“But I Want the Truth!” French Pedagogy and Logical Formalism in São Paulo Philosophy, 1935-2017


  • Elsa Costa Duke University


Marxism, Brazilian dictatorship, Logical formalism, Gueroultian method, Victor Goldschmidt, Gilles-Gaston Granger, João Cruz Costa, Marilena Chauí, José Arthur Giannotti, Paulo Arantes, Bento Prado, Florestan Fernandes, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, structuralism, poststructuralism, michel foucault, foucault, History of Philosophy, Kant, Kantian


Not long after the founding of the University of São Paulo (USP) philosophy department in 1935, Brazilian philosophy students found themselves entranced by “the Method,” a system of logical formalism pioneered by French philosophers Martial Gueroult and Victor Goldschmidt. Its rise was seemingly unstoppable, and by the late 1950s the Method was seen as the only way to write about philosophy at USP. This article examines the rise, fall, and resurgence of the Method at USP through its influence on the lives and oeuvres of three renowned USP philosophers: José Arthur Giannotti, Marilena Chauí, and Paulo Arantes. A dozen other Brazilian and French philosophers are consulted as necessary. Although the initial reception of Gueroultian teaching was euphoric, its problematic aspects soon became apparent. The pessimism of the Method with respect to the possibility of creating philosophy, rather than writing about it, dismayed many. Its insistence upon an arbitrary but unassailable canon disappointed others, while its dismissal of external reality weighed heavy on still other consciences. It also became apparent that Gueroult and Goldschmidt did not enjoy the same unchallenged reputation in France as they did at USP. With the inauguration of the interdisciplinary Marx Seminar of 1958-1964, national concerns and the possibility of Brazilian particularity enjoyed a brief dominance over Gueroultian universalism. During the military dictatorship of 1964-1985, which purged most faculty members in 1968, the USP faculty reoriented itself to admit historical context into its scope. This did not address many of the major problems with the Method, including canonical selection and Gueroult’s declaration of the end of philosophy. Only after the end of the Cold War did some faculty members begin to challenge the Method’s precepts, although the canonical provisions of the Method remain hegemonic at USP today.




How to Cite

Costa, E. (2021). “But I Want the Truth!” French Pedagogy and Logical Formalism in São Paulo Philosophy, 1935-2017. A Contracorriente: Una Revista De Estudios Latinoamericanos, 18(3), 70–105. Retrieved from https://acontracorriente.chass.ncsu.edu/index.php/acontracorriente/article/view/1875



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