History of Philosophy

Research projects:


Leibniz’s expressive philosophy

Description: Expression is one of the most important notions in the philosophy of Leibniz. The philosopher addresses it directly in some texts; however, more than an object of analysis, the notion of expression organizes and converges reflections on Leibniz’s theology, ontology, and epistemology. The scope of the theory of expression as a principle of explanation, which enables thinking it through a theological bias, an ontological bias, and an epistemological bias, also enables a broadening of perspectives. It is possible to think the morals based on theology and ontology, the reconciliation of the churches based on the project of a universal Characteristic, the language and the issue of signs based on epistemology. These ‘secondary’ themes can be organized into two broad issues: the ‘moral issue’, which involves law and religion, and the issue of language. The research aims to introduce the philosophy of Leibniz from his theory of expression, showing how fundamental and secondary themes can be organized from this perspective.

Professor in charge: Tessa Moura Lacerda (tessalacerda@usp.br)


The notion of contemplation in Espinosa’s ethics

Description: The project aims to explore the use of the concept of ‘contemplation’ in Espinosa’s ethics, seeking to show that it is a specific use and not just a choice of a synonym for ‘view’ or ‘consider,’ while clarifying this usage. Initially, the proposal is to investigate the relations of this concept with the idea of imagination in books II and III of Espinosa’s Ethics. Researching the uses of the terms in part II, as well as their precise sense in the contexts of each genre of knowledge proposed by the philosopher, we found that imagination has a decisive role in both inadequate knowledge, which is a kind of contemplation, and adequate knowledge, which starts from a kind of contemplation to achieve another knowledge. Part III provides a mirroring of the prior findings, but from a dynamic point of view, in which the pursuit of increased power occurs on two levels: the effort of imagining and the effort of comprehending; different from each other, but also inseparable. Finally, in part V, the proposal is to determine how the idea of contemplation is related to the conception of eternity exposed there, which implies investigating the sense of Espinosa’s claim that God contemplates himself.

Professor in charge: Luis César Guimarães Oliva (lcoliva@uol.com.br)


The issue of the possible in the Spinozism and its implications on Antonio Negri

Description: Much of the recent renewal of political thinking has been based on a resumption of Spinozist categories, which would be endowed with sufficient strength to question the purported ‘end of history’. A paradigmatic case of this movement of ideas is that of Italian philosopher Antonio Negri, whose works are crossed and overtly inspired by the legacy of Spinoza. Therefore, we ask: how to understand that a philosopher of determination, and in which the theme of history is not evident at all, can serve the thinkers who assign as main task of today’s thought the opening of new horizons of possible transformations? Starting from there, our aim is to investigate the issue of the possible and of the transformative action in the Spinozism and in Negri’s work, seeking the theoretical consistency of the links established between such philosophies.

Professor in charge: Homero Silveira Santiago (homero@usp.br)


Augustine of Hippo, the Cassiciacum dialogues

Description: The works written by Augustine in Cassiciacum (three dialogues, in addition to Soliloquies) are the first Augustine texts that we were able to read. They are an attempt at a systematic gathering of the main subjects of classical philosophy (Truth, Happiness, Order, Immortality of the Soul) reviewed from a Christian perspective. In it, Augustine also devises a research program to be developed, which will be interrupted by his appointment as Bishop of Hippo. Among the works of Augustine, the dialogues are the ones that make more use of a philosophical technical vocabulary and, more generally, the ones that better correspond to a classical model of philosophical writing. As a testament to the philosophical discussion in Christian neoplatonic environment and to the genesis of the thought of Augustine, their value is fundamental, and, in this sense, these dialogues were addressed. My research, however, tries to focus more on their systemic character, as project of a comprehensive Christian philosophy, having as a model the set of Cicero’s treatises and the classic segmentations of the traditional philosophical schools. In that sense, in addition to the Cassiciacum texts, it will be important to consider the immediately following dialogues (De quantitate animi, De imortalitate animi, De magistro, De libero arbitrio) in addition to the letters and the encyclopaedia project.

