Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-8hm5d Total loading time: 0.454 Render date: 2022-05-18T01:19:35.964Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

1 - Setting the Scene: The Iberian Conquest

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 October 2020

Susana Nuccetelli
St Cloud State University, Minnesota
Get access


A number of philosophical doctrines developed as responses to some mainstream views of the Iberian colonial period (roughly, from the late 1500s to the early 1800s). Chapter 1 of this book looks closely at four such doctrines whose central themes concerning Latin America can be traced to that period. It first examines the ideas of three Spanish thinkers, Bartolomé de las Casas (1474-1566), Francisco de Vitoria (1486-1546), and José de Acosta (ca. 1539-1600). The chapter demonstrates that Las Casas and Vitoria were set to determine the moral status of the Spanish conquest, and developed novel doctrines of practical ethics and political philosophy. Acosta raised empiricist objections to Scholasticism in epistemology and philosophy of science. Pressured by the new physical and social realities of the Americas, these three thinkers were among the early challengers of Thomism as interpreted in the Spanish world during the sixteenth century. But the chapter also examines what Edmundo O’Gorman (Mexican, 1906-1995) argued more recently against the myth of Columbus’ “discovery” of America. Clearly, the end of the colonial period was far from marking the end of reflection on philosophically interesting aspects of the Iberian expansion.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Acosta, José de. 1604/1590. The Natural & Moral History of the Indies. London: Hakluyt Society.Google Scholar
Canteñs, Bernardo J. 2009. “The Rights of the American Indians,” pp. 23–35 in Nuccetelli, Susana, Schutte, Ofelia, and Otavio, Bueno, eds., Blackwell Companion to Latin American Philosophy. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
Columbus, Christopher. 1960. The Journal of Christopher Columbus. New York: C. N. Potter.Google Scholar
Fernández Retamar, Roberto 1989. Caliban and Other Essays. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
Ford, Thayne R. 1998. “Stranger in a Foreign Land: Jose de Acosta’s Scientific Realizations in Sixteenth-Century Peru,” The Sixteenth Century Journal 29(1): 19–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hale, Charles A. 2004. “Edmundo O’Gorman, Mexican National History and the ‘Great American Dichotomy,’” Journal of Latin American Studies 36(1): 131–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Las Casas, Bartolomé de. 1990. Memorial of Remedies for the Indies, ed. Baptiste., V. N Culver City, CA: Labyrinthos,Google Scholar
Las Casas, Bartolomé de 1992a/1537. Bartolome de las Casas: The Only Way, ed. Rand Parish, H. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.Google Scholar
Las Casas, Bartolomé de 1992b/1542. A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
Las Casas, Bartolomé de 1993. Witness: Writings of Bartolomé de las Casas, ed. Sanderlin., George Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.Google Scholar
Las Casas, Bartolomé de and Ginés de Sepúlveda, Juan. 1994. “Aquí se contiene una disputa o controversia,” pp. 372–379 in Himelblau, Jack J., ed., The Indian in Spanish America: Centuries of Removal, Survival, and Integration. Lancaster, CA: Labyrinthos (trans. pp. 39–54 in Nuccetelli and Seay 2002).Google Scholar
León-Portilla, Miguel. 2016. “Extending Christendom: Religious Understanding of the Other,” pp. 62–76 in Garrard-Burnett, Virginia, Freston, Paul, and Dove, Stephen C., eds., The Cambridge History of Religions in Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Marks, Greg C. 1992. “Indigenous Peoples in International Law: The Significance of Francisco de Vitoria and Bartolomé de las Casas,” MA thesis, pp. 131–151 in The Australian Yearbook of International Law. Australia National University. Scholar
Medina, Vicente. 2013 . “The Innocent in the Just War Thinking of Vitoria and Suárez: A Challenge Even for Secular Just War Theorists and International Law,” Ratio Juris 26(1): 47–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O’Gorman, Edmundo. 1961/1960. The Invention of America: An Inquiry into the Historical Nature of the New World and the Meaning of its History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
Rabossi, Eduardo. 2004. “Notes on Globalization, Human Rights, and Violence,” pp. 139–155 in Gómez, Ricardo J. (ed.), The Impact of Globalized Neoliberalism in Latin America: Philosophical Perspectives. Newbury Park, CA: Hansen House Publishing,Google Scholar
Talbot, William. Which Rights Should Be Universal? Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Todorov, Tzvetan. 1992. The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. New York: Harper Torch.Google Scholar

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats