(UPDATE (5/5/19): I’m bringing this post back up to the top of the main page to increase its visibility. The letter now has over 3,000 signatures. Academics in all disciplines are encouraged to sign.)
Below is a letter responding to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s recent declarations that he is considering a plan to withdraw funding for the study and teaching of philosophy and sociology at public universities in Brazil.
Written by Sergio Tenenbaum (University of Toronto), Alice Pinheiro Walla (University of Bayreuth), and Catarina Dulith Novaes (VU Amsterdam), the letter is open for academics from around the world to sign. (To sign, use the form at the end of the letter.)
Open Letter Regarding President Bolsonaro’s Recent Pronouncements on Defunding Philosophy and Sociology
We, the undersigned academics around the world, would like to express our alarm and concern about President Bolsonaro’s recent claims that he is planning to defund Philosophy and Sociology (and possibly other areas in the Humanities and social sciences). Brazilian public universities have produced internationally recognized major research in both of these areas. Philosophy and Sociology are fundamental disciplines of any modern university, and, given the interdisciplinary nature of the university, defunding them will affect not only research in these specific areas, but also the reputation, and the quality of research and teaching, of Brazilian universities across all areas. In fact, it is ironic that Philosophy is singled out in this respect, as philosophers in Brazil were among the pioneers of paraconsistent logic, a research program that has had impact in such diverse areas as robotics and expert systems for medical diagnosis.
President Bolsonaro implies in his remarks that public funding should flow exclusively to professional schools. These are certainly important programs. However, a democratic society depends not only on its commercial productive output, but also on its social institutions, its understanding of their foundations and governing principles, as well as its understanding of how these policies and institutions affect its population. Research in social sciences and humanities, and especially Philosophy and Sociology, is vital to such an understanding. The contribution of academics to public debates is also of crucial importance to a well functioning democracy.
Students taking courses in these areas learn to think critically about their conditions, and the broader condition of the society and the world around them. But also the wider public and Brazilian society benefit from the intellectual expertise from philosophers and sociologists.
Thus an attack on Philosophy and Sociology, as well as the humanities and social sciences more generally, is an attack on the very fabric of a democratic society. We call on the Bolsonaro government to reconsider such proposals, and we call on all citizens of Brazil to join us in preserving public support of the social sciences and humanities in Brazil.
Regarding President Bolsonaro's Recent Pronouncements on Defunding Philosophy and Sociology
Please sign the open letter using the above form. Note that though a valid email is required, your email address will not be publicly displayed nor used for any other purpose.
(Note: I have been informed that upon initially opening this page, in some browsers the above widget states that zero people have signed the letter. This is false. As of May 5th, there are over 3000 signatories. For those experiencing this problem, the actual number of signatories, as well as their names, will be visible after you sign the letter and refresh the page. Thanks to those who reported this issue.)