On this page, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of my past, current, and ongoing research projects. Right now, my research takes place across and at the intersection of two traditions: Modern European Philosophy (esp. Kant) and Latin American Philosophy. Broadly, my work across these traditions explores two questions. One, are we capable of realizing our highest ideals and values in the world? Two, assuming that we are capable of realizing these values in the world, how ought we to resist bad values, adopt better values, and construct projects in accordance with these improved values?

I’ve included links to PDFs of a few drafts of forthcoming publications. If you would like more info about any of the works in progress below, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email (jcg050[at]ucsd[dot]edu).

In addition to effecting dialogues between Latin American and continental European philosophers in my research, I am committed to facilitating exchanges between present-day philosophers in the Anglophone and Spanish-speaking worlds. For this reason, I have translated numerous texts and talks from Spanish to English and English to Spanish. Immediately after the summaries of my research projects, you’ll find a list of the texts and talks I’ve translated. 


“Beyond Mechanism: Rethinking Kant’s Philosophy of Nature with the Critique of the Power of Judgment”, dissertation project
(Longer abstract available upon request)
Super-short Abstract: My dissertation defends a non-mechanistic interpretation of Kant’s doctrine of nature. Inspired by the picture of nature in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, most readers and critics of Kant have attributed one of two mechanistic understandings of nature to him. Moderate mechanists argue that, since cannot empirically cognize purposiveness in nature, we cannot know whether there is purposiveness in nature. Strong mechanists read Kant as claiming that we can know there is no purposiveness in nature. To all mechanists, only mechanistic causality is possible in nature, meaning that end-directed activity in nature is impossible. Against this trend in Kant interpretation, my non-mechanistic interpretation emphasizes that Kant urges us to believe non-mechanistic, end-directed causality is possible in nature. Belief in this context is a firm, positive, and voluntary attitude that aligns with and serves a subject’s interests and ends, and that has implications for the subject’s rational action, assertion, and deliberation. If we fail to form such a belief, we unnecessarily limit our theoretical investigations of nature and compromise Kant’s overall mission of bridging the incalculable gulf between freedom and nature in the Third Critique.

A paper on Kant’s philosophy of nature, under review

(Draft available upon request)
Abstract: In this paper, I show that we can strongly commit to the potential truth of the claim that there are organisms even though we can never empirically cognize organisms. Typically, commentators argue that, since we cannot empirically cognize the causality characteristic of the organism, we cannot know whether organisms exist. In less frequent cases, commentators argue that we can know there are no organisms in nature. Against this second group of commentators, I argue that Kant’s remarks about the organism do not entail knowledge that there are no organisms. Against the first group of commentators, I argue that Kant gives us the grounds to believe there are organisms in nature.

From organisms to God: A non-mechanistic reading of the Methodology of the Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgment”, article in progress
(Draft available upon request)
Abstract: In this paper, I defend the claim that we must believe in the existence of organisms in nature on moral grounds. Readers of the Critique of the Power of Judgment have historically adopted one of two mechanistic readings of the text. Either they are moderate mechanists, who claim that we should believe there are no organisms in nature, or they are strong mechanists, who claim that we can know there are no organisms in nature. Either reading spells trouble for Kant’s moral proof of the existence of God in the Methodology of the Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgment. The first step of this proof is to assume that there are organisms in nature. Adapting the tools from my non-mechanistic reading of the Third Critique developed elsewhere, I show that this assumption amounts to a moral belief that there are organisms in nature. For the moral proof of God in the Methodology to work, we must morally believe there are organisms in nature.

“Did Kant care about Aristotle?: On §§72-73 of the Critique of the Teleological Power of Judgment, article in progress
(Draft available upon request)
Abstract: In the Critique of the Power of Judgment – Kant’s seminal work on teleology – Kant never once mentions the philosopher who is widely credited with inventing teleology – namely, Aristotle. To make matters worse, when Kant does survey and critique available views on natural teleology throughout the history of philosophy, he seems to completely overlook Aristotle’s teleology. While this may lead us to surmise that Kant was either indifferent towards or ignorant of Aristotle’s teleology, I argue that it is possible to read Kant as advancing a version of Aristotle’s natural teleology – a version, of course, that respects the limits drawn by Kant’s transcendental philosophy.

