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The many faces of the persona or the fundaments of ethical action

Grant number: 21/01452-9
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctoral
Effective date (Start): June 01, 2022
Effective date (End): December 18, 2023
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy - Ethics
Principal Investigator:Paulo Roberto Licht dos Santos
Grantee:Juliana Ferraci Martone
Host Institution: Centro de Educação e Ciências Humanas (CECH). Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCAR). São Carlos , SP, Brazil


This project has its starting point in the concept of persona as the basis of philosophy, of ethical and political action. Its origin goes back to the stoic Panaetius of Rhodes, whose ideas survived in Cicero's work On duties. There Cicero explains that men have at least two personas (personae or prosopa), just as the actor has two characters, one universal and common to all, the other particular to each of us. It is precisely in the harmonical relationship between both that we should search for our happiness, that is, a proper way of living, virtue and moral good. From this conceptual core we trace the path and the metamorphoses these ideas suffered in both ethics and politics in the British Enlightenment, partially in Shaftesbury, the "modern stoic", but specially in F. Hutcheson, who conceived moral feeling based on Cicero's sense of propriety (decorum) and moral good (honestum). After that, we try to show how such ideas develop in 18th century Germany and how they are articulated by Jacobi, Hamann and Herder to oppose to the hegemony of German Enlightenment and Kantian transcendental philosophy. Jacobi describes his position as a personal philosophy, wise ignorance and a way of life; Hamann esteems Socrates whose wisdom was feeling, and Herder highlights how miserable it is to place in speculative knowledge the sole occupation in life. After having completed this path it may be permitted a leap in contemporary times to comprehend how Hannah Arendt uses the persona as the foundation of political action. Her aim is to show that the agent is always someone, a person, an unspeakable who that cannot be deducted. What truly unites all these authors and allows us to offer a novel interpretation of the idea of person is the conception of the true task of philosophy as a unique and personal way of conducting one's life not in isolation of an egoistic and abstract reason, but in social interaction with an equally concrete and personal someone. (AU)

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