Philosophy of Education


Former Thematic Line

Philosophy of Education thematic line, relating as it does in a simultaneously originative and critical way to the educational research and emerging from the philosophical reflection, seeks to build an autonomous body of knowledge and to develop its own critical skills.

Philosophy of Education

(Gabinete de Filosofia da Educação)

Reference: TL-502-1434

Principal Investigator: Adalberto Dias de Carvalho

Philosophy of Education thematic line aims to promote the production of knowledge in a way suited to the field, which involves the survey and treatment of philosophical/anthropological problems, within what may be considered the critical labor of pedagogical reason. This labor, which defines the philosophy of education, accurately characterizes the diverse initiatives and the vast extant production.

The structuring of this thematic line into two research groups - Philosophy of Education and Contemporaneity and Philosophy and Public Space -, allows us to focus the research on complementary areas of inquiry, which open themselves pertinently and in a strategically adequate way to the goals of the research Unit itself.

Within the RG Philosophy of Education and Contemporaneity, the reflection about Human Rights' philosophical foundations (subtheme: Human Rights, social-educational intervention and contemporary inquiry into their grounds) tends to be seen entangled in the folds and fractures of ideological confrontations, of politic pragmatism and the intervention of human sciences such as sociology and cultural anthropology, must go through a meticulous cultural framing, which implies, among other aspects, the philosophical questioning of the assumptions characteristic of our contemporary condition, which is assumed as foremost among human rights (Carvalho).

This approach is made under the conviction that without critical awareness human rights can't emerge as an anthropological and ethical reference for the political, social and educational thought proclaiming itself from them. Its concrete application is increasingly less dependent on a declaration, and increasingly more on the representations that social actors make of them; a circumstance which requires a reflective educational mediation to avoid its ideological and strategic manipulation.

Education achieves thus the status of practical anthropology. And it's precisely in light of present-day interpellations that the philosophy of education takes as one of its fundamental purposes that of reflecting - within the context of the RG Philosophy and Public Space - on the challenges of living in an increasingly urban world. The contemporaneity, in exhibiting an intimate connection between urban condition and plural societies, brings intercultural debates into a new light (A. Pretceille, Canclini) picturing Human Rights as a bridge to a new culture of peace (Jares, Mayor Zaragoza, Candeias) and an active and responsible citizenship (subtheme: Human Rights, social-educational intervention and the questioning of philosophical beliefs about the contemporary world which are often taken as granted). (Subtheme: Global space and critical urbanity: identities and cultures).

To accomplish such a project, it's important to realize that the notion of identity construction is defined by a conception of diversity, not as an external and secondary phenomenon, but rather as primary data, on the tensional relations between alterity and sameness. In these circumstances, indeed, one faces the characteristic challenges of a complex unity of diversifying senses, and less so the homogenizing inertia of a unity that asserts itself within a circle of recurrent, continuous self-reference.

"Man's situation is [itself] an ethical problem for man", which imposes, according to Rorty, the need for an ethics of solidarity, to which Ruby adds the importance of building a culture of solidarity. It's on this context that, facing ourselves with an limits aporia, we demand, on account of our responsibility before future generations, a social control of technology, which, besides the inequality due to origin, refuses also the inequalities due to the knowledge presupposed by such control.

(RG Philosophy of Education and Contemporaneity. Subtheme: Identity and Alterity; ethical questioning and educational action). Placed in an anthropological space such as the contemporary world, everything is increasingly decided by access to knowledge and its use, which can be steered towards erecting a political culture of solidarity or, by contrast, towards refining the instruments and strategies of violence.

Knowledge is re-written, sometimes, within an epistemic economy that we can and should question, but in a technological society we also witness the emergence of other forms of knowledge, which elicit the kind of reflection nurtured within the philosophy of education, concerning the social and educational inclusion of citizens, as well as the understanding of new communities of knowledge and, in this, the reflection, today, on the reconfiguration of the common (Benkler, Lafuente), which involves framing the role of the political philosophy of education, under the light of a critical urbanity, in the sense of a new intellectual maturity, enabling people to create practices yet inexistent (Rancière). (RG Philosophy and Public Space, Subtheme: Political Space and a Sense of the Common)

In fact, against the tendency to reinforce the mechanisms of social and political control of behaviours, we witness the rise of an equally non-negligible ability to consolidate an ubiquitary society, in which the singularization of cosmopolitan spaces presents us with a diversity of seats of meaning which, meanwhile, find themselves in continuous inter-relation, generative, precisely, of complex social and cultural units. (RG Philosophy of Education and Contemporaneity, Subtheme: Philosophy of Education in Contemporaneity: the plural singular).

The sense of humanity is questioned, within the context of an education addressing our restlessness with the times, spaces, symbols and relations in which the present embraces the tumultuousness of events, limitations, mediations, presences and absences into the rationalities that, contemporarily, weave the subjects and the world.

Hence the pertinence of putting into philosophical perspective the reconfiguration of the notion of public space (Pereira) undergone by the development of science and the worlds of technic and technology (Heidegger, Hottois, Ellul, Habermas, Apel). In fact, we witness the consolidation of the 3rd industrial revolution, the information revolution, paving the way to post-industrial society (Touraine), the informational society of fluxes or networks (Castells), the Technopolis (Postman), the Telepolis (Echeverría) or the society of risk (Beck) (RG Philosophy and Public Space, Subtheme: Public Space, Inovation and Knowledge).


