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.