Leaving room for life: Kant and the inorganicism challenge”, article in progress
Link to PDF of draft presented at 2023 Pacific APA

Abstract: A prominent post-Kantian critique states that Kant’s transcendental idealism is defensible only if Kant manages to ground the activities of reason in life. Because Kant fails to ground the activities of reason in life, transcendental idealism is indefensible. I call this the inorganicism challenge. In this paper, I have two goals. One is to show that this challenge is neither extraneous nor meaningless. It must be taken seriously. The second is to show that Kant has the resources to respond to this challenge. In the first section, I contextualize the inorganicism challenge by demonstrating that it stems from a long line of (what I call) agnostic and eliminativist readings of Kant’s doctrine of the organism. That is, these interpreters believe that we cannot say that organisms exist or that Kant flat-out rejects that organisms exist. In the second section, I survey just a few prominent inorganicist challengers throughout history, demonstrating that these thinkers attribute an agnostic and sometimes eliminativst line to Kant. In the third section, I develop an escape route for Kant against agnostic and eliminativist inorganicism challengers. We can (and should) believe in the existence of the organism, where this belief is neither a mere fictitious projection that serves our cognitive economy nor a full-blown empirical proof of the existence of organisms in nature, but something in between.

Kant on the mechanical inexplicability of life”, paper in early stages of development
Abstract: This paper will offer a novel interpretation of Kant's famous doctrine of the mechanical inexplicability of the organism. Some interpreters argue that the mechanical inexplicability of an organism stems from our inability to reduce an organic whole to its parts, while others argue that an organism is mechanically inexplicable because it exhibits regularities that Newtonian laws of physics alone cannot explain. On my view, organisms are mechanically inexplicable because they are alive, and we cannot appeal to mechanism to explain life.

A paper on Kant’s concept of “purposiveness” and its roots in Early Modern philosophy, paper in early stages of development
Abstract: I argue that the concept of purposiveness should be fundamentally understood as a causality driven by inner as opposed to outer principles. Kant inherits this notion of an inner-principle-driven causality from his Early Modern predecessors - most  notably Baumgarten and Leibniz, but he also modifies this traditional conception of causality in important ways.

A paper on Kant and the recent literature on “New Mechanistic” understandings of the organism (with Andrew Bollhagen), paper in early stages of development 

Latin American Philosophy

González, Juan Carlos (forthcoming). “La revolución kantiana de Antonio Caso”, in Los argumentos filosóficos fundamentales de las transformaciones de México. Mexico City, MX: Universidad Panamericana.
Link to PDF of a draft

(English translation available upon request)
Abstract: In this article, I argue that, contrary to scholarly consensus, Antonio Caso draws inspiration from important principles and ideas from Kant’s philosophy in his critique of positivism. I first examine the prima facie textual reasons why someone might believe that Caso and Kant are philosophical enemies. To contradict this notion, I proceed by noting and developing three core ideas that the two share in common. First, Caso and Kant are both ardent critics of dogmatic philosophizing. Second, both Caso and Kant carve out special room for intuition in their respective accounts of cognition, resisting the idea that the understanding has a more prominent role in the formation of knowledge. Third, Kant’s doctrine of aesthetic judgment paves the way for Caso’s de-intellectualized aesthetics. In the end, we see that Kant and Caso are closer to being philosophical friends than enemies.

González, Juan Carlos (2023). “A Revised Existentialist Look at the Americans.” Inter-American Journal of Philosophy 14 (2):36-51
Recipient of the Society for Advancement of American Philosophy’s 2023 Inter-American Philosophy Award
Link to PDF

Abstract: Typically, existentialist analyses of “America” have been limited to North America (more specifically, the United States). I argue that developing an adequate framework for existentially analyzing America requires a turn to Mexican existentialism. In Emilio Uranga’s and Jorge Portilla’s writings, we discover new conceptual tools for understanding Americanness as such. These thinkers help us imagine an account of American being that does not restrict itself to the United States by using the concepts of existentialism to describe the crises their neighbors to the north as well as they themselves face. American existence as such has been historically characterized by a convergence (oftentimes clash) of disparate races, ethnicities, languages, cultures, religions, and identities. As history unfolded, this convergence led to various existential crises across the Americas. Whereas the US American way of life is marred by a blustering, innocent, and purposeless misuse of freedom that disregards the other, the existential crisis the Mexican lives is characterized by “accidentality” and “zozobra.” Despite these important differences, all existentialists, and the Mexican existentialists especially, remind us that there is a common way to overcome the various existential crises plaguing the Americas, and that is to exercise freedom in a purposeful, communally conscious manner.

