Romero, Francisco (1891–1962)

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Francisco Romero, the Argentine philosopher of transcendence, was born in Seville, Spain, but moved to Argentina as a child. After military and literary careers he turned to philosophy, joining the faculty of the University of Buenos Aires in 1928 and of La Plata in 1929. He renounced his academic posts in 1946 in protest against the government of Juan Perón but resumed them in 1955. Because of his conceptual discipline, scope, originality of thought, and limpid clarity of style, Romero is considered one of the ablest and most satisfying of Latin American philosophers.

The idea of transcendence dominates and unifies Romero's metaphysics and theories of knowledge and values. Transcendence implies at least the diversity achieved by passing beyond a given condition or limit and suggests a universal impetus or agency of such passage, an agency that may be purposive. Opposed to transcendence is immanence, which implies identity and containment within, or return to, a limit. Of the two major forms of transcendence, one is that relation of parts to each other in a structural whole by which novel characteristics emerge that were only latent in the parts considered separately. The other form of transcendence is change and, in particular, evolution in the creative and vitalistic sense of Henri Bergson. Its immanent reduction occurs in the mechanistic evolutionary views of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer.

Romero identified reason with immanence; experience, in a broad sense, is related to transcendence. Reason may be either intuitive or discursive. In either case it demands identity and transparency. Identity is found in homogeneity and in permanence; it leads reason to the mechanistic conception of atoms that are similar in kind, endure in time, and are governed by causal laws that presuppose the identification of effects with their causes. Transparency, or clarity, is found in forms emptied of content and in the space in which atoms move and with which they tend to be identified.

Reason is formal only and has no avenue of its own to reality and concrete fact. It is not identical with intelligence, which may criticize it. Where reason fails, experience succeeds. Experience supplies a datum by which knowing must be guided. The objects of experience are not sense data and perceptual objects alone, but also essences and values. In addition, Romero held open the possibility of a metaphysical experience of something ultimate and noumenal but subject to connection with ordinary experience and its phenomenal objects.

Romero divided phenomena into four strata, of which each level is a ground for the next and has greater scope for transcendence than the preceding level. The physical level, that of space and moving atoms, is most pervaded with immanence, but the shift in physical theory from the rigid corpuscle to the foco activísimo means a greater emphasis on the role of transcendence even on this level. The vital level is characterized by true duration, a factor of transcendence. The psychical level involves consciousness, which intends, or transcends toward, an object, but there is a countering immanence in the egocentric tendency of the human individual to absorb the object into his own forms and needs. On the spiritual level, the human person, rising above his egocentric needs and attaining a universal subjectivity, contemplates the object disinterestedly in the sphere of knowing and conducts himself altruistically and with regard to general principles in the sphere of action. On the spiritual level transcendence becomes absolute. The person is transcendence incarnate and unqualified. Each level contains and is supported by transcendence, but each is unique and irreducible.

Romero, proceeding cautiously and with an air of hypothesis, proposed that Arthur Schopenhauer and Bergson were not wrong in positing a metaphysical datum, but that they misconstrued it. Schopenhauer's will and Bergson's vital impulse are forms of transcendence, which is a more general and basic being than either. Romero did not try to sketch the nature of this being, but he appears to have thought of it as a universal impulse at work in every level of phenomenal transcendence, an impetus that is the essence of reality, the source of value, and possibly the spirit's point of flower, which this being intended from the beginning.

See also Bergson, Henri; Change; Darwin, Charles Robert; Latin American Philosophy; Nature, Philosophical Ideas of; Schopenhauer, Arthur; Spencer, Herbert.


works by romero

Lógica. Written with E. Pucciarelli. Buenos Aires, 1938.

Filosofía de la persona. Buenos Aires, 1944.

Papeles para una filosofía. Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, 1945.

Teoría del hombre. Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, 1952. Translated by W. F. Cooper as Theory of Man. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964.

Historia de la filosofía moderna. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1959.

Arthur Berndtson (1967)

Romero, Francisco (1891–1962)

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Romero, Francisco (1891–1962)

Francisco Romero (b. 19 June 1891; d. 7 October 1962), Argentine philosopher who is recognized as one of the most important philosophers in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking world in general. Romero was born in Seville, Spain, and attended a military school in Argentina. He became a disciple of Alejandro Korn, and was professor of philosophy at the Universities of Buenos Aires and La Plata. The German philosophy that flourished during the first three decades of the twentieth century, represented in the writings of Wilhelm Dilthey, Edmund Husserl, Nicolai Hartmann, and Max Scheler, had a great influence on the maturation of Romero's philosophical thought. Within this framework, he made original contributions in his chief work, Theory of Man (1964), a philosophical anthropology based on the concept of "intention-ality" as a characteristic distinguishing the human psyche from that of animals. Theory of Man is also the outline of a metaphysics founded on the idea of the spirit as an absolute transcendence.

Part of Romero's work concerned itself with the diffusion—as well as the interpretation—of philosophy from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. Unlike most other Latin American philosophers, he was interested in the history and structure of philosophy, as can be seen in Sobre la historia de la filosofía (1943) and La estructura de la historia de la filosofía y otros ensayos (1967). Through his writings and personal activities, he became one of the great inspirations to the development of professional philosophy in Latin American and to the study of Latin American thought.

See alsoKorn, Alejandro; Philosophy: Overview.


Majorie Silliman Harris, Franciso Romero on Problems of Philosophy (1960).

Universidad De Buenos Aires, Homenaje a Francisco Romero (1964).

Arturo Ardao et al., Francisco Romero, maestro de la filosofía latinoamericana (1983).

Additional Bibliography

Speroni, José Luis, and Jorge Victoriano Alonso. El pensamiento de Francisco Romero: Retrato de un filósofo argentine del siglo XX. Buenos Aires: Edivérn, 2001.

                             Juan Carlos Torchia Estrada

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