2021 – a year of severe losses

Image: Elyeser Szturm


Posthumous tribute to Luiz Roberto Monzani

To Josette Monzani, with affection and gratitude.

The year 2021 was particularly tough for the Brazilian philosophical community, a period marked by severe losses: Roberto Machado, Roberto Romano, Arthur Giannotti, Luiz Roberto Monzani left us. Today marks exactly one year without Monzani and, as I write this essay to honor him, the Brazilian philosophical and cultural world suffers another great loss: Sergio Paulo Rouanet (1934-2022).

We have, without a doubt, a long work of philosophical mourning to be done, but if it weren't for the intellectual force, the inventive style of thought and the theoretical creation of each one of them, this mourning would certainly be even more difficult. We have lost very admirable and dear people, but not their exciting causes and intellectual motivations, not their quirky and creative ways of thinking, not their creative and penetrating ideas, traits markedly imprinted and remarkably alive in so many of their friends and alumni throughout the world. Brazil.

The name of Luiz Roberto Monzani, among those cited, is the least known to the general public, but he is certainly no less important. Having completed all his training, graduation and doctorate in philosophy at the University of São Paulo (USP), he was a full professor at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and a collaborator professor at the Graduate Program in Philosophy at the Federal University of São Carlos (PPGF/UFSCar). During his professional activities, he guided dozens of researchers, masters, doctors and post-doctors. His intellectual production, permeated by books, scientific and opinion articles, reached fullness with Freud: the movement of a thought (1989) and Desire and pleasure in the modern age (1995), now two classics of Brazilian philosophy.[I]

Monzani is especially important for a field of philosophical research that has gained notoriety in Brazil due to its fecundity and activity: the field of the Philosophy of Psychoanalysis. Together with Bento Prado Jr. and others, Monzani was there, in the 1980s and 1990s, at the origin of the research work that gave life to this field. He contributed decisively to its development and consolidation, even taking part, in the early 2000s, in the creation of the GT Philosophy and Psychoanalysis of ANPOF (National Association of Graduate Studies in Philosophy), a Working Group that celebrates this year two decades of fruitful existence, and of which he was an emeritus member.

Monzani's works on psychoanalysis and on the Modern Age are widely used as references in academic disciplines, mainly psychology and philosophy, and we also find them frequently referenced in scientific articles and national books on the dual theme. However, although they are works of evident heuristic value, we still do not have a rigorously consolidated critique of his philosophical thought.

Unfortunately, we cannot count on an intellectual autobiography or on any detailed work of a biographical nature about the philosopher. There was a note on my desk in a post-it indicating the need for an autobiographical interview that never took place! What we know about him, his history and his relationship with philosophy and psychoanalysis generally comes from the informality of personal conversations, reports from colleagues and, for the most part, from his former students and advisees.

In this sense, the collective tribute made in The movement of a thought: essays in honor of Luiz Roberto Monzani,[ii] besides being deserved, it is also very useful. This is the first published work through which we have access to some of the author's biographical references and to a first set of works on the specific theoretical repercussions of his thought.

It is true that, since then, there has been considerable progress in relation to studies on Monzani,[iii] but it is thanks to this homage book that we know, for example, about a certain characteristic of the philosopher’s personal reserve and discretion: “a young intellectual who I didn’t know where he came from, maybe from the interior of São Paulo due to his accent, but I didn’t know how many brothers he had, what family he came from, if he had a father, mother, where he had gone to school. Monzani was a God from the machine, appeared abruptly, suddenly on Rua Martim Francisco”.[iv]

Thus, we also discover the philosopher “shelter of poems”,[v] the researcher who “reads much more than he writes and who writes much more than he publishes”,[vi] the philosophy student with nocturnal habits, the remarkable didactics of the prep course teacher for college entrance exams, who “spent all the money he earned from classes buying books”, therefore, a voracious reader and “owner of an exceptional library”[vii] – a library whose space would make a moving impression in the future on advisees who, like me, after always being warmly welcomed by Josette, would have the opportunity to meet Monzani there, sitting in his armchair, in front of a small coffee table, wrapped in books, copies and drafts.

Strictly from a theoretical point of view, the publication honoring Monzani brings reports from his former students and colleagues, whether reflecting themes developed by the philosopher himself, or thinking about them through him. Special mention for The art of reading and the effects of thinking: an introduction to the philosophical thought of Luiz Roberto Monzani[viii], analysis by Richard Simanke, the first to carry out a minimally systematic and rigorous reflection on the specificity of Monzanian thought.

