Celso Favaretto

Celso Favaretto


Speech to be given at the ceremony granting the title of Professor Emeritus to the philosopher, educator and arts critic

Teaching philosophy as artistic creation

It is a great honor to speak in this well-deserved tribute to Professor Celso Favaretto, who today receives the title of Professor Emeritus at the Faculty of Education of the University of São Paulo. I thank the Department of Teaching Methodology and Comparative Education, the Congregation of FEUSP and the management of the Faculty for accepting this honor. I congratulate my colleagues who participated in this tribute, Celso Favaretto, his family, his friends.

Debate with Leão Serva, Caetano Veloso and Celso Favaretto

I have been teaching Philosophy Teaching Methodology at FEUSP for 10 years. USP's Jupiter system, which offers information about undergraduate courses online, indicates that Celso Favaretto and I teach this subject. However, Celso Favaretto retired before I joined FEUSP. Every year, students ask me when they will be able to take the course with Celso Favaretto. I am happy with this recognition from the new generations.

I took this same subject with Celso Favaretto in the 1990s. It was a great joy to be his student. At that time, I was starting to teach in elementary school. In addition to learning a lot from his free and enthusiastic reflections on texts and themes in education and philosophy teaching, I was able to talk to Celso Favaretto about my first experiences as a teacher.

When classes ended, if I'm not mistaken, on Wednesday nights, I went to meet my great friend and namesake, the historian Paulo Henrique Martinez, at Bar do Bilú, close to the final stop of the USP shuttle bus. At Bilú, MPB was always played live. This bohemian program combined very well with the spirit of Celso Favaretto's classes. If it were today, I wouldn't have the shyness to invite him to come with us.

In 2021, in full social isolation due to the pandemic, we celebrated Celso Favaretto's 80th birthday. The philosophy magazine Threshold, from Unifesp, dedicated an issue in his honor. Invited to participate, I wrote a text about Celso Favaretto's contributions to the teaching of philosophy (SILVEIRA, 2021). In today's tribute, I would like to revisit an idea from that text.

By outlining a brief overview of Celso Favaretto's career, I sketched a connection between some of his ideas about the art of the Tropicalists and Hélio Oiticica and some of his ideas about the teaching of philosophy. This was all taught to me on Wednesday nights, before samba at Bar do Bilú. If I were to give a title to this honor, perhaps it could be: the teaching of philosophy as artistic creation.

In 1978, under the guidance of Otília Arantes, Celso Favaretto defended his master's thesis at the Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences at USP: Tropicália: allegory, joy. At that same institution, under the guidance of Leon Kossovitch, he defended his doctoral thesis in 1988: The invention of Hélio Oiticica. This research had a great impact on the academic debate. The work on Hélio Oiticica received the award for best art book from the São Paulo Association of Art Critics (APCA).

From 1985 onwards, Favaretto began teaching at the Faculty of Education at USP, holding the discipline of Philosophy Teaching Methodology. It was at this moment that education and the teaching of philosophy gained prominence among the themes of his research.

Carnival, samba and rock are among the elements that make up the “environmental manifestations”, interventions created by Hélio Oiticica in the 1960s. For the artist, these elements of popular culture are fundamental as they affect the body, life and thought. In Celso Favaretto's (2000) interpretation, Oiticica's objective was to provoke a creative reception from the viewer.

Both the environmental manifestations and the tropicalistas' songs promote an explosion of the obvious through the conflict between the designations of words, images and sounds and their possible field of meanings. The same indeterminacy that leads us to dream elaboration, in this case, raises the desire for production, I quote Celso Favaretto: “The receiver does not actually hear the music, but realizes ideas, establishes relationships, follows the development, interfering in them. (…) The convergence of the projects of Oiticica and the tropicalistas is evident, therefore, in the transformation of the spectator (listener) into the protagonist of actions, through the exploration of the indeterminacy caused by the structural openness and the heteroclite of materials and references arranged in the systems” ( FAVARETTO, 1990, p. 54).

When discussing the relationship between postmodernism and education, Celso Favaretto supports teaching that works without established rules and, in a way, as Hélio Oiticica does in his interventions, that presents the conditions for creation in the face of indeterminacy (FAVARETTO, 1991). In a postmodern conception, based on the assumption of the desire to know, education and training are linked to exercises of analysis and interpretation of signs and discourses. It is up to the teacher to nurture this desire of their students and share the tools necessary to carry out these exercises (FAVARETTO, 1991).

Analyzing some of Nietzsche's ideas that are in line with those of authors who contributed to the debate on postmodernity, Celso Favaretto recognizes the perspective character of knowledge (FAVARETO, 2004). Knowing is not explaining or elucidating, but building interpretations. There is no definitive or absolute interpretation, there is dispute between different interpretations. In this sense, educating is also placing the student and the student in a certain game of forces (FAVARETTO, 1991).

In one of his first texts on the teaching of philosophy, Celso Favaretto states that the discipline no longer fits the model of the old manuals, which presented it as a body of knowledge (FAVARETTO, 1993). With the proliferation of theories and discourses and the dispersion of philosophical activity, today we speak of philosophies, in the plural, and no longer of a single philosophy.

In reaction to traditional philosophy teaching based on the transmission of content codified by manuals, in recent years, work in secondary schools has begun to prioritize the discussion of emerging problems in social life (FAVARETTO, 2013).

Far from being against debate in the classroom on current and thought-provoking topics, Celso Favaretto advocates for philosophy teaching that, as Gérard Lebrun also defended, offers a “language of safety” so that students can, effectively, participate in the game of forces between interpretations (FAVARETTO, 1993).

