Luz y Caballero, José de la (1800–1862)

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Luz y Caballero, José de la (1800–1862)

José de la Luz y Caballero (b. 11 July 1800; d. 22 June 1862), Cuban philosopher and educator. Luz y Cabellero was one of the three most influential Cuban thinkers of the nineteenth century, the other two being Father Félix Varela y Morales and José Antonio Saco. A native of Havana, he initially studied for the priesthood but ended up a lawyer, although he never practiced law. Instead, he traveled extensively in Europe and the United States, becoming acquainted with most of the important writers of his time. He was influenced by the work of Francis Bacon, Étienne Bonnot de Condillac, and René Descartes, and came to embrace John Locke's nominalism, the denial that abstract entities or universal principles have real existence.

In Cuba, Luz y Caballero was a respected and popular teacher at the San Carlos Seminary (Cuba's most prominent institution of higher learning at the time) and later at the Colegio El Salvador, which he founded. His ideas and his teaching methods involved him in ardent polemics that provoked the hostility of the Spanish authorities, especially when he was accused of participating in the Conspiracy of la Escalera (1844), an attempted slave revolt. Luz y Caballero opposed violence, however, and held that Cuba was not prepared for self-government. His approach to the problem of slavery was cautious; he believed it should end gradually, by means of the suppression of the slave trade. Despite his timidity, however, he represented a progressive tendency in Cuban society; through his lectures and writings he helped to develop strong nationalistic feelings in a whole generation of Cubans. Luz y Caballero died in Havana.

See alsoSlave Trade .


Manuel Sanguily y Garrite, José de la Luz y Caballero (1926). See also Medardo Vitier, Las ideas en Cuba (1969), vol. 2.

Additional Bibliography

Monal, Isabel, and Olivia Miranda Francisco. Pensamiento cubano, siglo XIX. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2002.

                                    JosÉ M. HernÁndez

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Luz y Caballero, José de la (1800–1862)

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