Modern & Contemporary Philosophy


The very conception of contemporary in 'contemporary philosophy' is polemical. A more usual term in English is modern, used not to mean post-medieval, as moderne could in French, or Moderne in German or moderno in Portuguese, but rather now, i.e. 'our times'. If one considers Kant, and post-kantian philosophy, as landmark, as a large number or European philosophers would, of the 'contemporary period', most analytic philosophers would shun the idea that 'contemporary philosophy' started in the 18th (or more charitably, in the 19th) Century, as opposed to being what is taking place now.

Modern & Contemporary Philosophy

(Gabinete de Filosofia Moderna e Contemporânea)

Reference: TL-502-1433: Modern and Contemporary Philosophy

Principal Investigator: Sofia Miguens Travis


Going beyond differences in terminology, there is also the fact that for some philosophers, the notion of the 'contemporary' itself has a paradoxical ontological status, very much deserving of philosophical attention. Assessing what counts as 'contemporary' (or 'now', or 'modern', or even simply 'current agenda') in contemporary philosophy is anyway one of the central goals of this TL.

What counts as philosophy. Philosophy's method. Obviously, what counts as philosophy is itself also a question for contemporary philosophy. It has been a question since the beginnings of philosophy, but given the diverging paths of philosophy in our time it seems even more pressing. This is a meta-question this thematic line will be dealing with, starting from the acknowledgment that the RGs it comprises work with, or within, different conceptions of philosophy. To give one example, as RG Roots and Horizons of Portuguese Philosophy and Culture sees it, the domain of philosophy closely interacts with culture, language and literature. This idea that Culture at large, especially Portuguese-speaking cultures across the globe, is directly at stake in philosophy contrasts for instance with RG MLAG, more 'intra-academic' conception of philosophy, as defined by topics and disciplines, such as metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics or philosophy of mind. Thinking about the nature of philosophy within different traditions is another goal of this TL. This will mean going into questions of philosophical method, or what, in some contexts is called, the philosophy of philosophy, or meta-philosophy.


RG-502-2083 Aesthetics, Politics and Knowledge

RG-502-2084 Mind, Language and Action

RG-502-2085 Roots and Horizons of Philosophy and Culture in Portugal

RG-502-2086 - Philosophy and Public Space 


Structure of the Thematic Line

There are three RGs within this Thematic Line: Aesthetics, Politics and Knowledge; Mind, Language and Action Group (MLAG) and Roots and Horizons of Portuguese Philosophy and Culture. They are led by Vilela, Miguens and Natário, respectively. The thematic inner structure of each RG corresponds to their history within the Institute of Philosophy.

The work of the RGs is for the most part independent - the fulfillment of the objectives of the Thematic Line is dependent on the pursuit of their specific research agendas by the three groups.

The specific internal organization of each RG through which each will pursue their 2015-2020 research agenda is the following:

RG Aesthetics, Politics and Knowledge (APK) comprises two largely independent sub-groups: Aesthetics, Politics and Arts (Led by E. Vilela) and Modes of Thought and Philosophical Systems (lead by P. Tunhas).

RG Mind, Language and Action (MLAG) comprises 4 areas: Mind and Language, led by Miguens, Action Agency and Rationality, led by Riccardi, Logic (and Philosophy of Science) led by Pinto and History of Contemporary Philosophy, led by Renaudie. Ongoing projects often recruit two, three or even the four areas.

Within RG Roots and Horizons (RHPTC) work is coordinated by C. Natário, C. Mota, P. Batista, R. Epifânio e C. Soveral.

The RG Philosophy and Public Space was founded by Prof. Paula Pereira in 2007.The public space as the nuclear theme configures the research in contemporary philosophy, mostly, in social and political philosophy , ethics and philosophy of technology

It is through this organization that the question of what counts as contemporary philosophy will be faced in practice in the Thematic Line.


Objectives of the Thematic Line

The difficulties involved in drawing the referred contours of contemporary philosophy are in themselves challenging - the main objective of the thematic line Modern and Contemporary Philosophy is to face up to that challenge. Thus, through the specific work of the three research groups involved (RGs APK, MLAG and RHPTC) the Institute of Philosophy will try in 2015-2020 to explore and map the contours of contemporary philosophy. As described in detail elsewhere in the present application, the 3 RGs have very specific agendas; it is through the pursuit of such agendas that comparisons are expected to originate. We do not expect to arrive at anything like a non-controversial characterization of 'contemporary philosophy', but rather, by the very juxtaposition of the work of the research groups, to make clear the (often profound) differences in methodology and philosophical commitments which characterize it. Further objectives are to understand genealogies, and possible convergences (and divergences), so that current, and persistent, lack of communication among the traditions and movements in contemporary philosophy may be (at least partly) overcome.


Partial objectives, corresponding to the research agendas of the RGs for 2015-2020, are the following:

1. Where it concerns the notion of 'contemporary' as itself involving a stance on history and historicity, one main goal of sub-group Aesthetics, Politics and Arts is to discuss the relations between experience, history, memory, oblivion, archive, and thus to deconstruct classical notions of testimony, tradition or transmission.

2. It is a further objective of the sub-group to spell out what a heideggerian, derridian, deleuzian, benjaminian, etc, conception of philosophy consists in (e.g listening to Being, deconstruction, creation of concepts, etc)

3. Subgroup MTPS interest in the history of political thought will be one main means for grasping what - in a domain so essential for conceiving of the present as political philosophy is-contributed to conceptions of the present.

4. It is yet another objective of subgroup MTPS to explore a kantian approach to epistemological, ethico-political and aesthetic issues.

5. RG MLAG intends to work directly on the sources of the analytic tradition, focusing on its German-speaking origins (centrally on Frege, extending to Wittgenstein). This should bring out a contrast with an English-speaking centered conception of that tradition. Against such background the RG expects to explore current forms of realism which revisit Frege and Wittgenstein (e.g. Diamond's realistic spirit as an approach to 'life with language', 'life with logic', 'life with ethics') in order to critically assess some mainstream positions of current analytic philosophy such as (quinean)inspired naturalism and metaphysical realism.

6. RG MLAG will also be particularly interested in the nature of philosophical method, in its relation to the nature of philosophy. One main reference will be the wittgensteinian notion of Erläuterungen, in contrast with that of 'analysis' (which cannot mean anything as simplistic as analysis of concepts, contrary to what some current movements, such as experimental philosophy, when countering it, assume). Given the orientation above, this will mean a renewed attention to language, some decades after the heyday of philosophy of language in the 70s.

7. RG Roots will look closely at Philosophy in Portugal in the 19th and 20th centuries - e.g. at the reception of phenomenology, existentialism or nietzscheanism - and also at ethical and political thought developed by Portuguese-speaking authors in that period.

8. As for what counts as philosophy, the Group will be especially interested in exploring the nature of the relations between philosophy and literature. With that purpose in mind, the work of a number of Portuguese-language writers will be explored from a philosophical perspective.