Marcos Lutz Müller (1943-2020)

Image: Elyeser Szturm, from the Heavens series
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By EMMANUEL NAKAMURA*

Commentary on the life and intellectual trajectory of the professor of philosophy at Unicamp

“Seine Entdeckungsfahrten im Ozean des Wissens kamen […] zu ihrem Ende”[I]

On September 15, 2020, at the age of 77, Professor Marcos Lutz Müller passed away. Among a series of sad events, 2020 will certainly be remembered for being a year of inestimable losses for the Brazilian philosophical community. Just like Hegel, Marcos Müller, one of our greatest specialists in Hegelian thought, said goodbye to us at 17 pm. The philosopher “who does not give up on totality” decided to leave. He is survived by his wife, the philosopher Jeanne-Marie Gagnebin, two daughters and a granddaughter. He also leaves an unfillable gap in the Department of Philosophy at UNICAMP, among members of the Brazilian Hegel Society and among friends, advisees, former students and research colleagues in classical German philosophy in Brazil and around the world.

Marcos Müller graduated in 1965 in Philosophy and Law from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFGRS). As a fellow of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), he concluded, in 1975 at the Universität-Heidelberg, the doctoral thesis Sartres Theory of Negation (Sartre's theory of negation), under the guidance of Ernst Tugendhat – known as one of the most important representatives of analytical philosophy in Germany and who turned 90 this year. Marcos Müller also carried out a series of postdoctoral research at internationally renowned institutions: Universität-Konstanz (1986), Collège International de Philosophie (1986–1987), Frei-Universität zu Berlin (1994–1996), Università degli Studi d' Urbino (1998), Ruhr-Universität Bochum (2002), where the Hegel-Archiv and the team that was tasked with producing the critical edition of Hegel's works.

During the period he lived in Germany, Marcos Müller attended the research group of the Leninist-influenced writing collective known in the 1970s as Projekt Klassenanalyse (PKA). With that, he experienced, in its effervescence, the height of the movement known as Neue-Marx-Lekture and followed the development of a sophisticated reading of Marx's theory of value[ii] . Those who think that this was an uncritical adherence to these readings are mistaken, as their reception of Marx's work also included authors who come from the Hegelian tradition, such as, for example, Hans-Friedrich Fulda and Michael Theunissen. At the moment when USP's “Marx Seminars” were bearing their last fruit with Fernando Novais's thesis in 1978, Marcos Müller arrived back in Brazil with a robust and up-to-date reading of Marx and, above all, of classical German philosophy.

In this way, he contributed to transform the Department of Philosophy at UNICAMP into a center of excellence in studies of classical German philosophy, training researchers capable of discussing the work of Marx, concepts and authors from Kant to Hegel in any major European institution. This contribution was not restricted, however, to the more technical debate on the handling of concepts. UNICAMP's Institute of Economics (IE) was founded only in 1984. During the period in which the Department of Economics was linked to the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences (IFCH) at UNICAMP, this strand of the Brazilian critical tradition of thinking about national formation had the opportunity to engage in a fruitful interdisciplinary debate with Marcos Müller.

In the 2000s, he also developed, together with other colleagues from the Department of Philosophy, a new line of research focused on the appropriation of classical German philosophy by the Kyoto School.[iii] Very soon, his critical and commented translation of the Fundamental lines of the philosophy of law of Hegel. Through her and his articles, Marcos Müller should continue training generations of researchers.

My contact with Marcos Müller took place, firstly, through his work – the famous article on the dialectical method of presenting d'The capital from Marx.[iv] I dare to say that until today in Brazil there is no work capable of explaining in such a precise and praised way the Marxian appropriation of Hegel's dialectic. My personal contact with Marcos Müller started in April 2006. I had a degree in Economics and a meager reading of Hegel and Marx under my arm in the form of a master's project to have a first conversation with him. I remember being impressed by the sensitive, generous, respectful and humble way in which he discussed my research proposal with me.

These characteristics of his personality, combined with his extraordinary competence and philosophical erudition, resulted in an extremely horizontal relationship with his students and advisees and in an enormous disposition for academic debate. In his last course at Unicamp, aimed at understanding the dialectic of the finite and the infinite, Marcos Müller read excerpts from the Science of Logic of Hegel translated at the time by him, then he would ask a question and carefully collect the doubts and opinions of the students, only later to brilliantly expose the subject.

During my doctoral research, the relationship of admiration and respect I had with my advisor turned into a beautiful friendship. I close my eyes now and I can once again feel my joy at being able to see Marcos Müller again on his visit to Berlin and on my visits to Brazil. When I was about to finish writing my thesis, while visiting São Paulo, Marcos Müller and I met for lunch. He then arrives with an envelope under his arm with countless notes about my thesis, correcting mistakes in German, indicating reading suggestions and with questions that are very difficult to answer.

Now my friend leaves me in the middle of postdoctoral research. When I presented my project to him, he commented that he hoped that Brazil would not stray even further from everything that his advisees were looking for in their research. The coronavirus pandemic and the deliberate and deliberate chaos with which the country deals with the crisis make the farewell even more painful. The lack of a farewell generates a feeling of waiting, as if he were still waiting for a call, a cell phone message or an e-mail from Marcos Müller.

Remembering the sensitivity, generosity and respect with which he treated his advisees is perhaps the way to find some comfort, meaning and motivation to try to move forward. I hope that my colleagues can feel a little more comforted and contemplated by these words of their friend Marcos Müller after one of our last face-to-face meetings: he told me that “in these dark times” the conversation with his advisees brought him “the confidence that these years of academic life, with all its limitations, were not in vain and that the 'transmission' (not the Tradition, but Lore) to be continued."

*Emmanuel Nakamura is a postdoctoral researcher at Unicamp and a doctor in philosophy at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

 

Notes


[I] Excerpt from Klaus Vieweg's biography of Hegel: “Seine Entdeckungsfahrten im Ozean des Wissens kamen, so ein Student Hegels, zu ihrem Ende, der Kapitän verhieß Land, eine neue Welt, blätterte nochmal in seinen Schiffsakten, klappte die Schnupftabaksdose zu und schied von dannen .” ("His voyages of discovery in the ocean of knowledge came to an end, according to one of Hegel's students, the captain promised land, a new world, leafed through the ship's logs again, closed the smokebox, and then departed.") Vieweg , Klaus. Hegel. Der Philosoph der Freiheit. Munchen: Beck, 2019, 672.

[ii] See Elbe, Ingo. Marx im Westen. Die new Marx-Lektüre in the Bundesrepublik seit 1965. Berlin: Akademie, 2010, 91.

[iii] Cf. Müller, Marcos Lutz. Religious Experience and the Topical Logic of the Self-Determination of the Absolute Present (Kitaro Nishida). Analytica (UFRJ), v. 12, 47–75, 2008.

[iv] Müller, Marcos Lutz. Exposition and dialectical method in “O Capital”. SEAF bulletin (Society for Philosophical Studies and Activities). Belo Horizonte, no. 2, 17–41, 1982.

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