Professor in charge: Lorenzo Mammi (mammi@uol.com.br)


Augustine: language, rhetoric, and moral philosophy

Description: The ongoing research consists in investigating the Augustinian critique to materialism, particularly stoic materialism, aiming at the constitution of a fundamental thesis for the Author: the thesis of the centrality of the will. It is important that this thesis is obtained partly with support on Platonism, as attested by Augustine himself, but also contrarily to Platonism (in the sense that Augustine knew and reconstructed), insofar as the assertion of the will depends on a distancing from the Platonic ethics. The critique of Platonism concerns explicitly the relation between reason and body, in the field of theory of passions, but depends on a general thesis on the unity of nature between will and reason; an unity that will be shown through different critical exercises to depurate misleading dissociations.

Professor in charge: Moacyr Ayres Novaes Filho (novaesm@usp.br)


Anthropology and history at the time of enlightenment

Description: One of the immediate results of the questioning of metaphysics as a science, in the Age of Enlightenment, is the discovery or invention of a new branch of knowledge: Human Sciences (also called ‘Social Sciences’). The aim of this research is to investigate the mode of constitution and articulation of such Sciences based on the analysis of the conflict between history and anthropology, the first a traditional discipline that is redefined as a science of human nature, the latter an emerging discipline, contesting the terms to which history circumscribes its object – man. Taking as a starting point vigorous reflections in this regard by contemporary anthropologists (Lévi-Strauss, Evans-Pritchard), the research returns to the 18th century and focuses on the study of authors involved in the dispute over the hegemony of the new knowledge (Hume, Smith, Ferguson, and other Scots; Rousseau, Condillac; Kant, Herder; the Idéologues), to find in them the formulation of problems still relevant to Human Sciences. The investigation focuses on the question of language, based on which the nature, scope and limits of the new type of knowledge are defined at the time of the Enlightenment.

Professor in charge: Pedro Paulo Garrido Pimenta (pedronamba@gmail.com)


The ideas of non-existent modes in Espinosa

Description: In proposition III 7 of Ethics, Espinosa states that the essence of a thing is identified with its effort to persevere in existence. At the same time, in definition 2 part II, the philosopher tells us that: ‘that which puts the thing belongs to its essence’. Therefore, it does not seem reasonable to speak, concerning Espinosan philosophy, about essences that are non-existent or separated from their existence. But then, how to understand proposition 8 in part II, which tells us about ideas of non-existent modes? It would be a way to recover possibilities, after part I assured us that everything is necessary? The aim of this project is to examine this enigma, which poses difficulties to interpreters and still does not seem to have a definitive solution. With this purpose, we will investigate the ramifications of this proposition, which are found in apparently conflicting parts of the text: on the one hand, proposition II 8 is invoked in the scholium of proposition 11 part III, which demonstrates how an idea can be contrary to our mind; on the other hand, it has important role in part V, which says that the mind is eternal and, insofar, immune to contrariety. That is why we believe that the examination of the role of proposition II 8 in Ethics can also help clarify the relations between eternity and duration (which is the field of contrariety) in Espinosa’s philosophy.

Professor in charge: Luis Cesar Guimarães Oliva (lcoliva@uol.com.br)


Philosophical bases of ancient and modern republicanism

Description: The research seeks to clarify the issue of the relations between Philosophy and Politics based on Ancient Greece, the cradle of Political Philosophy. Political Philosophy reflected mainly on two themes: ‘Politeia’ (origin of the concept of Republic) and Virtue. How did these concepts emerge, how did they transform throughout history, under the impact of Christianity, Machiavelli, and Modern Science? How are they thought about in the context of contemporary reflection (positivism, historicism, postmodernism)? These are some of our questions.

Professor in charge: Mario Miranda Filho (mariomir@usp.br)


Renaissance Studies Centre

Description: To create a centre for the study of Renaissance, aiming to: a) Train specialized personnel for a future discipline of the Department of Philosophy; b) Aid the development of master’s and PhD theses; c) Prepare essays and books by professors of the Department.

