Philosophy & Public Space


Philosophy & Public Space

PPS Research Group

Philosophy and Public Space 

Reference: RG-502-400548

PI: Paula Cristina Pereira


The RG Philosophy and Public Space was founded by Prof. Paula Cristina Pereira in 2008.

Public space, as the nuclear theme of PPS research group, results from general apprehensions raised by the spatial, social, political, and anthropological changes that occurred during the last few decades, with a notorious impact on people’s lives, citizenship, and on modes of urban dwelling, an impact whose extent is yet to be fully assessed.

Its researchers seek to reflect on the transformations of the – and on the - contemporary public space, awakened by the progressive depoliticization of public life and technological development, bearing in mind the increasingly complex relations between science, technology, politics, and society. The research has been developed around the topic of contemporary dwelling, emerging among other themes and concepts: the anthropological dimension of space, technique, technology, technopolis, democracy, digitalism, the natural and the artificial, construction of subjectivity, the common good, communication, freedom, emancipation, power, utopia, and politics.

The RG counts with researchers from the University of Porto, and researchers who develop their PhD and Master projects within the framework of its central thematic areas. The RG also counts on the collaboration of researchers of national and international academic institutions: University of San Francisco; University of Nevada; Marymount Manhattan College; University of Twente; Universitat Jaume I, Castellón; Max Plank Institute; Université de Liège; Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC); Universidad de Navarra; Sorbonne, Paris I; Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

The RG is requested by Portuguese and foreign students and researchers interested in exploring issues and problems in philosophy of the city and contemporary public space. The RG’s internationalization is documented in publications in collective books (Routledge, Springer, others), in invitations to coordinate special issues (6 published) of international journals (Scopus, web of Science) on the RG's core themes, as well as invitations to participate in international projects (e.g. Ciencia, tecnología y sociedad: … and URBS Project) and projects funded by the European Commission (e.g. ETNHA, DITE). Furthermore, the PaPSIN Network (created by the RG in 2019) and the invitations to partner with the Research Group Practical Ethics and Democracy and to join the Philosophy of the City RG and Red Filosofía y Ciudad reveal widespread recognition for PPS research and have contributed to consolidating its international partnerships.


2007-2012 Period:
RG PPS 2007-2012


2013-2017 Period:

Main goal: to spatially reposition Philosophy; identifying and critically examining: a) the problematic character of the relations between society, politics, and technology; b) the complex reconfiguration of the common; c) the set of problems posed by the urban condition and plural societies. 


The problems faced by the Research group justify the tripartite structure:

1. Public Space, innovation and Knowledge: with the reconfiguration of the notion of public space through the development of science, technique, and technology (Heidegger, Hottois, Habermas), we witness the consolidation of the third industrial revolution, the information revolution, opening up post-industrial (Touraine) informational society of fluxes or in a network (Castells), the Technopolis (Postman), the Telepolis (Echeverría) or risk society (Beck). The technological-political management of life articulates the science, knowledge, and economy, typical of the capitalist model. The political philosophy and the philosophy of education find here new challenges in confrontation with techno-scientific progress (Hottois) which give information and its circulation (Breton), new knowledge and free knowledge (Lafuente), the proper and essential conditions to the asserting of a society assumingly democratic and active, focusing on the economy of knowledge and on ethical issues, triggered by a technological civilization (Jonas, Lacroix), inviting us to find the most adequate route to a new sociability of the cyberspace, to the social, educational and digital inclusion of all citizens.

2. Political space and the sense of the common: the concept of community returned to the heart of philosophic reflection during the 1980s (Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor), in particular as a reaction against certain forms of political liberalism (Rawls). To the extension of cosmopolitan citizenship (Kant; Cortina), unadvised though it may be to neglect the context, in caring for it (Heidegger; Gilligan) a renewed connection is established between the individual and the common, the particular and the universal (Nagel), and that connection may contribute to new ways of experiencing power in democracy (Bobbio). To reflect, nowadays, on the common (Benkler, Lafuente) requires an understanding of the role of the political philosophy of education, in light of a critical urbanity, aiming to assert a new intellectual majority that empowers people to create practices that do not yet exist (Rancière).

