How to interpret Brazil?

Marina Gusmão, Without us.


From suspicions about reflection on university to Brazilian social matter as a starting point for instituting philosophical ideas.

At the end of her lecture at the “Unifesp Academic Congress 2021: University in Defense of Life” Scarlett Marton, having life and death in Western thought and practices as a guiding principle, after restoring the dualist record that organizes the modern Western trend of invisibilization of death, ended his presentation remembering that, added to life at any price and health at any cost, we are currently witnessing the trivialization of death as part of a history that is also the trivialization of life.

Banalization of death and trivialization of life.

The second constellation of questions I invoke is the one posed by Olgária Matos in this same Congress, also published on the website the earth is round under the title “School and University: Eros and education”. Professor Olgária, also in terms of a perspective reading under the temporality of millennia, showed life as an experience to be traversed, as well as reading, life as an experience marked by the presence and intensity of production of meanings that throw what was lived beyond from the world of what was just said, beyond language games and beyond normative consensual prescriptions, the argument woven by professor Olgária led us to experiences recognized as a field of human works.

It so happens that this human work, as Professor Olgária shows, is reduced to management and quantitative logics, logics that affect, professionally/institutionally and politically, the processes of knowledge production, knowledge, subjectivation.

In terms of his diagnosis, we would have a stultification amalgamated by the merely quantifying calculation of references that transform the other, the one with whom one interacts, into the object of unilaterally decided decisions.

In her argument, Olgária led us to the recognition of a path and common ground for cultural formation, for school learning, for the master's knowledge, for the fecundity of the classics, led us to a path and ground guided by another logic than that of calculation, but the path of the capacity to love.

Both dimensions of these diagnoses, the trivialization of life and the inability to love, allow me to place the theme of the congress, “University in Defense of Life”, under triple suspicion.

First suspicion, that life does not need a university to defend it, and we would then need to oppose: life does need to be defended by the university.

Second suspicion, that the university is incapable of defending life, and we would need to counter: yes, the university is capable of defending life.

Third suspicion, that the university would defend other things, oops, no, let's oppose it in different ways in the hundreds of sessions: the university has to defend life.

An assignment, an ability, a task, a sollen, a können, a müssen.

It happens that, despite all the relevance attributed to the instance where we live our institutional and professional days, despite all the relevance attributed to the instance where research frontiers mature beyond mere interests of oligopolies, relevance attributed to the self-situated instance beyond the gag imposed by the system of power -money and its uniformed or robed henchmen or graduated captains of the bush, in that barn that still generates and trains the few people, to quote the well-known definition of the Kantian booklet, capable of making use of their own understanding in the exercise of reason and their activities and that will carry forward the noble critical task of the public defense of life, despite that, I would say that the task and attribution of this far from biunivocal relationship between university and life does not go very well on the legs and we can assume that we only defend the relationship between university and life when such a relationship is tainted by all kinds of possible suspicions under which the relationship between university and life sleeps after a long twilight and sunset.

What is the situation we have for this twilight and sunset? The answer is divided into 8 parts.

First: we have a discontinuity between the idea of ​​the university that organizes its defense and the concrete experience of what is done in its name.

Second: because the ideal that would promote the construction of emancipated people, insofar as it would be an autonomous institution in the face of dogmas of religion, market, power, is an ideal replaced by guidelines that, from the curriculum system of the courses to the rules of Capes system, its deadlines and evaluation systems, from guidelines configured as a set of rules that organize what, at the University, are steps taken in alienated, expanded and organized terms of reconfiguration of the university institution as a business organization, guided by quantitative rationality, which it dispenses with the slow work of thought, criticism and doubt. In Professor Marilena Chaui's vast work, there is no lack of texts about the operational university that deepen these scribbles that I draw here.

Third: In this scenario, whoever opposes this by refusing to be a hamster, and refuses to run until exhaustion so that nothing changes when it only gets worse, that someone, we learn from Adorno, will be accused of insensitivity, of resignation, as a refugee in the Ivory Tower, thus disqualifying, silencing, censoring the refusal and sensitivity of anyone who refuses (a refusal that, like being in Aristotle, is said in multiple ways) of anyone who refuses to confine theoretical activity to the demands of a society organized by the exploitation of life by the usual few in the name of the usual interests, namely, the generation and accumulation of wealth as an end in itself, it doesn't matter why, for what, how or at what costs, just two certainties always met, the for whom and the infinite evil of wealth accumulation.

Fourth: the pragmatism, passivity, opportunism or, in a word, collaborationism of those who act within the university in order to preserve something in the name of this state of affairs that exists there is the practical activity of endorsing once and for all the deformation imposed as a system of rules, it is the practical activity that prohibits, it is the action that normalizes this handicap (a handicap that, like being in Aristotle, preaches one thing, does not preach another, and any third way is excluded), normalizes this handicap by imposing as accepted and inevitable , we learn from Lukács in the 1920s and Horkheimer in the 1930s, the objective material condition that organizes the life of the spirit, the exercise of thought, teaching activity, research activity, the relationship of students with learning.

