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Farias Brito, Raimundo de (1862–1917)


Raimundo de Farias Brito was the philosophic forerunner of Brazilian modernism. A profound sense of crisis underlies the work of Farias Brito. Individual existence is a precarious struggle against despair and death, and social order is threatened by moral disintegration and anarchy. Knowledge of man's role in his world is necessary to confront this crisis. Intellectual pursuit of the truth is the primary ethical obligation. Lacking certainty, man establishes a relative morality through conviction, involving both philosophy and religion. Metaphysics attempts to embrace the truth theoretically through formulation of worldviews; religion embraces the truth practically through acceptance and appropriation of a given worldview. This free acceptance of common convictions creates community, informing and giving thrust to the total culture of which it serves as a focus. The theoretical task is a permanent activity of the human spirit; the practical task, a permanent necessity. Convinced that modern philosophy was not adequate to its task, largely because of its predominantly skeptical mood grounded in phenomenalism, Farias Brito hoped to establish a new dogmatism capable of providing convictions that could give both courage for withstanding suffering and despair and the bases for reestablishing social order and direction. There was a transition in his thought from an early attempt to provide grounds for a naturalistic religion, inspired by German monism, to the articulation of his philosophy of spirit, influenced by French spiritualism. The naturalism is expressed in an incomplete series of volumes titled A finalidade do mundo (18951905). The new series, Filosofia do espírito (19121914), was initiated after Farias Brito had moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1909 to accept the chair in logic at Colégio Pedro II.

The spirit, "a live principle of action, capable of modifying the order of nature; of dominating itself; of exercising dominion over things" is the "foundation of all reality and the basis of all experience." Psychological data are therefore indispensable to the metaphysician. Physiological psychology deals solely with the physical base of spirit; psychology proper ought to be concerned with subjective psychic phenomena. Its method is introspective, direct introspection supplemented by indirect introspection, a study of the manifestations of consciousness through which men achieve expression and communication. "Transcendent psychology" is the method employed for utilizing psychological data in metaphysics. From the felt fact of human existence, it is possible to rise to the level of transcendence, seeking knowledge concerning essence. The introspective operation of the individual consciousness reveals two facets of experienceconsciousness itself and that which is presented to consciousness; both constitute existential reality. Through abstraction and analysis of each, pure consciousness is seen to have priority. Understanding man as essentially conscious spirit, the method of "transcendent psychology," leads to the postulation of divine spirit.

See also Introspection; Latin American Philosophy; Logic, History of; Naturalism.


Other works by Farias Brito are Verdade como regra das acōes (Truth as the rule of action; Rio de Janeiro, 1905), Base física do espírito (Physical base of truth; Rio de Janeiro, 1912), and Mundo interior (Inner world; Rio de Janeiro, 1912).

For a study on Farias Brito, see Fred Gillette Sturm, "Farias Brito: Brasilian Philosopher of the Spirit," in Revista interamericana de bibliografía 13 (1963): 176204.

Fred Gillette Sturm (1967)

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