At the same time as supporting an open program, without basic contents and fixed methods, Celso Favaretto insists on the importance of teachers defining a “conception of philosophy that is adequate to fulfill the educational objectives of the discipline” (FAVARETTO, 2017a, p. 144).

There are countless possibilities for cutting out themes, problems and questions on the horizon of the history of philosophy, just as there are countless procedures and strategies that can be used in the discipline (FAVARETTO, 1993).

Emphasizing Jean-François Lyotard's idea that a philosophy course depends on people's engagement, Celso Favaretto suggests that the program takes into account the interests of teachers, students and students (FAVARETTO, 1993).

Regardless of the program and strategies adopted, a philosophy course needs to “guarantee the minimum conditions for the specificity of philosophical work” (FAVARETTO, 2017a, p. 144). In addition to presenting a repertoire of knowledge and discourses, which can be strictly philosophical, or also artistic, political, journalistic, etc., teachers must work in the classroom with: elaboration of concepts, argumentation and problematization.

Reading exercises, an essential activity in a philosophy course, allow for the unfolding of the assumptions and implications of the texts (FAVARETTO, 1993). It is also important to promote writing exercises. By appropriating a repertoire of knowledge and working with these speech analysis and production procedures, students can improve their intellectual skills and critical capacity.

I quote Celso Favaretto again: “Against the natural tendency of young people to criticize everything immediately, supposedly translating with this the strength of desire, the teaching of philosophy can contribute to generating the conditions of criticality. (…) Criticism, as a reflective process, is not expository knowledge, positive knowledge about the world, much less a perception: it is an interpretation that requires an analytical perspective, reference systems and appropriate discursive practices” (FAVARETTO, 2017a, p. 142-147).

Faced with the projects of emancipation and formation that emerged on the horizon of the propositions of the 18th century Enlightenment, according to which lights would remove man from his minority and guide the spirit to its perfect form, Celso Favaretto takes up some ideas from: Deleuze, Foucault and Lyotard.

Regarding emancipation, Celso Favaretto (1993) takes Gilles Deleuze's idea that our only masters are those who tell us not “do as I do”, but rather “do with me”. Regarding formation, Favaretto (2017b) takes the idea from Foucault and Lyotard, that there is no perfect form of the spirit, we are always recreating ourselves and returning to the “infancy of thought”.

In his contributions to the teaching of philosophy, Celso Favaretto opens a perspective for an exercise in critical reflection on the diversity of knowledge and the complex and indeterminate contemporary experience. His texts envision a conception of philosophy linked to the arts and other areas of knowledge.

From the point of view of the subject program, Celso Favaretto gives teachers the autonomy to deal with themes and issues that are of interest to students.

Echoing the debate that began in May 68, which questioned the hierarchies of knowledge, Celso Favaretto conceives a teaching of philosophy that aims to offer the tools for teachers, students and students to occupy the place of experimenters, creators and inventors of new and unforeseen forms of subjectivation.

Thank you Professor Emeritus Celso Favaretto!

* Paulo Fernandes Silveira Professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and researcher at the Human Rights Group at the Institute for Advanced Studies at USP.

The ceremony granting the title of Professor Emeritus to Celso Favaretto will take place this Friday (March 15, 2024) at 16 pm in the Auditorium of the Faculty of Education at USP.


FAVARETTO, Celso. 2017a. Philosophy of philosophy teaching. In: MAAMARI, Adriana. (org.). New trends in teaching philosophy. Historical-conceptual, didactic and methodological field: vol. 1. Curitiba: Editora CRV, p. 125-159.

FAVARETTO, Celso. 2017b. Contemporary issues: art, education and training. D'works, v. 10, p. 125-135. Available in: https://dobras.emnuvens.com.br/dobras/article/view/558

FAVARETTO, Celso. 2013. Philosophy and its teaching: interview with Celso Favaretto. In: CARVALHO, Marcelo; CORNELLI, Gabriele. (eds.). Teach philosophy: volume 2. Cuiabá: Editora Central de texto, p. 19-36. Available in: https://educapes.capes.gov.br/bitstream/capes/401647/1/Filosofia%20e%20forma%C3%A7%C3%A3o_Vol_2.pdf

FAVARETTO, Celso. 2004. Modern, postmodern, contemporary in education and art. Thesis (Livre-Teacher in Education) – Department of Teaching Methodology and Comparative Education of the Faculty of Education of the University of São Paulo.

FAVARETTO, Celso. 2000. The invention of Hélio Oiticica. São Paulo: EDUSP.

FAVARETTO, Celso. 1996. Tropicália: allegory, joy. São Paulo: Ateliê Editorial.

FAVARETTO, Celso. 1993. On the Teaching of Philosophy. Faculty of Education Magazine, v. 19, no. 1, p. 97-102. Available in: https://www.revistas.usp.br/rfe/article/view/33514

FAVARETTO, Celso. 1991. Postmodern in education?. Faculty of Education Magazine, v. 17, no. 1-2, p. 121-128. Available in: https://www.revistas.usp.br/rfe/article/view/33466

FAVARETTO, Celso. 1990. Music in the labyrinths by Hélio Oiticica. USP Magazine, no. 4, p. 45-54. Available in: https://www.revistas.usp.br/revusp/article/view/65462

SILVEIRA, Paulo. 2021. In the winds of May: Celso Favaretto and the teaching of philosophy. Threshold Magazine, no. 8, vol. 15, p. 150–166. Available in: https://periodicos.unifesp.br/index.php/limiar/article/view/12570

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