The history of the Department may be divided into three distinct phases, the first of which includes the period from the 1934 to circa 1957. This phase corresponds to the times of the French Missions, a group of French professors who came with the special task of establishing and instituting the basic structures of the program, as well as educating future professors. The second phase, which may be understood to encompass 1958 to 1968, corresponds to the strengthening of that work style that has since characterized the Department in the Brazilian philosophical and academic context. Under the influence – at the same time diversified and harmonious – of such thinkers as Granger, Guéroult and Goldschmidt, technical and critical standards of philosophical work and academic structure were set down, favored by the politically open posture of those who were then the Department Chairs, namely, João Cruz Costa and Lívio Teixeira.
The third phase begins with 1968’s political crisis, when persecution and displacement of professors put the program’s very survival at risk. On the other hand, the University Reform constrained the undergraduate program to take on an inflexible structure, thus enforcing the introduction of new disciplines and submission to quantitative education directions (credits system).
As prescribed by the above mentioned work style, the undergraduate program should target objectives concerning a technical and critical education. Its axis was the analytical approach of the History of Philosophy, aiming at providing the students with theoretical tools for understanding a philosophical system’s internal logic. The central concern was training the student for research activities following the inheritance from recent French historiography. Before the University Reform such a program could be developed in an intensive way, given that the curriculum was constituted by a relatively small number of courses, ministered throughout the calendar year with few class hours. Such characteristics made rigorous demands concerning reading hours and the profundity with which the systems and authors were treated in the disciplines.
With the University Reform, although the program’s defining objectives were maintained, due to many different factors the conditions to achieve them became more and more uncertain. First, there was the need for new courses – now divided into obligatory and optional ones –, the expansion of weekly class hours and the semester-based calendar, all imposed by the new credits system. Such changes greatly narrowed the possibilities of continuing intensive studies as those above described. The increase in the number of professor vacancies, imposed by the 1970’s historical circumstances, the unification of the admission tests for the whole university and the degradation of high school’s educational standards have also been extremely unfavorable for the accomplishment of the course’s objectives with the concrete conditions of students entering the University. But above all we must point out as a prevalent unfavorable factor the absence of Philosophy in the High School curriculum, a fault that has now been reversed.
It is evident that in the present conditions the training for research is an objective that cannot be maintained to the same degree as it formerly was. It must comport with two other objectives, the professional education of High School teachers – given the reinsertion of Philosophy in the curriculum – and the complementary education of undergraduate and graduate students from other areas of study. Nevertheless, we do not believe there must be a drastic separation between preparation for research and preparation for High School teaching. There must be, on the contrary, a balance between the program’s two main aims, so as not to arbitrarily deprive the student of either option.