Newton da Costa (1929-2024)



Tribute to the recently deceased logician and professor at USP

Newton da Costa's achievements in the areas of Philosophy, Mathematics and Logic make any presentation of his merits superfluous. He is already well-known inside and outside Brazil, and there are countless works by him and by commentators available to anyone who wants to know his work and thoughts. There is even a documentary, Spirit of contradiction,[I] directed by Fernando Severo, where you can see and hear the teacher speak for himself.

However, on the occasion of his recent death, I consider it important to highlight, in a few words, some aspects of his person that only those who knew him most closely will know. I do this because his greatness of spirit is also manifested in the way he interacted with countless researchers, students and teachers. Among the many, many with whom he had theoretical contact, I was also one. Although I am not fond of autobiographical narratives, I see it as useful to talk about some aspects of my contact with him.

I met Professor Newton da Costa in 2015, when I was carrying out my doctoral research at FFLCH-USP, on an antinomy present in the foundations of Arthur Schopenhauer's thought. When reflecting on this question, I formed the hypothesis that it could be approached in a different way from the way it had been hitherto, if paraconsistent logic, of which Newton da Costa was the main founder, could be placed as its base logic. . Not really sure about this possibility, I contacted him to find out what he thought.

To my pleasant surprise, the professor was receptive to my idea and invited me to talk to him personally about the subject. I did that, I went to his house in Florianópolis, and we talked about the question of Schopenhauerian philosophy that I was studying and about paraconsistent logic. In fact, I didn't know it at the time, but these were always outstanding characteristics of Professor Newton da Costa, namely, his open-mindedness, curiosity and genuine interest in a variety of philosophical problems. The question I was studying was unknown to him, because it is part of a topic that he had never dedicated himself to and that, at first, seemed to be completely outside his logical and mathematical concerns.

However, Newton da Costa soon understood the relationships I made between metaphysics, theory of knowledge and logic and even pointed out paraclassical logic as being, within the field of paraconsistent logics, perhaps the one that best suited the antinomy I was studying. . Many Schopenhauerians and also many logicians did not show similar receptivity or even understanding: the first, because they thought that Arthur Schopenhauer's thought did not deal with logic, the second, because they thought that logic is not linked to other parts of philosophy. There were unfriendly and even angry reactions to my research.

But there was never hostility on Newton da Costa's part, although the philosophical environment in Brazil is full of discourtesy, rivalry and aggressiveness between very inflated egos. He always knew how to deal with students, teachers, colleagues and collaborators with very different interests without imposing his convictions, without invalidating the research of others, collaborating in everything he could. That's how he's always dealt with me, ever since I first talked to him.

I went to Florianópolis on another occasion, when I finished my doctoral work, to deliver a copy to him, at UFSC, and since then we have maintained frequent contact by message. Although already advanced in age, Newton da Costa never stopped researching, writing, and being interested in philosophy, even if it was something different for him. This is how we talked a lot about the French philosopher Charles Renouvier, about whom we both began to reflect and even produce together.

This was another characteristic of Newton da Costa that is worth highlighting, namely, his willingness to enter new areas, to think and delve deeper into topics outside his specialty. I consider this characteristic to be something remarkable, because most often researchers forget everything else in the world and look solely and exclusively at the research started in their master's or doctorate, becoming blind to other themes. When this happens, it's bad, because it narrows the individual's worldview and makes them believe that everything revolves around their choices.

Newton da Costa's worldview, however, was never narrow. Among his main theoretical concerns, he said, was the problem of knowledge in general, and scientific knowledge in particular. Logic and mathematics are in fact the fundamental bases of science and all knowledge, and it was precisely in these areas that the professor worked, leaving true masterpieces, such as Inconsistent formal systems e Essay on the foundations of logic. Anyone who dedicates themselves to understanding Newton da Costa's thought will see the grandeur of what he accomplished, especially when reflecting on what was and has been the great problem of contradiction in the history of philosophy: the interlocutor here is none other than Aristotle .

Despite this, with such great achievements, there was no evidence of arrogance in his dealings with anyone, nor any desire for superiority. On the contrary, he was welcoming to people and persevered in research, aware that the search for knowledge is endless and cannot be done without collaboration. He will be greatly missed.

*Katia Santos, professor and researcher, she has a doctorate in philosophy from USP.


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