Each one of these RG's is structured in thre subthemes:

RG-502-2086 Philosophy and Public Space

a) Public space, innovation and knowledge;

b) Political space and sense of the common;

c) Global space and critical urbanity: cultures and identities.


RG-502-2087 Philosophy of Education and Contemporaneity

a) Human Rights, socio-educational intervention and contemporary interpellations of its grounds.

b) identity and alterity: ethical questioning and educational action.

c) Philosophy of education in contemporaneity: the plural singular.



The true calling of a philosophy of education can be accomplished by coherently assuming its philosophical inclination, providing educators in particular with a set of concepts and skills which can make them open to the conflict stemming from the assumption that philosophical culture is a cornerstone of the "human work" within the practical anthropology which is education. To achieve these objectives, the philosophical assumptions put forward will be explored in depth, and then applied to the study of concrete questions such as the very status of philosophy of education, the identity of the human person, within the purview of the educational projects, through the questioning of human rights' assumptions in a markedly anthropological perspective, other considerations give rise to a critical approach of aspects so important as vulnerability, violence, hope, fallibility, intimacy or the reconfiguring of the subject's status in education and contemporaneity (RG1). On the other hand, such queries are articulated with questions posed today to the Philosophy of Education from the reflection on the contemporary public space: the problematic character of relations between politics and technology, the complex reconfiguration of the common and the set of problems about the human condition and plural societies (RG2). After the development and realization of several research and development programs, with high recognition and projection, it is understood that the structure now presented will simultaneously favor the consolidation and innovation of research in this area of study.

This TL, though rooted, as we have seen, in the contemporary condition of philosophy itself, is pioneering with regard to its interdisciplinary extensions and the clarification and application of its formative importance. In general terms, sectorial conferences are foreseen, as well as the organization of international conferences and the publication of collective works, with the contribution of all the subgroups. The methodology of the group's activities will be organized around distinct types of scientific sessions and publications:

a) Joint sessions to define objectives, strategies, planning and distribution of tasks;

b) Working sessions by subgroup: the different subgroups will ensure the project's multidisciplinary coverage, following interpolated paths of autonomous work and joint discussion of results;

c) Sessions held for sectorial presentation of results and collective debates with prior information provided on the topics covered by each session;

d) Special sessions, held at specific intervals, for the evaluation of research results.

e) Seminars in association with postgraduate training;

f) Organization of Scientific Meetings

g) Training PhD, Masters students and young researchers;

h) Training for teachers.

i) Networking with other scientific communities both Portuguese and foreign;

j) International conferences;

l) Diverse publications



The thematic line corresponds to the purposes that have always driven the Philosophy of Education Office (PEO): to promote the production of knowledge in a way suited to the philosophy of education, which involves the survey and treatment of anthropological problems philosophically perceptive, within what may be considered the critical labour of pedagogical reason. This labour, which defines the philosophy of education, accurately characterizes the diverse initiatives and the vast extant production.

United, as already stated, by a common approach to the problems at hand - that according to which the contemporary senses of education do not coincide with the senses of contemporary education (Carvalho) - current research into them will focus on the sense of the humane within the context of the senses of concepts and of the world, that is, of the realities which the former delineate and the representations that the latter accepts, severing thus the sense of contemporaneity from the epistemological rhetoric of post-modernity. The choice of problems that animates this project is the result of concerns converging into assumptions that contemporaneity has set itself when confronted with the conflicts and impasses of the modern age. On the other hand, once having understood the philosophy of education as an eminently philosophical discipline, it becomes imperative the development of a research that covers the inventory and critical systematization of concepts and problems judged pertinent, namely, through reflection and valorization of the place and role of philosophy in the public space (Pereira) towards the challenges and tensions of contemporary society. Thus, we have as fundamental objectives:

  1. To consolidate philosophical reflection on the historical, anthropological and sociological groundings of Human Rights, as well as on their paradigms of reference in the contemporary world.
  2. Focus on the notions of anthropological itinerancy and vulnerability within the debate on the criteria of humanity and the emergence of the inhuman and violence as human phenomena.
  3. To spatially reposition philosophy so as to understand, within the concept of global dwelling, the new characters of the common and respond to the contemporary demands for training, recognition and emancipation.
  4. Reflect on the human condition based on the human condition, so as to identify and analyze some of the determinant relations between Science, Technology, Politics and Society with which knowledge is faced.
  5. Develop and strengthen the programmes defined in the different cooperation agreements.
  6. To continue the activities of postgraduate education and research developed under the different cooperation agreements established;
  7. The periodical publication of a journal was the way by which research produced by the team was and will be disseminated, intersecting participations in the different seminars, conferences and meetings organized. The group aims to improve on the approach of the journal to new contributions from other scientific institutions and researchers from all over the world as well as to promote its inclusion in international online bibliography databases;
  8. It is still our aim to carry out different publications and the organization of events and trainings that will outcome as the material result of this important area of analysis that will allow at the same time the mobilization of significant contributions to this research field and promote discussion between researchers and their active presence in public space.