Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Oswaldo Porchat (1933-2017)

On October 15th, Oswaldo Porchat Pereira passed away. This is very sad news particularly for the Brazilian philosophical community. Porchat pursued his undergraduate and graduate studies in philosophy at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), obtaining a Ph.D. with a dissertation on Aristotle’s conception of science. He spent research periods in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. He was the founder of both the philosophy department and the Centro de Lógica, Epistemologia e História da Ciência at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). He considered himself a skeptic and devoted his work almost exclusively to discussing Sextus Empiricus's Pyrrhonism. His teaching and writings exerted a strong influence on his students (e.g., Plínio Junqueira Smith, Luiz Eva, Otávio Bueno, Roberto Bolzani), to the extent that several of them devoted their own work to the study of skepticism, creating in Brazil a relatively large community of academics interested in that philosophical movement. At the time of his death, he was emeritus professor at USP. I met him once in 2014, in São Paulo, when I gave a talk about his neo-Pyrrhonism, which is expounded in a series of papers collected in Rumo ao Ceticismo (Editora UNESP, 2007). It is quite hard to determine exactly what his skeptical stance consists in, but as he told me then, he always took his latest paper to be the true expression of his thought and was largely unconcerned with whether it was consistent with the ideas expounded in his previous writings. He seemed to be a gentle person.

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