Changes in Ethical Worldviews of Spanish Missionaries in Mexico

An Ethical Transition from Sight to Touch in the 16th and 17th Centuries

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"Conversion" is a basic religious concept, which has manifold implications for our everyday lives. Ran Tene's Changes in Ethical Worldviews of Spanish Missionaries in Mexico utilizes a cross-disciplinary methodology in which the fields of Philosophy, History, and Literary Studies are drawn upon to analyze conversion. He focuses on two moments in Spanish writing about Mexican missions, the early to mid-sixteenth century writings of the Spanish missionaries to Mexico and the early seventeenth century manuscripts of the author/copyist Fray Juan de Torquemada. The analysis exposes changes in worldviews - including the concepts of identity, ownership, and cruelty - through missionary eyes. It suggests two theoretical models - the vision model and the model of touch - to describe these changes, which are manifested in the missionary project and in the texts that it (re)produced.

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Biographical Note

Ran Tene, Ph.D. in History of Ideas (2009), Haifa University, studies philosophy at the Hebrew University, focusing on Wittgenstein. His primary interests are early modern ethics, the missionary project, and the interactions of history and philosophy.

Review Quotes

"Tene gelingt es, die komplexen Unterschiede zwischen den ethischen Standpunkten der Franziskanermönche in Mexiko darzulegen und einen Beitrag zur Geschichte der „spirituellen Eroberung“ zu leisten."
Laura Dierksmeier (Tübingen), in: Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung 44 (2017), 3, p. 574-575.

"[...] the slim book offers rewarding insights on the changes in the mentality of Spanish authors that Ran Tene has examined [...] [For] those who are interested in exegetical studies over time, this is definitely a good read."
Erwin S. Fernandez (Abung na Panagbasay Pangasinan), in: Itinario 40, Issue 2 (August 2016), p. 349-351.

"El conquistador Cortés pidió a Carlos V que enviara frailes de vida ejemplar para que sirvieran de ejemplo a los nativos con vistas a su conversión. El estudio de Ran Tene se centra precisamente en este grupo de personas, de tanta influencia en la marcha de los acontecimientos tras la conquista inicial. Estos frailes, por el mero hecho de acudir a lo que se les pedía, se convirtieron en una ventana abierta a dos culturas. Para los nativos eran los destructores de la religión azteca; para los españoles eran los mejores conocedores de esa religión. Tuvieron el cuidado de transmitir sus impresiones, pensamientos y experiencias en crónicas, libros de historia, relaciones y memoriales. Los historiadores actuales siguen asomándose a estos escritos cuando intentan conocer a fondo la cultura de los indígenas. El autor aborda aquí la tarea de mostrar con precisión su tarea como agentes de evangelización, así como el de propagadores de la visión cristiana del mundo. El libro se basa en los textos históricos escritos por los misioneros de Méjico."
- Antonio Navas, ArchTeolGran 78 (2015), p. 355-356.

Table of contents

General Editor’s Foreword ... ix
Acknowledgments ... xii
List of Figures and Tables ... xiii
Glossary of Foreign Terms ... xiv

Introduction ...1
1 Conversion and an Ethical Worldview ... 1
2 Methodology ... 16
3 Authors of the Historical Sources ... 19

1 From Sight to Touch in the Ethical Narrative ... 23
1.1 Earth, Body, and Clothes ... 23
1.2 The Body ... 29
1.3 Poverty ... 43
1.4 Identity and Will ... 53
1.5 Sight, Touch and Free Will – A Summary ... 65

2 Two Ethical Systems: Example and Mystery ... 72
2.1 The Beautiful and the True ... 72
2.2 From Example to Mystery (‘ejemplo’‘misterio’) –To Learn from a Human Story ... 80
2.3 Self-identity and Historical Memory–Homeland, Family, and History ... 91
2.4 Moral Particularism and the Ethical Dispute ... 99

3 Cruelty ... 106
3.1 Cruelty in the SixteenthCentury – the Object of Cruelty ... 109
3.2 Cruelty in the SeventeenthCentury – Torquemada and the Cruelty of Sacrifice – the Story of the Goddess Toci ... 111
3.3 Cruelty, Dominion/Rule, and Justice ... 118

Conclusion ... 139
Bibliography ... 147
Index ... 158

Readership

All interested in Latin American history, the history of ideas, the history of ethics, conceptual history, the relationship between philosophy and history, religious history.

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