Book Review: Aullón de Haro, P. (2016), La Escuela Universalista Española del siglo XVIII. Madrid: Sequitur, pp. 255.

Esther Zarzo


Recently published by the Madrid publishing house Sequitur, La Escuela Universalista Española del siglo XVIII is an introductory work to a study of the so-called Universalist School. Its author, Pedro Aullón de Haro from the University of Alicante, Spain, and Head of the Research Group “Humanism-Europe” since 1994, has coordinated various volumes whose main objective is the historical reconstruction of the Late Spanish Enlightenment Period, which was truncated by Charles III of Spain’s expulsion of the Jesuits, affecting a great many of its members. This Enlightenment Period, in contrast to the victorious French Enlightenment, offered not a political, but a scientific and humanistic view of knowledge, taking a comparative and universalist approach, but, due to the aforementioned expulsion of the Jesuits, the authors dispersed, leaving their work unfinished; and it is only now, under the label of the Universalist School, coined by Prof. Aullón de Haro, that they have been gathered together furthering the possibility of recovering their meaning and systematic cohesion. This volume serves as an introduction to the publications that the author has announced for 2018, in which the detailed study of the main authors within this scientific community will be undertaken following an encyclopaedic structure, which will finally give recognition to the Universalist School movement, and whose stand out authors include: Juan Andrés, creator of the Universal History of the Humanities and Sciences; Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro, creator of Universal and Comparative Linguistics; and Antonio Eximeno, creator of a universal aesthetic concept of music as language and expression.

The common thread of the School is precisely the "universalist ideation" that assumes the unity of knowledge in a harmonious integration of experimental sciences, fine arts and human sciences within a humanistic epistemological framework, and consequently, comparativism as a methodology of study, based on the unity of its object: the destiny of man, with his knowledge integrated into a unitary vision of the universe and the world. All this is ultimately based on the work of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, historically rooted in the process of Greco-Roman cultural parallels, and with the main figures of Macrobius, Scaliger and Morhof.

Furthermore, 2017 is the second centenary of the death of Juan Andrés, commemorated by an international Congress held at the Complutense University of Madrid and featuring an important bibliographical exhibition in the History Library of this Madrid University, titled "Juan Andres y la Escuela Universalista Española" (2017).

The great scientific and thematic scope of the School means that it is possible to discern several sectors or "sub-schools", although the authors often practice several disciplines: the linguistic sub-school (Hervás and his extensive circle of collaborators), bibliographical (Miguel de Casiri, Diosdado Caballero…), botanical-naturalist (Antonio José Cavanilles, Pedro Franco Dávila, Juan José Ruperto de Cuéllar, José Celestino Mutis, Eduardo Romeo…), musicological (Antonio Eximeno, Josef Pintado, Vicente Requeno, Buenaventura Prats, Joaquín Millás…), Americanist-Mexicanist (Francisco Javier Clavijero, Juan Bautista Muñoz, Miguel del Barco González, José Lino Fábregas, Juan Nuix y Perpiñá…), on the Philippines (Juan de la Concepción, Antonio de Tornos, Bernardo Bruno de la Fuente…), meteorology (Andrés, Viñes, Faura…), studies on translation (Carlos Andrés, Juan Bautista Colomés, Pedro Cantón…) etc.

The work is divided into three sections: "Teoría general", "Textos de y sobre autores de la Escuela", and "Bibliografía fundamental y selecta".

The first section begins with an introductory chapter in which the conceptual principles of the School are explained in relation to the particularity of the Hispanic cultural history, where both its antecedents and theoretical limits are determined. Next comes a description of the sequence of milestones, historical circumstances and accidents that resulted in the formation of the School, as well as an in-depth explanation of the concept of "universalist ideation". Finally, "La ideación del primer programa epistemológico", is a necessary exposition of the important and almost inaccessible Prospectus Philosophiae Universae, a work that was written and directed by Juan Andrés. It is a general and pluridisciplinary programmatic text published in 1773 in Ferrara, and access to it for consultation is hard to come by. That is, it is a kind of program that intends to carry out a radical overcoming of the culture and thought of the Baroque era, through the integration of empiricist science and philosophy with classical humanism and its evolution through a historically founded and revisable concept of progress. The fourth chapter, entitled "La Ilustración universalista: creación de la Comparatística moderna y Literatura Universal", lists the conceptual keys to understanding the particularity of this late Spanish age of Enlightenment of Hispanic-Italian roots, Christian, integrative, international, intercontinental, founded on a unitary vision of the universe and the world. The fifth chapter, "La clasificación de las ciencias, la universalidad tematológica y la estética de la expresión", analyses the variables of the Enlightenment Period, the various types of European illustrations and their internal conceptual sectors, in an attempt to bring to light the lack of historical and intellectual homogeneity of a process of great relevance, and analyses the universalistic classification of scientific disciplines by comparison with the classification of the French illustration, showing the flagrant reduction of the French classification, and also includes a revealing study on the concept of "expression" elaborated by Antonio Eximeno, which was later also recovered by Benedetto Croce, although without him acknowledging the precedence of Eximeno’s work.

The second part, "Textos de y sobre autores de la Escuela", presents a series of documents as a critical support of the School and its authors. This is especially true of the textual references from the three main authors with respect to the other members of the School, which provides an account of the indisputable existence of a productive and active scientific community.

The last part records essential bibliographical sources and information intended to enable a continuation of the study by the authors of this School, a bibliographic selection of the most important works of all the members of the School, and another selection of general and monographic studies on relevant theoretical, historical and cultural issues.

In short, this work succeeds in refuting one of the most important historical and intellectual fallacies of our time: the absence of a Spanish Enlightenment Period, and consequently, proves the existence of an original and consistent modern Hispanic thought. In this way, it opens up a field of study that demands new research that will bring to light better-informed reinterpretations of both Spanish and Hispanic America pasts in general, which will lead to a search for unity, not in political and economic terms, as seems to be the objective of economic globalization, but on the basis of the concept of universality. For this purpose, the Research Group Humanismo-Europa has affiliated itself with the Instituto Juan Andrés de Comparatística y Globalización, as well created links to its online network Biblioteca HumanismoEuropa, where all the information about the authors of the School and their texts has been gathered and made available to the general public.


Book Review

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Aullón de Haro, P. & J. García Gabaldón (eds.) (2017). Juan Andrés y la Escuela Universalista Española. Madrid: Complutense.



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