Fifth: the blind eye to the material conditions that concretely organize what is and what is done at the university, the blind eye to the conditions that organize life and that organize its defense, the blind eye to the material conditions and power games that organize this field presuppose a fantasy: that access to this knowledge is possible when we name an essence (normative?, semantic?, dialectical materialist?, metaphysical?, utilitarian? sensualist? deconstructed?) to organize things and conflicts, which then remain unchanged, presupposes that our conceptual instruments and militant intervention work, presupposes that the challenges posed by the present are marked by the repetition of power games and their relations with territories, people, economic systems, ways of governing, normative structures, productive dynamics of consensus.

Sixth: It was enough for me to cite two conceptions of being in Aristotle that are contradictory to each other to show that the terms of our problem are not as easily formulated, understood or overcome as realistic utilitarianism, rentier? they, from science promotion agencies and ministries to those who dispute with selfless vigor the approval of agendas in a steamroller system in deliberations in course collegiate bodies or representatives of courses in national collegiate bodies.

Seventh: as if that were not enough, it remains to mention the other leg of this tweezers movement that captures both the university, our subject here, and life, a dwarf and rickety but very noisy little leg, the leg of the tweezers that passes for a plurality of sensibilities anti-systemic policies (to which we always lend support and solidarity, they are the front line of the first to perish), decreeing, in unison on the left or the right, that everything is a way of saying the world, a game of language and therefore, in the instead of a subjectivity, personality and character that are only produced through a slow formative process, something of the order of the militant individual being-there now remains full time mobilized by a system of symbolic exchanges, individual interactions exchanging codes of conduct and rules that shape the world according to atomized essentialist preferences and averse to supra-individual, community, societal forms of action and political organization.

Eighth: in this tsunami that sweeps the small world of imaginary militants, imaginary because they pass off as a progressive conquest the immediate reduction of everything that one wants to tyrannical logos, the question is asked: what remains as a world and political struggle and production of ideas at times? beautiful souls and militant flakes in this immense lacropolis that the former public space has become? What remains is the reduction of the field of politics to the will-o'-the-wisp of self-centered narcissistic identifications disputing crumbs of recognition and rights in the face of the great plunder that is a fearless and serene world in the skinning of the majority of ordinary people day and night, who follow life in the big world ignore what's going on small world.

OK, the situation looks a bit unfavorable. Let's look at things from another angle. I propose to move the cut from the situation and moment to the time, stage, place and audience in which our debate is inserted today, in three movements.

First Movement, almost a digression: we can assume that our audience here is composed of natural people, for example, someone new to the Philosophy course like Unifesp, a student who attends the IHF chair taught by Professor Sílvio Rosa. What does this student learn from Sílvio? That Professor Bento Prado Júnior is a watershed for us to think about the specificity of what working with philosophical ideas is, for example, that the construction of an autonomous form of philosophical prose implies giving up a political agenda that is external to it, giving up the demand for the conquest of national emancipation or awareness of the tasks to overcome underdevelopment, giving up psychologism and naturalism that situate philosophical work as a peripheral phenomenon orbiting some need outside the field of ideas.

Second Movement, drawing consequences from this digression: we have the challenge of instituting the path of initiation into philosophical doing, be it prose or philosophical ideas, in the scheme described by Sílvio, who I return to here to give the possible outlines for a defense of instituting life, the that one places oneself beyond the urgencies of the lived present, since this present, in the situation unfolded in eight parts at the beginning of this communication, implies either managerial adhering collaborationism or the resignation of beautiful souls to seal away the crumbs of rights.

In terms of this route, which would begin with Jean Maugué and could go through the work of Bento Prado Jr., we would have an open disjunctive for two forms of philosophical intervention, those of Paulo Arantes and Marilena Chaui, teaches Sílvio Rosa, which would be like two constellations of philosophical intervention and militant intellectual in relation to the philosophical ideas that are born of this teaching of Bento, each in its own way, in common to both what? Sílvio teaches: in common, the Brazilian social matter by subject that organizes the general horizon of issues and is the starting point of a system of ideas and systematic and consolidated productions.

This draft digression in two movements is divided into three parts. In the company of Marilena and Paulo, an “instituting defense of life with a somewhat peculiar configuration”, shows that, with both, (1) we learn to imagine a very peculiar way of university and knowledge production, (2) we learn to reflect the Brazilian social matter as a starting point for defending what remains of life, society and university.

In these terms, the challenge is (3) to discover how to read the country well and have this reading as a starting point for the questions and themes and concerns that organize our writings, study groups, podcasts, communications, works, subjects and problems that we deal with under a cut of philosophical ideas in the training process for those who attend disciplines in the area in graduation.

Finally, the third movement of this second part of my contribution to the debate: I close by showing the rabbit that came out of the hat. It was to deal with the multiple configurations and implications contained in the call for the university's defense of life and I set out to demarcate the signs of impotence and suspicion that hover in this defense of life. What has this defense turned into? In defense of the life of philosophical ideas in Brazil as a university education project, and in the importance of an attentive look at Brazilian social matters as a starting point for the problems and theses to be worked on.

This being the rabbit, it remains for me to take Benjamin as my horizon to conclude: it is a question of weaving a formation that is not merely maintaining, therefore repressive, but rather instituting, therefore emancipatory, instituting of what? Of new ways of thinking and organizing the relationship between people and people's relationship with things, which is another long task and work and history to be woven in who knows what time in the world.

To those who accompanied me here, I thank you for your attention.

*Gilberto Tedeia and pprofessor of ethics and political philosophy at UnB.

This text is the version presented at the “Unifesp Academic Congress 2021: University in Defense of Life”.



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