CFUL, founded in 1989, has the following main goals:

(a) promoting excellence in research by supporting the production of groundbreaking, wide spanning philosophical investigation;
(b) providing a dedicated environment for the advanced training of graduate students and early career researchers;
(c) fostering interdisciplinary cooperation with other humanities and sciences, e.g. cognitive science, environmental studies and jurisprudence;
(d) allowing the awards of philosophy to reach beyond academic circles, engaging broader audiences in philosophical enquiry.

CFUL’s activities are centred on three thematic lines of research:

(I) The translation and commentary of the Classics;
(II) The reflection on societal challenges;
(III) The research on core fundamental philosophy.

The three main lines of research are implemented by the 5 research groups integrated in CFUL: History of Philosophy (Ancient and Medieval, Modern and Contemporary); Portuguese Thought; Phenomenological Thought; Philosophy of Action and of Values (Ethics, Political Philosophy, Environmental Philosophy Aesthetics, Philosophy of Gender and Race, Philosophy of Law, and Philosophy of Religion); Philosophy of Language, Mind and Cognition (Metaphysics, Logic and Language, Epistemology, Mind and Cognition).

CFUL has had a unique role in suppressing gaps in philosophical research in Portugal. Until 1989, the practice of philosophy had been unsystematic, with few translations of the classics, no specialized journals, scarce advanced training, and no international institutional cooperation.

The high standard characteristic of the translation and commentary of the classics at CFUL (e.g. in the first Portuguese edition of Aristotle’s complete works), and the relevance of the application of philosophy’s conceptual resources and analytical reflection to contemporary societal challenges, is made possible by the excellent level of research on core perennial philosophical issues carried out by CFUL’s members. This research is often developed in interdisciplinary collaboration with researchers in other areas in the humanities and the sciences. The excellence of CFUL’s research is testified by the high number of top ranked peer-reviewed publications in salient journals (e.g., over 30 peer-reviewed articles from 2013 alone in A/INT1 journals). No other national research centre has a comparable output. CFUL's activity has thus been essential for the international projection of philosophy produced in Portugal.

CFUL’s editorial policy has also radically transformed the national landscape, with the publication and edition of philosophical texts and periodical journals. CFUL is now an internationally recognized publisher of philosophy in Portugal, with a digital repository in the University of Lisbon. For instance, Disputatio is the highest ranked peer-reviewed philosophy journal in the Portuguese speaking world (according to ESF's ERIH list: B/INT 2), indexed and catalogued in The Philosopher’s Index, Latindex, Scopus, EBCSHOST, etc. CFUL also publishes other prestigious journals: Phainomenon – Phenomenological Journal, a digital magazine, philosophy@lisbon, and co-edits Philosophica with the Philosophy Department of the University of Lisbon.