Mário Ferreira dos Santos (January 3, 1907 – April 11, 1968) was born in Tietê, São Paulo, and raised in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul. Graduated in Law and Social Sciences from the University of Rio Grande do Sul.
Remarkable writer and thinker, published in less than fifteen years the Encyclopedia of Philosophical and Social Sciences, with 45 volumes.
He created a philosophical system called Concrete Philosophy. His system was based on the geometric method, with no possibility of disagreement from its assumptions – which he called “theses” – and defined as logic apodicticy. The first thesis is the very foundation of his philosophy: “There is something whilst there isn’t the absolute nothing”, from which he draws other theses through the methods of mathematical philosophy.
A short biography of Mário Ferreira dos Santos
Olavo de Carvalho
For these biographical notes, I have relied largely on the unpublished work by Nadiejda Santos Nunes Galvão, Mário Ferreira dos Santos: Biography (Original, typewritten, 55 pages), and also in information’s given by Yolanda Lhullier dos Santos (Mario’s wife).
Mário Dias Ferreira dos Santos was born in Tietê, São Paulo – Brazil, on January 3, 1907, at 1:20 p.m, son of Francisco Dias Ferreira dos Santos and Maria do Carmo Santos.
His father, Portuguese by birth, descended from a family of lawyers and jurists, but followed career of an artist and became known as one of the pioneers of the art of cinema, having produced and directed dozens of films, including O Crime dos Banhados, recognized as the first feature film of world’s filmography. Mario, as a boy, participated as an actor of some of his father’s films.
Married to a very Catholic lady, Francisco Santos was an atheist and Mason. Mario told his children that the contrast between his father’s and his mother’s beliefs was one of the first reasons of wonders that prematurely awakened his philosophical concerns. Despite their convictions, Francisco Santos was a great admirer of the Jesuit education, reason why, after settling with his family in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, enrolled his son at the Gonzaga School (nowadays run by Marists).
Mário Ferreira dos Santos always considered himself in debt with the Jesuits, from whom he received the first notions of philosophy and religious education that remained faithful despite temporary crises until his last days. He owes to them something else: after believing himself as the subject of a clerical vocation, he was advised by his teachers to seek another direction as the course of his life.
In 1925, he joined the Faculty of Law of Porto Alegre University, starting a career as lawyer in 1928, before graduation. Although, after his graduation in Law and Social Sciences, in 1930, he abandoned the profession to work in the business of film production, like his father. At the same time, he directed the newspaper A Opinião Pública (The Public Opinion). As a journalist, actively supported the Revolution of 1930, but was quick to criticize certain acts of the new revolutionary government, and for this reason he arrested and forced to leave the paper’s direction.
Also in Porto Alegre, he worked at Diário de Notícias (the Daily News), O correio do Povo (People’s Post) and in some magazines. As a political commentator, wrote over a hundred articles on the Second World War, some of them afterwards published.
From 1943 to 1944 he made several translations for Globo Press, including Thoughts of Blaise Pascal, Intimate Diary of Amiel, The Physiology of Marriage, Balzac, and The Will to Power, Nietzsche.
Nietzsche was a remarkable influence in our philosopher’s education, who later also translated – always directly from the original German – Aurora, Beyond Good and Evil and Thus Spoke Zarathustra, this one accompanied by detailed comments that, analyzing the symbolism of the work, are today one of the most valuable items in the bibliography of Nietzschean studies. Still on Nietzsche, Ferreira dos Santos wrote a long essay, O Homem Que Nasceu Póstumo (The Man Who Was Born Posthumously), in which, speaking on behalf of the philosopher-poet, defends him against his detractors. From this period onwards, he published several other essays on philosophical themes – but in a literary manner – in which one can see gradually taking shape some of the basic themes of his latter philosophical concerns. Finding it hard to publish them, Ferreira dos Santos became his own publisher, achieving remarkable success with works in a vertiginous variety of pseudonyms. Then, he would no longer leave the editorial activity, founding several companies, mainly the Livraria e Editora Logos S.A (Bookstore and Publishing House Logos S.A) and Editora Matese Ltda (Matese Press), both in São Paulo, in which he published not only his books, but a multitude of translations of classic works and encyclopedias, dictionaries and anthologies of all kinds.
In the 1950’s, he moved to São Paulo, where, while continuing his editorial activity, directed four cinemas, in the same time that he was giving courses and conferences, writing for newspapers and magazines and was still drafting in increasing speed over the course of the years, his philosophical works. Man of a volcanic activity – the typical coleric, cf. René Le Senne’s typology – and endowed with business genius, Mario was the introducer, in Brazil, of a credit system of door-to-door book sell. It was a huge success, further increased by the impact of his Curso de Oratória e Retórica (Course of Oratory and Rhetoric), attended by politicians, businessmen and renowned intellectuals, which published version sold no less than eleven editions. In the intervals, he taught in a Philosophy Course for Correspondence, personally correcting the lessons sent by hundreds of students and still finding time to serve as an advisor of afflicted and simple people that often resorted to the aid of his wisdom. This last activity inspired him two books that are still among the most interesting in the self-help genre: Curso de Integração Pessoal (Course of Personal Integration) and Convite à Psicologia Prática (Invitations for a Practical Psychology).
From the year of 1952, he dedicated himself with overwhelming passion to build his magnum philosophical work: the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences, more than fifty volumes, most of which came to be published in life, although some of the fundamental texts were left unpublished.
Mário Ferreira dos Santos never held a public office or a position as university professor; or ever tried to do so. He guided his life by a fierce independence and showed an astounding ability to overcome obstacles by himself. His single passage by the faculty of a university occurred in the last year of his life, when, at the insistence of an admirer and friend, the Latvian-born Brazilian philosopher, priest Stanislavs Ladusãs, s.j, Mario agreed to give some lectures at the Faculty of Philosophy Our Lady Mediatrix of the Jesuit priests, therefore ending his intellectual life as initiated: between the soldiers of Christ. The classes lasted only a few weeks. Mario was already very ill, with a heart disease aggravated by overwork and the immense sadness of the philosopher before the advance of military dictatorship that dominated Brazil; the school board, anticipating the worst, had even installed, next to the classroom, an oxygen tent for any emergency.
Mario did not die in the university, but at home, surrounded by his loved ones – his wife Yolanda and their daughters, Yolanda and Nadiejda, his sons in law Fernando and Wilmar: the only true allies and collaborators that he had in a life of battles and creation. Feeling the last moment approaching, the philosopher asked his family to stand his body still. To die lying down, he said, was unworthy of a man. He died standing up and reciting the words of the Our Father prayer.
In: Mário Ferreira dos Santos. A Sabedoria das Leis Eternas. São Paulo: É Realizações, 2001. Introdução, edição de texo e notas de Olavo de Carvalho, pp. 12-16. [The Wisdom of Eternal Laws, in original portuguese. Introduction, edition and footnotes by brazilian philosopher Olavo de Carvalho].
Translated by Evandro Santos de Albuquerque.