Barreto de Menezes, Tobias Jr. (1839–1889)

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Barreto de Menezes, Tobias Jr. (1839–1889)

Tobias Barreto de Menezes Jr. (b. 7 June 1839; d. 26 June 1889), Brazilian philosopher and jurist, founder of the Recife School. Born in Campos, in the province of Sergipe, to a family of very modest circumstances, Barreto learned Latin from a priest and, from the age of fifteen, made his living teaching humanities. He studied law in Recife and became known for his poetical disputes with Antônio de Castro Alves. As a member of the Generation of 1870 he fought for intellectual renewal in the Brazilian Empire.

Unlike most of his generation, who turned to French positivism, Barreto found inspiration in German authors. In the areas of religious criticism (Georg von Ewald, Ludwig Feuerbach), political ideas (von Gneist, Frobel), and law (von Ihring), they seemed to him to offer views more suitable to combat the spiritualist and neo-Thomist eclecticism then dominant in Brazil. His "Germanism" produced a model for solving Brazilian problems and enabled him to criticize the French-inspired Brazilian liberals, the francophile elite of the Southeast, and the dominant juridical conceptions.

Although he was married to the daughter of a Liberal fazendeiro (rancher), Barreto suffered social and racial discrimination as a result of his mixed heritage. After a brief and not very successful involvement in local and regional politics (he was a Liberal member of the provincial assembly in 1878–1879), he gained influence by becoming a professor at the law faculty of Recife in 1882. In his lectures he defended the view that law is neither divine nor natural, but a product of history. A supporter of philosophical monism, he was responsible for the wide dissemination of Ernst Haeckel's theories in Brazil and became famous for his polemics against ultramontanist and idealist positions.

Although Barreto was widely attacked, his views were supported by his friend, the literary critic Sílvio Romero, and by a group of students who played major roles during the Old Republic: Clóvis Beviláqua, Higinho Cunha, Benedito Leite, and Artur Orlando.

See alsoPhilosophy: Overview .


Tobias Barreto, Jr., Obras completas, 10 vols. (1925–1926).

Hermes Lima, Tobias Barreto: A época e o homem (1939).

Paulo Mercadante and Antonio Paim, Tobias Barreto na cultura brasileira: Uma reavaliação (1972).

Centro De Documentação Do Pensamento Brasileiro, Tobias Barreto: Bibliografia e studos críticos (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Kirkendall, Andrew J. Class Mates: Male Student Culture and the Making of a Political Class in Nineteenth-Century Brazil. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.

                              Matthias RÖhrig AssunÇÃo

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Barreto de Menezes, Tobias Jr. (1839–1889)

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