3. Global space and critical urbanity - cultures, and identities: the openness to an increasingly global space, characterized by a predatory market economy that erodes the human by neglecting human rights (Jares, Caride), deepens the civilizational crisis, which is economic, political and cultural. The contemporary world highlights the intimate connection between the urban condition and plural societies, bringing to the fore new maps of interculturality (Abdallah-Pretceille, Canclini), which conceive of Human Rights as bridges to a new culture of peace and active and responsible citizenship - a democratic, social, intercultural, environmental and corporate citizenship (Cortina, Bartolomé). The political, social, cultural, ethical, and educational (de)territorializations must be addressed, from an intercultural philosophical perspective, given the complexity generated by globalization.

2018-2022 Period:

Thematic and philosophical profile of the research plan

The research proposed is intended to extend and deepen of the body of knowledge built in previous projects (2007-2012 / 2013-2017) on the city as a concept and the spatial repositioning of philosophy. The research will, thus, focus on the critical analysis of the founding concepts and arguments of the notion of public space within contemporary political and social representations and dynamics. The intention is to operate an effective exercise of epistemic intersection between emerging experience and knowledge as necessary and constituent elements of discourses and practices in this field of inquiry and intervention.

In the recognition that research on the notion of public space is required, and renewed by the force of contemporary social and political transformations and technological development, the aim is to analyze the limits and the critical potential of the public sphere, in order to understand the relations between contemporary discourses and practices and their influence on the construction of knowledge and the configuration of the various societal and identity processes. This necessarily requires the contributions of different philosophical disciplines: Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Technology, Ethics, and Philosophical Anthropology.

In this context, the need to intersect reflection and intervention in public life and the deconstruction of modern philosophical assumptions frames this project within a plural conception of Contemporary Philosophy, underlining the important role of philosophy in the construction of a democratic society, through the identification and analysis of the new figures of urbanity; going through the conceptual trajectory of the notion of public space in its correlation with the city – from the polis to the contemporary (global) version of the deterritorialization of political processes – in order to explore the connection between a social reality marked by variability and the reconfiguration of public space.

Main goal:

The RG intends to consolidate and develop a body of knowledge on the notion of public space, within the framework of Social and Political Philosophy, by problematizing the limits and the critical potential of the public sphere, intersecting philosophical tradition and the critical analysis of the discourses and practices of the contemporary world.

Specific goals:

1) To critically configure the historical-philosophical heritage of the notions of the city in relation to the new figures of urbanity. To question the scope and limits of the political reality of the polis, the medieval lack of differentiation between the public and private categories, the normative rationality of the modern city, the link between the social and economic relationships of the industrial city and the new public space of the post-industrial society;

2) To consider the (re)construction of the common (space) beyond the public and the private (Hardt, Negri). The common as a political principle and a collaborative social process of production may entail overcoming the communitarian debate (MacIntyre, Taylor, Sandel, Kymlicka) and renewing reflection on the intersections between the notions of general interest and the common good with the different dynamics of power that shape public space;

3) To develop a philosophical reflection on technical development and the meaning of technology and its social, political, and economic effects on issues pertaining to a techno-scientific society (Heidegger, Jonas, Simondon, Winner);

4) Investigate the mode(s) in which the phenomena of mobility and urban resistance of our time – migrations, voluntary and forced displacements, social movements – (re)write political and social space and revive the problem of the right to city ​​(Lefevbre) when confronted with the violence of the dominant orders (Harvey);

5) Critically articulate the notion of public space with public policies and practices in which it is rooted – human rights and citizenship, technology and economics, training and education, art and communication – and which personalize the contemporary demands for recognition (Honneth, Fraser).

2024 - 2027 Period

Considering the post-industrial information society, the city has become a biopolitical metropolis, generating diverse needs. Our focus on the post-industrial city, and its diverse material and immaterial dimensions, brings us to a multidisciplinary approach in the consideration of economic, social, spatial, environmental, and political heterogeneity of urban phenomena. 
The urban experience and the right to the city are marked by complex crises, and by the discredit of political exercise and citizenship. But the city has never ceased to be a political entity because, as a public space, it is where democracy can be built. In this sense, one of the RG's objectives is to highlight the features of Philosophy of the City that are indispensable to rethinking and reshaping Political Philosophy. 


The RG's activity in this period includes the publication of the first volume of the  PHILOSOPHY OF CITY. ETHICAL AND POLITICAL CHALLENGES series. Coordinated by Professor Paula Cristina Pereira, this series of five volumes is a relevant outcome of the thematic network PaPSIN (Philosophy and Public Space International Network). The first theme, Common Good, will be published in Coleção Transversal U.Porto Press, by the end of 2023.