Standing Up for Philosophy and Academia In Brazil and Elsewhere

“When those in power choose to oust entire disciplines, then no other discipline is safe from their interference. At stake is nothing less than the existence of independent academic research and teaching. Therefore, this should be a matter of concern to everyone who prefers knowledge to ignorance, and informed critical reflection to prejudice.”

Those words are from a new editorial by Sven Ove Hansson (Royal Institute of Technology) in Theoria, in regards to the move by the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, to withdraw funding for philosophy and sociology in his country’s universities.  

Henrique Oliveira, “Devir”

Professor Hansson writes that this decision is based on three mistakes:

  1. the belief that students in profession-oriented educations… have no need for philosophy or sociology
  2. the assumption that practically useful results from research and education are best obtained by only funding activities that are predicted to have immediate practical applicability. The major reason why this does not work for research is that the most innovative technologies tend to depend heavily on investigations aimed at basic understanding rather than immediate applicability.
  3. the notion that research and education can only be justified if they produce outcomes of a material kind, such as innovations and technological development. A country’s research and education are part of its cultural traditions, and culture is a large part of what makes us civilized. Philosophy, in particular, has a strong role as conveyer of ideas for existential and ethical reflection in both private and public life. Relinquishing a country’s philosophy, or other important parts of its research and education, is as self-belittling as closing down its film studios, theatres, museums or libraries.

You can read the entire editorial, in which he elaborates on and provides examples illustrating these three mistakes, here.

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Aaron V Garrett
Aaron V Garrett
4 years ago

I agree with everything above, but isn’t this giving Bolsonaro too much credit and allowing him to dictate the terms of the discussion? Doesn’t he want to purge the disciplines he views as hotbeds of radicalism, and by radicalism he means anything left at all? Please correct me if I am wrong, I am not a Brazilian and my knowledge is from the media.

Readers may be interested in Dilma Roussef’s new documentary on the current Brazilian political nightmare, which will be released on Netflix on the 19th:

Aaron V Garrett
Aaron V Garrett
Reply to  Aaron V Garrett
4 years ago

Sorry Petra Costa’s documentary about Dilma and Lula and everyone else. This just scratches the surface of the evil involved here which has impacted millions of lives.

Lisa S
Lisa S
4 years ago

My understanding is that Federal universities are facing an across the board 30% budget cut. That is going to affect everyone and not just the flagged disciplines of philosophy and sociology.