A paper on Kantian themes in Mexican aesthetics and politics, under review
(Draft available upon request)
Abstract: I argue that Kant’s concept of subjective universality has a profound but underappreciated impact on the political vision of Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos. In his early philosophical writings and political career, Vasconcelos is attempting to figure out how those in charge of organizing society can create a free and harmonious union without resorting to a violent show of force or promoting blind faith in bad science. For these purposes, Vasconcelos turns to Kant’s aesthetics, which shows us that there is a form of universality that is harmonious and free but is importantly distinct from other comparatively oppressive universalities. The first section of my paper summarizes Kant’s analysis and justification of the concept of subjective universality. The second section explains how Vasconcelos adapts Kant’s doctrine of subjective universality to the task of creating social harmony without resorting to brute force or dogmatic scientism. Though there is a tendency to think that the “disinterestedness” of aesthetic judgments matters more to Vasconcelos, the concept of subjective universality is more significant for his political project. In the process of adapting this concept to the early 20th-century Mexican context, Vasconcelos unveils the aesthetic utopian implications of Kant’s doctrine of subjective universality.

“Beyond positivism and anti-positivism: José Martí on unity, autonomy, race, and education”, article in progress
(Draft available upon request)
Abstract: Recently, scholars have argued that Martí was either a dyed-in-the-wool positivist or a straightforward anti-positivist. On my reading, Martí is at the vanguard of a post-positivist philosophical movement that sweeps late 19th and early 20th century Latin America. His post-positivist project is marked by two characteristic features, both illustrated in his writings on morality and race. One, he applies tools and concepts from positivist thought to the task of realizing decidedly anti-positivist ends. Two, he places a special emphasis on the question, what does it mean to be (Latin) American? Without a concrete answer to this question, thinkers like Martí find it difficult to envision a path to political progress throughout the Americas. This intense focus on the question of what it means to be (Latin) American is something that goes on to shape the trajectory of 20th century Latin American thought in general.

“Inter-American perspectives on the US Latinx: Martí, Locke, and Uranga,” article in progress
(Draft available upon request)
Abstract: Philosophers have recently debated whether the social identity category "Latinx" picks out a race (Alcoff 2006), an ethnicity (Gracia 2000), or something else altogether (Arango and Burgos 2021). Rather than defending one or several of these camps, my paper draws on the history of inter-American thought to explain why the US Latinx is so difficult to define. Three prominent American philosophers – José Martí, Alain Locke, and Emilio Uranga – combine to teach us that, while the US Latinx strives for belonging, they find themselves in a situation of unbelonging. The tension that results from the desire to belong but the reality of unbelonging produces a deep-seated anxiety that has come to characterize the US Latinx condition. I propose that the path to establishing a group identity must begin by embracing this deep and pervasive anxiety.

“From Germany, to Mexico, and back: Friedrich Schiller and Antonio Caso on aesthetics as a remedy for existential crisis,” article in progress
Abstract: This paper explores the ways in which Mexican philosopher Antonio Caso inherits and modifies important themes from Friedrich Schiller’s aesthetics. Like Schiller, Caso thinks of aesthetics as the domain in which we discover how to create unity between otherwise diametrical opposites, establishing harmony in the face of disharmony. While Schiller seizes upon this characterization of aesthetics to solve a political crisis, Caso seizes upon it to solve a broader existential crisis. In comparing and contrasting Schiller and Caso, we not only come to understand why and how Caso grants aesthetics such an important role in his philosophical system, but are also left in a position to imagine new ways of retroactively interpreting Schiller’s aesthetics. Furthermore, our simulated dialogue between these two thinkers allows us to appreciate that aesthetics plays a profound role in determining what we value and why we value it.

A paper on Kant and Antonio Caso’s views on the relationship between organisms and God, paper in early stages of development

Translation Work

Aspe Armella, Virginia. 2021. "The Renaissance Reception of Nahua Paideia in the Writings of Bernardino de Sahagún: An Aesthetic Approach to Religion" Religions 12, no. 12: 1070.
Translated from Spanish to English

“Riendo, Llorando, Ira, Euthumia, Melancolía, y la anécdota Demócrito y Heráclito“, a talk presented by Monte R. Johnson
Translated from English to Spanish, awarded UC San Diego Center for Hellenistic Studies Translation Scholarship

Aspe Armella, Virginia. Aristotle and New Spain [Tentative Title]. Forthcoming with Routledge Press.
Original monograph: Aspe Armella, Virginia. Aristóteles y Nueva España. Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades, México. 2018. 453 págs.
Translated from Spanish to English

In Divergent Scholasticism: Interpreting Nature, Society, and Philosophy in Early Modern Europe and the Americas, eds. Abel Aravena Zamora & Nicola Polloni. Routledge. Taylor & Francis Group (forthchoming):
  • “José de Acosta’s Epistemological Revision of Scholasticism” by Francisco Castilla Urbano
  • “Towards a philosophy of 16th century New Spain: Voyages, colleges, libraries, and the case of Alonzo de la Veracruz” by Virginia Aspe Armella
  • "Heavenly Bodies and American Enlightenment: The Case of Manuel Antonio Talavera" by Abel Aravena Zamora and Francisco Cordero Morales
Translated from Spanish to English