Apoteose a Júlio de Castilhos by Marciano Schmitz (posession of Eliseu Padilha)
Apoteose a Júlio de Castilhos by Marciano Schmitz (posession of Eliseu Padilha)

Philosophy and Political Movement

by Gustavo Biscaia de Lacerda / in Portuguese

The Brazilian Positivist Church (Igreja Positivista do Brasil (IPB)[1] was founded in 1881 in the city of Rio de Janeiro,[2] then capital of the Brazilian Empire. The Positivist Society that had been founded earlier served as a nucleus. While the Society had a more intellectual character, aiming at the study of Auguste Comte, Pierre Laffitte and other positivist authors, the Positivist Church established with a political and religious agenda, that would reach far beyond. The IPB devoted itself to the propagation of the positivist doctrine, its members would take an active interest in shaping Brazil’s public opinion, and they would try to influence Brazil’s politics and social life.

The IPB’s main leader was Miguel Lemos (1854-1917), a former engineering student and public servant. He became the IPB’s director – supported by his close friend and brother-in-law Raimundo Teixeira Mendes (1855-1927), who became the IPB’s vice-director, as Lemos a former engineering student and public servant. From the moment when both decided to publicly act as positivists, they dedicated their lives to the movement and IPB. They published broadly on a number of topics that still have not lost their relevance in Brazilian politics:

  • the proclamation of the Republic,
  • the end of slavery in Brazil;
  • the social inclusion of the poor and of the black populations;
  • the defense of and respect for the Brazilian indigenous populations;
  • the separation of church and state;
  • the defense of peaceful politics that would be based on dialogue and mutual respect;
  • the fight against all forms of despotism in government and society civil;
  • the fight against militarism, imperialism and war as a political option, whether in the Americas, Europe or elsewhere.

Located in the nation’s capital, campaigning intensely on the broadest fields of topics and being immensely productive the IPB was to become the most vocal representative of Brazilian positivism, yet it was far from being the only one. There were orthodox (i.e. religious) Positivists outside IPB; there were political Positivists, and journalists inspired by Auguste Comte’s doctrine, and there were many other kinds of Positivists in the widest sense, which were generally labeled as “heterodox” movement because they had a more intellectual and instrumental perspective of the doctrine.

One group gained a particular importance in this spectrum: the positivists of Porto Alegre, the capital of the Southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. Its main leader was Júlio de Castilhos (1860-1903), a journalist who based his proposals for political and social change in Brazil on Comte’s ideas: The proclamation of the Republic, the end of slavery, federalism (in opposition to the political centralization of the Brazilian Empire), became his central topics.[3] He became a member of the national assembly that drafted the first Brazilian Republican constitution in 1891; the central author of the state constitution of Rio Grande do Sul (implemented on July 14, 1891). He was eventually Governor of the state from 1891 to 1898. The Positivist group in Rio Grande do Sul was big and important enough to build, between 1916 and 1928, a Positivist temple, which has been active since then.


  1. Also know as Brazilian Positivist Apostolate (Apostolado Positivista Brasileiro).
  2. In Brazil there are an state and a city called Rio de Janeiro; in present days the city is the capital of the state. However, during the many centuries when the city was the capital of the country (1763-1822: capital of the Portuguese colony; 1822-1889: capital of the Brazilian Empire; 1889-1960: capital of the Brazilian Republic), it had the status of “Court”, “neutral municipality” or “federal district”, which means that the federal government was responsible for its administration; during these period, the state of Rio de Janeiro’s capital was the city of Niterói. With the construction of the city of Brasília, in the Brazilian hinterland, with the expressed intention of being the national capital, the city of Rio de Janeiro became in 1960 a “city-state”, i. e., the capital of the new state of Guanabara (which covered only the very city of Rio de Janeiro). In 1975 both states – Rio de Janeiro and Guanabara – united, so the city of Rio de Janeiro finally became the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro.
  3. When finally the Republic was established in November 15, 1889, a member of the Positivist group of Rio Grande do Sul took part in the provisional government – Demétrio Ribeiro, who briefly became Ministry of Agriculture and who also proposed the law of separation between Church and State. As a matter of fact, Demétrio Ribeiro wasn’t the only Positivist in the provisional government: the actual leader of the Republic conspiracy, Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães (1836-1891), became at first Ministry of War and, after, as he was a “civilist”, he became Ministry of Public Education.

Rio de Janeiro

Rua Benjamin Constant, 74,
Cep.: 20.241-150,
Tel/Fax: (021) 2224-3861

Rio de Janeiro, Clube Positivista
Av. Treze de Maio 13
Grupos 1201/3
Sempre às 18:00 h.

The Positivits' Temple in Rio de Janeiro
The Positivits’ Temple in Rio de Janeiro

State of Rio Grande do Sul

Templo Positivista de Porto Alegre
Avenida João Pessoa 1058
Centro Histórico
Porto Alegre
Facebook site

Lectures and Socratic Discussions
Every Sunday 10:00-13:00
Tel. +51-3226-3182
Contact: Afrânio Pedro Capelli, Guardião do Templo

Centre Positiviste do Paraná et Chapelle de l’Humanité
Rua Riachuelo 90 Galeria Andrade, Edifício Cláudia,
Conjunto 201
80020 – 250 PR Curitiba
Tel. (0**41) 3345-6916
FAX: (0**41) 3222-1178
Reuniões todos os sábados às 16:00 hs
Assuntos científicos, filosóficos e religiosos
Gustavo Biscaia de Lacerda’s blog: Filosofia Social e Positivismo

State of São Paulo

Centro Humanístico Aníbal Silveira
Rua Almirante Pereira Guimarães 150
Racaembu – 012250 – 000 SP
São Paulo

Literature, Links and more

  • Images of temple in Porto Alegre: Courtesy of Henrique Amaral – Aero Studio,