Presentation of the Department

History of the Department

The history of the Department may be divided into three different phases, the first of which comprehending the period that ranges from the year 1934 to circa 1957. This phase corresponds to the times of the French Missions, a group of French professors that came here with the special task of establishing and setting on the basic directions of the course, as well as educating the future professors. The second phase, which may be devised as ranging from 1958 to 1968, corresponds to the strengthening of that work style that has since characterized the Department among Brazilian philosophical and academic scenery. Under the influence – at the same time diversified and confluent – of such thinkers as Granger, Guéroult and Goldschmidt, technical and critical standards of philosophical work and academic structuring were set down, favored by the politically open posture of those who were then the Department Chairs, namely, João Cruz Costa and Lívio Teixeira. 

The third phase starts with 1968’s political crisis, when persecution and displacement of professors put in risk the course’s very survival. On the other hand, the University Reform constrained the undergraduate program to shape itself into an inflexible structure, thus enforcing the introduction of new disciplines and submission to quantitative education directions (credits system).

As prescribed by the above mentioned work style, the undergraduate program should target objectives concerning a technical and critical education. Its axis was the analytical approach of the History of Philosophy, aiming at providing the students with theoretical tools for understanding the philosophical systems’ internal logic. The central concernment was training the student for research activities following the inheritance of recent French historiography. Before the University Reform such program could be developed in an intensive way, given the curriculum was constituted by a relatively small number of disciplines, ministered along the year with few class hours. Such characteristics corresponded to rigorous demands concerning the reading hours and the deep dealing with the systems and authors treated about in the disciplines.

With the University Reform, although the course’s defining objectives were maintained, due to many different factors the conditions to achieve them got more and more uncertain. First, there was the need for new disciplines – that should be divided into obligatory and optional ones –, the expansion of weekly class hours and the semester-based periodicity, all of them imposed by the new credits regimen. Such changes narrowed in a large degree the possibilities of keeping on intensive studies as those above described. The increase in the number of vacancies, imposed by the 1970’s historical circumstances, the unification of the admission tests for the whole university and the degradation of high school’s educational standards have also been extremely unfavorable for the conciliation of the course’s objectives with the concrete conditions of students entering the University. But above all we must point out as a prevalent unfavorable factor the absence of Philosophy in the High School curriculum, a fault that tends to be reverted now.

It is evident that in the present conditions the training for research is an objective that cannot be maintained in the same degree as it formerly was. It must compose with two other objectives, the professional education of High School teachers – given the reinsertion of Philosophy in the curriculum – and the complementary education of undergraduate and graduate students from other areas of study. Nevertheless, we do not believe there must be a drastic separation between preparing for research and preparing for teaching at High School. There must be, on the contrary, a balance between these course’s two main finalities, so as not to arbitrarily deprive the student from either of these options.