexts.
We have mentioned above the 1954 lecture on the three stages of knowledge according to Comte. In that speech, Gutiérrez defended the opposite, that is, that we start with an objective stage, then move on to the critical study and, finally, to the transcendental stage. In the preface written in 1981, Gutiérrez no longer supports his ideas from 1954, saying that his stages of intellectual evolution adapt perfectly to those of Comte, rather than to his own earlier self.
But if we observe this evolution from the 2008 perspective, some remarks are in order. One of them is that Gutiérrez' interest in science and logic has been always present. His first studies were on history and law where –as Leibniz points out in his 1685 essay “The Art of Discovery,” referring to jurisprudence– we can find examples of rigorous demonstrations. And so, law and science have something in common: the search for rigor in reasoning. In the field of philosophy, Gutiérrez' interest has always focused on logic, epistemology, and philosophy of science. His doctoral thesis presupposes an in-depth knowledge of economics; the same occurs with Epistemología e informática in relation with computer science. His most recent synthesis, Humanism Revisited, shows a knowledge in biology which few philosophers could boast about. This continuity of interest in science and for what Willard van Orman Quine called .the common denominator of science, logic, perhaps explains the enigmatic expression of Constantino Láscaris in his already mentioned book, Historia de las ideas en Costa Rica, when he says, while expounding Gutiérrez' thought [Láscaris 1975,315]:
A disciple of Gabriel Marcel, when it comes to define philosophy he follows Jaspers, and in social themes, Ortega y Gasset, but always from the point of view of symbolic logic. He is one of the few mathematical logicians who do not resign themselves to formulating logical structures, but rather try to instrument them in his philosophizing. (emphasis added)
Láscaris refers again to Gutiérrez in his synoptic work Las ideas en Centroam.rica de 1838 a 1970, published after his death in an extraordinary issue of the Revista de Filosofía de la Universidad de Costa Rica (vol. 27, No.65, June 1989). Although he distinguishes two periods of the author in question (Christian existentialism and positivist logicism), when referring to the first stage, nevertheless, he upholds the expression “always from the point of view of symbolic logic.” In 2008, Marcel and Ortega are just distant memories –and not only in the thought of those who have overcome their influence– but their logical approach and science rigor are still maintained, reaching a new expression in his 2006 synthesis work about genes and memes in the planetary era. An advance of the book appears in the article “Un humanismo para el siglo XXI,” published in the magazine Espiga (UNED, 2000). In it we find the essential characteristics of an algorithm: neutrality of material, mechanistic behavior, and guarantee for success. Even though we have witnessed in our time a spectacular display of algorithms, we can still be surprised, especially when the object of science is society.
In an attempt to clarify the way how scientific theories work, the essays on contradiction (1972) and ambiguity (1977) are particularly interesting. The former, “La contradicción: ¿vicio formal o cifra de contenido?,” was originally published in Crítica (Mexico) in 1972, and appears in the collection Nueve ensayor epistemológicos. There, two meanings of contradiction, the analytical and the synthetic, are distinguished, with an attempt to harmonize the need for both, so that their insistence on consistency does not hinder richness of thought.
The distinctions made in that article are further explained in “Ambigüedad y Comunicación” (1977): to the idea that ambiguity is inherent to interesting communication, he adds that no text is intelligible outside its context. Dyads, therefore, occur logically, in the struggle to explain the object of knowledge:
Montes de Oca, March 2008
Arce Murillo, Laura - Hernández Salas, Hellen- Solís Herrera, Patricia (2005) Bibliografía Dr.Claudio Gutiérrez Carranza (1930-) (Universidad de Costa Rica: documento para uso de la Sección de Referencia de la Biblioteca Carlos Monge Alfaro).
Camacho, Luis (1988) “Historia de la lógica en Costa Rica” en Quipu, Revista Latinoamericana de Historia de las Ciencias y la Tecnología, vol.5, no. 3, sept.-dic. 1988, pp.355-369.
Gamboa Umaña, Luis Enrique (2000) Historia gráfica del pensamiento humanístico en la Universidad de Costa Rica. Documento final del Proyecto de Investigación 024-97-331, disponible en la sección de Proyectos de la Biblioteca Luis Demetrio Tinoco de la Universidad de Costa Rica.
Gracia, Jorge J.E. - Rabossi, Eduardo- Villanueva, Enrique y Dascal, Marcelo (1985) El análisis filosófico en América Latina (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica).
Láscaris-Conmeno, Constantino (1975) Historia de las ideas en Costa Rica (San José: Editorial Costa Rica).
López, Juan Diego (2004) “La epistemología contextualista (Un análisis crítico del pensamiento de C. Gutiérrez)” en Carlos Morales, compilador Cinco maestros del siglo XX (Costa Rica: Universidad Nacional, Cuadernos Prometeo, #32), pp.33-72.
Molina, Carlos, editor (1993) La voluntad de pensar: la palabra de doce filósofos costarricenses (Heredia, Costa Rica: Editorial Fundación).
Universidad de Costa Rica (1981) Conmemoración del Cuadragésimo Aniversario 1940-1980 (Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio). .
*: Commissioned by the University of Costa Rica Press to compose the
introduction of these Complete Works.