Philosophy in Brazil under threat

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‘We must do anything we can to support colleagues in Brazil’ writes BSP president Patrick O’Connor. Join in the protest now.

Some of you may already have seen the call for protest circulating on PHILOS-L from Professor Alison Assiter, UWE, directed against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is disinvesting in philosophy at public universities in the country. If you agree with the attached letter, please join the BSP president Patrick O’Connor and other members of the BSP executive and send a copy of the text below to the Brazilian senate.

Details on how to fill in the online form are below the letter.

On April 25th, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, along with his Minister of Education, Abraham Weintraub, declared the government’s intent to “decentralize investments in philosophy and sociology” within public universities, and to shift financial support to “areas that give immediate returns to taxpayers, such as veterinary science, engineering, and medicine.”

As professors, lecturers, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and other scholars in philosophy and related disciplines at colleges and universities in the UK, the United States and worldwide, we write to declare our unwavering support for continued funding for philosophy programs at Brazilian universities. We oppose President Bolsonaro’s attempt to disinvest in philosophy , or any other program in the humanities or social sciences.

As historical and contemporary philosophers, we understand that the decades-long marketization of higher education has convinced many politicians – in Brazil, in the United States, and globally – that a university education is valuable only insofar as it is immediately profitable. We reject this premise.

The purpose of higher education is not to produce “immediate returns” on investments. The purpose of higher education must always be to produce an educated, enriched society that benefits from the collective endeavor to create human knowledge. Higher education is a purpose in and of itself.

An education in the full range of the arts and sciences is the cornerstone of a liberal arts education. This is as true in Brazil as it is in the United States as it is in any country in the world.

Brazilian philosophy departments produce socially engaged and critical thinkers, both in Brazil and worldwide. Brazilian sociologists contribute to the global production of sociological knowledge. They are our colleagues within the disciplines and within our shared departments and institutions. When philosophers from abroad conduct research or other academic work in Brazil, we are welcomed by Brazilian philosophers and by their departments. Many of our own students receive world-class training in philosophy at Brazilian universities.

President Bolsonaro’s intent to defund philosophy programs is an affront to the discipline, to the academy, and, most broadly, to the human pursuit of knowledge. This proposal is ill-conceived, and violates principles of academic freedom that ought to be integral to systems of higher education in Brazil, in the United States, and across the globe. We urge the Brazilian government to reconsider its proposition.

To send the letter

Go to: (opens in new tab)

For those of you that do not read Brazilian. The opening section of the page reads (via Google translate!):

The Ombudsman’s Office is the link that seeks to establish, through its procedures, efficient communication between the citizen, the internal public and the institution. It acts as a space for dialogue with qualified listening, legitimizing the channel where the citizen has a voice and is heard, strengthening the relationship between the citizen and the organization, in order to promote the improvement of services offered to society and the improvement of routines and processes in addition to contributing to the practice of good corporate governance.

The Ombudsman’s Office of the Federal Senate is the channel of communication between the organisation and the citizen for the management of social participation!

  1. Post the message in ‘Sua mensagem’.
  2. The first drop-down translates as: ‘How do you want to receive the response to your message?’
  3. Add your details in the boxes provided. The message won’t get sent if any are blank. The options here are internal to Brazil, but you can add your own details in the address / city boxes. Just use any code for the ‘UF’ box, and CEP (postcode) should be a five digit number – use any!
  4. All the other boxes are pretty obvious.
  5. Sort the bot box, and click Enviar.