Professor in charge: Marilena de Souza Chauí (filosofo@usp.br)


Ancient Philosophy

Description: Project organized by UAM, under direction of José Maria Zamora, for joint research on Ancient Philosophy, with a planned conference in 2007, in Spain. Approximately 29 students are involved, all PhD students, in Spanish-speaking countries (Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, and Spain).

Professor in charge: Marco Antonio de Ávila Zingano (mzingano@usp.br)


17th-century study group

Description: The group aims to provide theoretical and practical assistance for studies on the 17th-century philosophy, encouraging the theory of information of the individual research projects (Master’s and PhD students) and development of collective works, production of divulgation and teaching materials, publications, and organization of events/congresses.

Professor in charge: Marilena de Souza Chauí (filosofo@usp.br)


The meaning of refutations in the Socratic dialogues of Plato

Description: The purpose is to examine, in the Socratic Platonic dialogues, the main characteristics of Socrates’ procedure before his interlocutors, taking as starting point the following topics: 1) to what extent would be confirmed the Aristotelian judgment that the Socratic interrogation aims to discover definitions by inductive processes?; 2) taking into account these aspects attributed to Socrates’ procedure, can an unique pattern of refutation be found, which would be repeated in the different dialogues?; 3) are such procedures compatible with that which, later, in the dialogue Theaetetus, Plato will call maieutic?

Professor in charge: Roberto Bolzani Filho (robertof@usp.br)


The transcendental and the empirical in Edmund Husserl

Description: The objective of this research is to investigate the meaning of transcendental subjectivity in phenomenology, based on its presentation as an ‘Irrealität.’ The working hypothesis to be pursued is that this characterization only gains its meaning in the sphere of the consciousness that constitutes time. This will enable addressing properly the various problems within the Phenomenology, as Husserl himself acknowledges that it is in this sphere of temporality that lies the most important issues of his philosophy.

Professor in charge: Carlos Alberto Ribeiro de Moura (calberto@usp.br)


The treatise of intellectual virtues in Aristotelian ethics

Description: This research project continues the plan, already partly implemented in the prior project, of investigating the Aristotelian doctrines transmitted to us by the common books (EN V-VI-VII = EE IV-V-VI). The main topics of analysis involved in this plan are the following: the concept of Justice (EN V), the intellectual virtues, in particular that which operates in the practical domain, that is, prudence (EN VI) and the lack of control or acrasia (VII). There is also the problem of the nature of pleasure, because, at the end of book EN VII is the first treatise on pleasure; EN also contains a second treatise of pleasure, in book X. The theses defended are not the same: in the first treatise, pleasure is defined as a non-hampered activity; in the second treatise, it is no longer seen as an activity, but rather as that which concludes or ensues an activity. However, the theme of pleasure needs to be studied by addressing books VII and X concomitantly, which, for now, will not be carried out in this research project.

Professor in charge: Marco Antonio de Ávila Zingano (mzingano@usp.br)


Origin and Development of Phenomenology

Description: The aim is to circumscribe the main moments of the elaboration of phenomenology and to clarify its original intention and the stages of its development. Three key moments in the constitution of phenomenology by Husserl are considered: the presentation of phenomenology as a complement to pure logic; the expansion of phenomenology to a universal science of pure consciousness; and, finally, the self-criticism of the transcendental project and the outline of a new introduction to the phenomenology, which includes reflections on history and culture.

Professor in charge: Marcus Sacrini Ayres Ferraz (sacrini@usp.br)


Thematic project: classical Greek philosophy: Plato, Aristotle and their influence on Antiquity

Description: Research Group, funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), with works on ancient Greek philosophy.

