Benedito Nunes

Alberto da Veiga Guignard, Bamboos, 1937.


Reflections on the philosopher's lessons on Martin Heidegger.

On the 27th of February, ten years have passed since the death of the philosopher Benedito Nunes. Born in Belém on November 21, 1929, Benedito was one of the founders of the Faculty of Philosophy of Pará, later incorporated into the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) and also of the Brazilian Academy of Philosophy. His intellectual activity took place in different fields and subfields of the human sciences, from aesthetics to literary theory, from phenomenology to the history of philosophy, from hermeneutics to poetry studies.

Emeritus professor at UFPA, Benedito worked at several universities in Brazil and abroad, and produced a work – consisting of 22 books and dozens of articles – recognized and influential, as attested by the various awards he received, including the Estadão Multicultural Award: Jabuti Prize for Literature (twice) and Machado de Assis Award of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, for his body of work.

I had the honor of having him as a master's advisor and as a master, incredibly generous and patient, in my paths in Heideggerian thought. Not coming from a background in philosophy and seeking a dialogue between phenomenology and the social sciences that would allow me an interdisciplinary clearing – for me politically necessary, if not even “existential” –, I can say that these paths were and still are tortuous. But I also recognize the immense contribution, duration and importance of Benedito Nunes in my education, including politics, because despite the fact that politics was not clearly problematized in his work, my dialogue with him was, to a large extent, based on it.

If I say so, it is considering that the appropriation of the thought and figure of Benedito Nunes by a thought of a conservative hue present in academic, intellectual, Christian and political circles of Pará society is clear. Driven by relationships of friendship and affection, but not necessarily agreement or intellectual and political coherence, Professor Benedito approached, in his last decade of life, certain provincial opportunisms, which had no qualms about appropriating his work and of its public image to validate projects that, whether from a conservative and exclusive cultural policy, whether from an academy guided by praise and fear of depth, or from a petty and intransigent Catholicism, sought to produce, fantasize and attribute to it the image - incorrect and unfair – from a conservative thinker. They are the evils of the province, which needs to tame its great men when it is not possible, simply, to destroy them.

Seeking some opposition to this appropriation – a opposition already initiated by colleagues Ernani Chaves and Sílvio Holanda, professors at UFPA, like me, who also worked with Benedito Nunes – I would like to bring here a brief reflection on some elements of our dialogue, throughout our coexistence, specifically in the construction process of my Heideggerian reference.

I can start by saying that the initial element of our dialogue took place around the problem of the banal experience of the world, present in Being and Time, the inaugural (although not necessarily initial) Heideggerian work. I went to Professor Benedito with the pretext of asking for help to understand the status of the inauthenticity of Being, the dialogue between authentic and inauthentic, proper and improper – eigentlichkeit e uneigentlichkeit – this on the horizon of a research on the cover-ups of the social imaginary of our city.

It was, in my view, an elementary question: coming from Communications, having read at length about the masses, the cultural industry, manipulation, seduction, pattern, influence, repetition, etc., I was convinced that the uneigentlichkeit, the inauthentic “mode” of Being, thought sociologically, materialized in the set of objects in which the communication sciences were interested and was translated as discussed by many authors who were read in my field of academic training.

Evidently I suspected that the question would not be as simple or dichotomous as that and, precisely for that reason, I went to the professor, who received me with his extraordinary generosity and who, after an hour of conversation, having explained my problem, told me, if I reproduce his words well, that Heidegger's theme was Being and that the paths of investigation associated with the philosopher centered his observation on the truth of Being, and not exactly on the conditions of interposition of the Being. To be there (o being-there of everyday life), its cover-ups, as it seemed to him I was proposing.

I remember that I said that the vector of Heidegger's questioning went from uneigentlichkeit towards its central problematic, which was the eigentlichkeit and that reversing this order might not be, properly speaking, a phenomenological route – or one of “unveiling”, as I said. Furthermore, he also commented on the fact that he did not realize to what extent it would be possible to shift Heidegger's thought from its philosophical matrix to an approach in the social sciences, as I was thinking.

My reply consisted of positioning the concealment / unveiling of Being on two levels – the two levels that interested me most directly: politics and culture. “It's just that these two spheres, in everyday life, concealment, there's no way to demand an accurate, or permanent, state of attention from people”, I argued.

"What's the problem?"

“It's just that the idea of ​​unveiling, of authenticity, requires a superhuman, unreal, unsustainable effort. If it depends on this, we will never have a democracy. Both the demand for a dialectical attention, in Marx, and the demand for a To be there authentic, in Heidegger make good politics and good culture unfeasible at first…”

The problem, in fact, is that I had in mind the dichotomous and Manichaean view of politics and culture: true and false, right and wrong, right and wrong, good and bad, authentic culture. and inauthentic culture, actual politics and apparent politics, consciousness and alienation.

“But that is not what Heidegger is saying”


And then Benedito Nunes gave me the most precious lecture on Heidegger I've ever had in my life, explaining that authentic/inauthentic were not, for the philosopher, qualitative levels, but ontological, interpretive levels.

“Both in the music that plays on the radio and in symphonic music, Dasein is present and can find a clearing”, he replied, with his peculiar irony, present in the words, but sweetened by the look, always condescending.

“But you, Professor, must not find your clearings watching television on Sunday afternoon,” I ventured.

“Indeed, but each Dasein has its own path, which does not mean that one path is better, or truer, to use the Heideggerian term, than another”.

My ignorance was silenced. I left his house considering that good politics can indeed be in everyday life and in the banality of the world. I left there mentally knocking down the sociology of the elites, the theory of communication, the idea of ​​levels of culture...

Years later, reading Heidegger's Heraclitus, I found the same speech in a parable that Heidegger recovers: some visitors would have come to visit Heraclitus in his house, but they found him in a prosaic act of everyday life, warming himself by the house's stove. Visitors were amazed and embarrassed, as they did not expect to see the great master in such a banal scene. And Heraclitus, a little ironic, but also condescending, encouraged them to enter, saying the following sentence: "Even here, by the fire, the gods are present".

That is, even the most banal of events, even in the most prosaic act of everyday life, the truth can be present.

That's the basics, but I didn't know. And even today, such is the obscuration that the old metaphysics imposes on the word “truth”, that I see people talking about Heidegger – and about Benedito Nunes – without realizing this basic, this elementary critical condition: the condition of politics, or culture. , are not in the best knowledge, in the best doing, in academic titles, in faith, in the rites, in the laurels and broad beans of social life, but in the clearings that can open anywhere, and, above all, to anyone.

Some Heideggerian themes were recurrent in our coexistence: questions referring to the banal experience of the world, the statute of intersubjectivity, the themes of the “lightness” and “heaviness” of existence, the “appropriating events” and, still, the relationship between poetry and politics, among others, about which I hope to talk further. In all of them, the problems of politics and culture crossed the conversation and never, at any moment, did Benedito Nunes express any elitist, conservative or marginalizing thought. Quite the contrary, everything about him was inclusion, tolerance, care and attention to the other.

For my part, profoundly influenced by the dialogue with Benedito Nunes, I remain convinced that Heidegger's thought, despite its serious and reprehensible mistakes, provides a precious critical source, useful for the replacement of the problem of the common and the intersubjective - a condition more elementary, in my view, for politics and for the plots of culture, history, identity – and also for the political re-positioning of the problematic of Being. And if I was able to take this path, it was thanks in large part to Benedito Nunes, who always supported a progressive reading of Heidegger and who always acted in defense of diversity and openness of thought.

* Fabio Fonseca de Castro is a professor at the Faculty of Communication at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA).


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