Political Philosophy and Theory of Human Sciences

Research projects:


Morals, politics, and law: autonomy and critical theory

Description: This proposal in based on a prior work of eight years, funded by two successive Thematic Projects of FAPESP (processes 99/09544-4 and 03/11860-9). Based on this research experience, what is sought here is not only an investigation about the tradition of Critical Theory and its problems, but also an investigation based on the developments of this intellectual aspect. The line of thought chosen was the concept of autonomy, a concept whose critical examination enables not only the articulation of the different areas of Morals, Politics and Law at the present time, but also the operation with different critical proposals in applied research. The project, in a general characterization, consists of the following moments: 1) position of the concept of autonomy in the philosophical tradition and in social theory; 2) position of the concept of autonomy in different conceptions of social theory and in different models of contemporary Critical Theory; 3) investigations applied in the fields of Law, Politics and Morals aiming at a critical scrutiny of the concept of autonomy.

Professor in charge: Ricardo Ribeiro Terra (ricardor@usp.br)


The place of Humanities in Bacon’s instauratio magna project

Description: In book II of Advancement of learning, Bacon warns that ‘the study of human nature can become an autonomous knowledge and a whole knowledge aside.’ It is, according to Bacon, a mixed knowledge that encompasses the science of the body and the science of the spirit, in addition to considering man both ‘separately’ and ‘in society’. The purpose here is to examine Bacon’s principle according to which natural history would also apply to civil science, i.e., if civil history is the material necessary for the construction of civil science.

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


Social pathologies: interfaces among philosophy, social theory, and psychoanalysis

Description: This research aims to carry out a critical examination of the diagnostic strategies developed within Philosophy’s resort to Psychoanalysis in France and Germany. The aim is to form a framework of references for the understanding of social pathologies. The works of Adorno, Foucault, Deleuze, and Honneth are considered, specifically regarding their use and examination of the psychoanalytic practice and conceptography. The intention is to extract implications from the theses of these authors for the very renewal of the diagnostic practice in Psychoanalysis as well as for the repositioning of the scope and limits of Psychiatric diagnosis. A clinical protocol is proposed, gathering and organizing different aspects of consideration of social pathology. The method based on construction of clinical cases is used to verify the relevance of the clinical protocol thus delimited.

Professor in charge: Vladimir Pinheiro Safatle (vsafatle@yahoo.com)


English republicanism: origins, shifts, and ruptures

Description: Historians of political thought point out two decisive phases in the formation of modern republicanism: the first consists of Italian humanists of the Renaissance, especially Machiavelli and Guicciardini, who adopted and redefined the Republican doctrine in defence of political freedom for their cities; the second is represented by a group of English authors of the 17th century who resorted to Republican principles to sustain the political regime that replaced the monarchy of the Stuarts, exercised their criticism when necessary and, after its failure, proposed new constitutional solutions. The research aims to address this second phase, which has been less discussed in Brazil’s academic sphere, based on the analysis of the most important writings of its main representatives: John Milton, Marchamont Nedham, James Harrington, Algernon Sidney, and Henry Neville. We intend to investigate the origins, formation and manifestation of the so-called English Republicanism. The intention is to examine what was maintained, abandoned, and modified of the Republican ideals when it was appropriated and adapted to the context of 17th-century England, analysing primarily how elements apparently strange to the Republican theme were introduced and articulated, such as the concepts of natural rights of individuals, social contract, sovereignty, and political representation. The problem to be discussed is what type of republicanism was produced by these authors and the consequences of their theories to the modern political thought.

Professor in charge: Alberto Ribeiro Gonçalves de Barros (abarros@usp.br)


Sovereignty and political representation

Description: The theological-political matrix that serves as a basis for the constitution of the idea of sovereignty and the resulting theoretical formulations for the formation and operation of modern political gears have as a consequence the production either of a great absent or of a great solitary in the political sphere, the sovereign, which, when legibus solutus, i.e., free of any higher legislation, in presenting oneself as the author of the laws, establishes, in the political scene, a certain unease, or a paradox, which is to present oneself at the same time both inside and outside the constitutional order and rule of law. Carl Schmidt’s analysis of the implications of the concept of sovereignty considered as the exercise of power without limits certainly had an impact on the idea of sovereignty as the foundation of the modern political order. Therefore, whether we think of the sovereign representative of Hobbes or of the popular sovereignty of Rousseau, the question that reappears is always that the sovereign can be thought of as a power without limits or limited, i.e., a power above the law or limited by it. And if the latter hypothesis is more plausible, it remains to be known which laws sovereign must obey. Considered one of the greatest theorists of modern sovereignty, Jean Bodin complained of the lack of definition of what he considered the most important in the investigation of the Republic, without which it would be virtually impossible to think of the operating mode of the political community. The difficulty in defining sovereignty could very well be comparable to that of the name of God in the Scriptures – which no one can pronounce. If the absolute sovereign of the whole universe escapes any naming, any definition of the same would always be something imperfect, unfinished and that would not correspond in any way to that which is named. The theological-political matrix of the idea of sovereignty also carries this insurmountable difficulty that always leads us to think about something beyond or outside politics and, when it intervenes at some point, it appears as a sort of caricature of the ‘true power’, of the ‘absolute power’, of the ‘supreme power’, ‘of the last unwavering stronghold of resistance’, of the ‘real authority’, of the ‘true Lord’. The need for visible power is affirmed especially in response to a question that at any moment mere mortals must answer: ‘who rules?’, ‘who commands?’, ‘who says the last word?’, ‘who is the sovereign?’ The answers to these questions will be critical to comprehend what we understand as popular sovereignty and democracy, expressions used so often and whose content escapes at any time from a precise definition.

Professor in charge: Milton Meira do Nascimento (milton@usp.br)


The dissent of recognition: Study on the articulation between politics and psychoanalysis in two models of recovery of the Hegelian concept of Anerkennung

Description: The last twenty years of philosophical and social debate saw the hegemony of the concept of recognition as a central operator for understanding the rationality of political demands. Recovered, for the first time in the 1930s, through the hegelian readings of Alexandre Kojève, the concept has only been explored systematically in its actual political dimension from the beginning of the 1990s, in particular by the third generation of the Frankfurt School (Axel Honneth). However, this second recovery was carried out through a peculiar operation of reintroduction. Everything was conducted as if the very French aspect of the debate should be largely ignored so the concept could find its rightful political force. One has to ask, however, if this silence would not be, in fact, expressing the mute consciousness of two possible developments of a same concept of the Hegelian matrix. However, to analyse such hypothesis, we must expose the unexplored political possibilities of the French recovery of the concept of recognition. This is the first objective of this research. In this case, I would like to focus on his Lacanian matrix because I understand that it is particularly fruitful for such discussion. On the other hand, an operation of this nature, in order not to be reduced to a conceptual historiography correction exercise, must start from the exposition of the limits of the actual political force of social transformation present in the Frankfurtian recovery of a theory of recognition; a recovery developed by Axel Honneth. In other words, it would be justified by providing a critical model in relation to contemporary uses of the concept of recognition, showing its limitations, but accepting, at the same time, the pertinence of the concept as an operator of understanding of the rationality of the contemporary political demands. This is, therefore, the second objective of this research.

Professor in charge: Vladimir Pinheiro Safatle (vsafatle@yahoo.com)


On the status of the Montaignian scepticism and its implications on the moral sphere

Description: Study on the appropriation and transformation of the tradition of ancient scepticism in Montaigne’s Essays, considering the controversies about the philosophical status of the work, especially regarding its political and ethical positions.

Professor in charge: Sérgio Cardoso (sercard@usp.br)