British Philosophical Association Defends Philosophy in Brazil


The Executive Committee of the British Philosophical Association (BPA) has issued a statement responding to Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who last week proposed that federal funding for the study and teaching of philosophy and sociology be ended.

The statement reads:

The British Philosophical Association is highly alarmed by President Bolsonaro’s plans to remove funding from Philosophy and Sociology in Brazilian Universities.  Such a move is not in Brazil’s interests – having well-funded, vibrant, internationally-connected philosophy and sociology departments is crucial to healthy universities and, by extension, to healthy societies. Philosophers, alongside colleagues in the humanities, arts and social sciences, have a crucial role in helping us to understand, question, invent and reinvent the communities, towns, cities, societies and economies in which we exist. They help us understand what is valuable and why. They help us understand the results and implications of the fruits of science and technology.

The proposal to defund philosophy departments in Brazil is bad for philosophy as a worldwide discipline; philosophy directly benefits from the diversity of experiences of the people that contribute to it. Brazil has been home to generations of distinguished philosophy scholars: Paulo Freire, Oswaldo Chateaubriand, Newton da Costa, Walter Carnielli, Itala D’ottaviano, Vladimir Safatle, Ana Paula Cavalcanti Simioni to name but a few. Brazil’s philosophy departments attract visiting philosophers from all over the world to study alongside leading figures. Brazil’s universities have produced philosophers who have gone on to work at leading universities around the world; for example, Roberto Mangabeira Unger is Professor at Harvard Law School, and two of the three Editors-in-Chief of Synthese, one of the world’s top ranking philosophy journals, are Brazilian and trained at the University of Sao Paulo – Catarina Dutilh Novaes and Otavio Bueno.

This move strikes a blow against academic freedom and freedom more broadly; while President Bolsonaro’s statements have been framed as an attempt to channel investment towards programmes of study which might provide shorter-term benefits to Brazil’s economy, the BPA note that authoritarian governments often attempt to silence philosophers and sociologists as a move to make it more difficult for people to express views critical of those in power. The British Philosophical Association calls on leaders around the world to urge President Bolsonaro to reconsider this move. 

(via Joe Morrison)


Readers should consider signing the open letter protesting this proposal.


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