Indeed, following the path opened by Richard Simanke, I have given myself the task of investigating and deepening the understanding of what “Monzanian thought” would be more specific. On this day that marks one year since his departure, I would like to honor him in a very simple but very sincere way, sharing, in summary, the set of conclusions I have reached.

Monzani's works require three types of readers: (1) those who are informed about the history of general philosophy, who learn from the broad erudition and didactics of the good old Professor Monzani; (2) what, having been informed and learned from the teacher, clearly sees the researcher's research traits; (3) what, having been informed and learned from the professor, having clearly distinguished the broad theoretical matrices of the researcher, is the one who asks himself about the philosopher Monzani.

Where will the philosopher Monzani be? Only in the affection – entirely legitimate – of his students and those who admire his work, or also in the hard and real battlefield of the history of philosophy?

Now, the thesis according to which the metaphors of the “pendulum” and the “spiral” characterize the movement of Freudian thought – thesis that we can equally extend to the movement of the ideas of “desire” and “pleasure” in modernity and the notion of “order” ” of the physiocrats –, places the philosopher Monzani at the center of a classic philosophical question of the Modern Age, which has remained, until the present day, a huge philosophical problem: the question of method. Being able to imagine a method of thought, illustrated by the figures of the “pendulum” and the “spiral”, places Monzanian thought at the heart of an entire theoretical program of contemporary philosophy which, especially after Hegel, confronts dialectics, refusing to -a as the only possible “method of thought”.

How many philosophers could we mention here, alongside whom Monzani's philosophical thought is situated? Especially those of French tradition, whose influence is marked in his work. The fact is that the “spiral”, as a method of thought, means much more than a mere characterization of Freudian thought or the conceptual course of modern ideas of “desire”, “pleasure” and the notion of “order”. It is the attempt to solve two gigantic philosophical problems: the problem of method and the problem of dialectics. Monzani got it? How do Monzani's positions differ from the positions of other philosophers?

As if the enormous difficulty of confronting, on the real ground of the history of philosophy, perhaps with some originality, the issue of method and the problem of dialectics were not enough, there is another step taken by the philosopher Monzani, whose leadership also demonstrates that insisting on the philosophical relevance of your thinking is not just a gratuitous compliment.

Of the various philosophical consequences that can be drawn from the confrontation of the spiral method of thought with dialectics and with the issue of method in general, Monzani himself seems to have carried out one in particular: it is not enough to make the passage from metaphor to method, it is necessary that the method becomes theory. But, specifically in the case of Monzani, what would that theory be? An ethical-political theory? Psychoanalytic? Any epistemological theory? None of those! The spiral method of thinking is surprisingly conduced by Monzani to a theory of reading.

Who would say?! In the midst of so much erudition and knowledge of the history of philosophy, in the midst of so many themes, problems and authors that are so much bigger, so much more urgent, so much more eloquent, all the time, the thread of each professor's class, the major trace of the investigation of the researcher, the most decisive contribution of the philosopher Monzani: a theory of reading! It is not “desire”, it is not “pleasure”, it is not the notion of “order” among the physiocrats, it is not Sade or Freud that is Monzani's main object. All of these are resources, and each one has its decisive importance, but it is the “reader” that Monzani chooses: it is to the reader and to the reading that he discreetly attributes the direction of his work.

The exact characterization of this theory of reading, derived directly from the spiral method, has, of course, its footing in the entire structuralist discussion about reader/reading figures. There is also the phenomenological hermeneutic background of the so-called “aesthetics of reception”, which so much influenced the field of literature and the discussion of hermeneutic philosophy in the XNUMXth century. XX. But what is its most radical philosophical significance? What does this theory of reading invent for us the philosopher Monzani? It is a theory of reading that, unlike what structuralism does, reconciles subject and structure; unlike what the “aesthetics of reception” does, it pacifies the reader-text relationship; unlike most hermeneutic philosophy, it provides clearer and more objective criteria for interpretation. Of course, here too Monzani is not alone on the scene of contemporary philosophy, which is precisely why we need to study him further.