Professor in charge: Marco Antonio de Ávila Zingano (mzingano@usp.br)


Rivalry and complementarity between philosophy and poetry in the origins of Greek political philosophy

Description: Our current research aims to seek elements of the crisis (political, military, intellectual, theological) that befell Athens in the last decades of the 5th century B.C., in the rivalry between poetry and philosophy, as stated, for example, in Plato’s Republic. We start from the following point: we know that the works of the poets also denote a philosophical concern (in the Odyssey, the poet registers for the first time the meaning of Physis-Nature; the Muses of Hesiod know how to tell lies that resemble the truth), and the philosophers (Plato, Xenophon) write philosophical texts inscribed in the language of poetic dramas. Therefore, the objective is to think this dialectic relation that permeates these two knowledges.

Professor in charge: Mario Miranda Filho (mariomir@usp.br)


Rupture and continuity: investigations on the relation between nature and history

Description: The project focuses on the development of relations between Nature and History in the 17th-century philosophy seeking not only the century’s conceptions, but also the legacy on which they are founded, as well as the criticism and revisits to the 17th-century formulations in later philosophy, particularly in the French Enlightenment, in the German Idealism, and in some contemporary philosophers, such as Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze, and Foucault. The starting point will be the Renaissance formulations of the Florentine and French jurists, and their presence and modifications in the works of Bacon, Espinosa, Pascal, and Leibniz. The first counterpoint, in which the rupture is superior in relation to continuity, will be conducted with the work of Vico, which prefigures the works of the French Enlightenment. From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, the relations between Nature and History are not tense: not only is History embedded in Nature, but the latter, thought of as artefact and artisan, is soaked in History; moreover, the idea of human nature provides the necessary mediation between both. Everything changes and the rupture becomes patent with the works of German Idealism, i.e., with the distinction between Nature and Culture, even if Romanticism intends to resume their inseparability, thanks to a new Philosophy of Nature. Taking as reference the analysis of Major Rationalism, by Merleau-Ponty, his criticism of the failure of dialectical philosophies and his hypothesis of the possibility of basing on Nature a new concept of History, some of the researches will examine the role of the concepts of becoming and event in the philosophies of Nietzsche and Deleuze, the emphasis on the idea of temporal discontinuity, in the early works of Foucault, and the resurgence of the natural determination of history in his last works, dedicated to the concept of biopower.

Professor in charge: Maria das Graças Souza (mgsouza@usp.br)


Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and the notion of activity

Description: The notion of activity is crucial in Philosophy. This research seeks to explore the importance of the concept within the German metaphysics from Kant, with special emphasis on the works of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Its aim, thus, is to determine certain limits for understanding the concept of will to power, to explain some interpretations of Nietzsche established throughout the 20th century.

Professor in charge: Eduardo Brandão (edubrand@usp.br)


Sound and image: symbolic forms and limits of language in Western Patristic literature

Description: The Christianisation of the West led to a rejection of traditional musical and representative practices, committed to paganism. The condemnation of theatrical shows, on the one hand, and the fear of idolatry, on the other, were important obstacles to the transmission of ancient artistic practices. However, precisely at this time (between the 4th and 8th centuries of the Christian era), the foundations for a new kind of art and music were created, whose characteristics are fundamental to understand the further development of the European culture. The research conducted to date on the musical theories and aesthetic thinking in patristic literature seems to show some limits, which have hindered the comprehension of essential aspects of this transition. On the one hand, especially in musical studies, attention was directed almost exclusive to technical treatises, which in general focus on conveying the Greek scientific tradition as accurately as possible (with misconceptions that are not, indeed, casual and irrelevant at all), while texts dealing with pastoral use and mystical meaning of the chants are not systematically studied, appearing only in a few quotes. In my PhD thesis, I tried to show, firstly, the relation between the new value given to music and appearance of an idea of consciousness in the works of Augustine of Hippo; secondly, how this relationship supports not only many aspects of the Augustinian thought (the relation between music and language, music and conscience, and, thus, the relation between music and time), but also the deep structure of the later Christian chant, so distant from the Greek-Roman tradition. To an idea of music as proportionally objective form, present in the relations between sound measures, typical of the ancient culture, corresponds, in a Christian time, a model of chant as an expression of an inner movement, which is expressed not in, but through sounds.

Professor in charge: Lorenzo Mammi (mammi@uol.com.br)