Why, then, is it necessary to return to the Monzanian image of the spiral? (a) because it is not simply a metaphor but a method; (b) because it is an alternative method of thinking to modern (and contemporary) models of method; (c) because it is a confrontation with the dialectic, understood as the only possible method; (d) because it leads us to a method that creates a theory; (e) because the theory to which it creates, being particularly a theory of reading, marks, in addition to a philosophical style very sensitive to what is, in general, little considered philosophically (reading, reader), a new position in the general framework of reading theories. A more or less conciliatory position? Or more or less pacifying? An epistemologically objective position without being positivist? To check.

Regardless of the incipience of these conclusions, they can already be taken as concrete evidence of a legacy. Monzani built solutions to certain theoretical problems and provided approach strategies to so many others, to a whole generation of Brazilian readers interested in the philosophical issues of modernity and psychoanalysis (not just philosopher readers, by the way!).

Perhaps it is time to recognize that, more than solutions and strategies, more than simply the successful use of a certain reading methodology, Monzani's legacy is not only related to the answers he provided or the methodology he employed, but to what that he created in doing so.

Monzani, being who he was, cares less about solutions, strategies and methodologies, and much more about rigorous criticism and possible advances. His work, more than methodological, is a theoretical work, a work of thought. As it is very much about a general theory of reading, Monzani, with his enormous generosity, leaves us as a legacy not only the work he carried out, but mainly what we can accomplish through his work. It is time, then, to add to our hard work of mourning, the work of thinking.[ix]

*Weiny César Freitas Pinto Professor of Philosophy and Post-Graduation in Psychology at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul.



[I] Cf. MONZANI, LR Freud: the movement of a thought. Campinas: Editora da UNICAMP, 1989. (Last edition, 2014). ______. Desire and pleasure in the modern age. Campinas: Editora da UNICAMP, 1995. (Last edition, Editora Champagnat/PUCPR, 2011). Highlight also for ______. Philosophical roots of the physiocrats' notion of order. São Carlos: Pedro & João Editores, 2007.

[ii] Cf. SIMANKE, R. CAROPRESSO, F. BOCCA, F. The movement of a thought: essays in honor of Luiz Roberto Monzani. Like: CRV, 2011.

[iii] Two doctoral theses in philosophy, a postdoctoral research, some scientific articles and opinion essays. Cf., for example, FREITAS PINTO, W. C. From the circle to the spiral: towards a history and method of the philosophical reception of psychoanalysis according to French philosophical Freudism (Ricoeur) and Brazilian philosophy of psychoanalysis (Monzani). 2016. Thesis (Doctorate in Philosophy) – Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences, University of Campinas, Campinas, 2016. ROCHA, RGN da. History of Ideas: Formative Genealogy and Dispositions of LR Monzani's Theory of Reading. 2021. Thesis (Doctorate in Philosophy) – Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, Curitiba, 2021. Post-doctoral internship History and philosophy of psychoanalysis: origins and developments, by Caio Padovan at the Graduate Program in Philosophy at PUCPR, 2021.

[iv] Ibid., P. 218.

[v] MORENO, AR In the boss's drawer. In: SIMANKE, R. CAROPRESSO, F. BOCCA, F. The movement of a thought: essays in honor of Luiz Roberto Monzani. Curtiba: CRV, 2011, p. 213-215.

[vi] SIMANKE, R. The art of reading and the effects of thinking: an introduction to the philosophical thought of Luiz Roberto Monzani. In: SIMANKE, R. CAROPRESSO, F. BOCCA, F. The movement of a thought: essays in honor of Luiz Roberto Monzani. Curtiba: CRV, 2011, p. 15.

[vii] VASCONCELOS, G. Nossa Juvenília na Rua Martim Francisco, or Monzani, Stekel e Silva Melo. In: SIMANKE, R. CAROPRESSO, F. BOCCA, F. The movement of a thought: essays in honor of Luiz Roberto Monzani. Curtiba: CRV, 2011, p. 217; 218.

[viii] SIMANKE, R. The art of reading and the effects of thinking: an introduction to the philosophical thought of Luiz Roberto Monzani. In: SIMANKE, R. CAROPRESSO, F. BOCCA, F. The movement of a thought: essays in honor of Luiz Roberto Monzani. Curtiba: CRV, 2011, p. 15-37.

[ix] Thanks to Richard Simanke for reading and thoughtful suggestions, and to Amanda Malerba for reviewing the text.

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