Recalling Sartre

In the former times, when a kid is asked what he wants to be when he grows up, the answer one would usually get is that he wants to be an astronaut, a doctor, an engineer, a soldier, a priest.  These days however, when a kid is given the same question, the answer most likely one would hear is that he wants to work in America, in Australia, in Canada, in Singapore, in Dubai or anywhere but home. This observation resonates with a remark made by Prof. Randy David in one of his recent articles entitled “Migration As A Way of Life.’  Prof. David noted: “Migration studies report that more than 10 million Filipinos, roughly 10 percent of our population, today live and work in about 193 countries. These figures have prompted analysts to speak of a Filipino diaspora. The term is a derivative of the Greek word “sporas,” meaning “scattered like seeds.” We are a seafaring people and long-distance travel is not unknown to us. We have had waves of Filipino migration to Hawaii, Guam, and the rest of the United States, as a byproduct of our colonial ties with America. But, for a long time, the rest of the world was unmarked space for us. Indeed, throughout its colonial past, the Philippines had been more of a receiving than a sending country, attracting over the centuries migrants from China, Japan, India, and from as far as Lebanon…Our kind of organized migration is vastly different from that pursued by young people elsewhere, who might spend time traveling, studying, or living in other cultures in order to gain international experience. They do not stay abroad out of desperation or necessity.  They don’t leave young children behind. Most of them come back to start families and build their careers hand in hand with the development of their societies.”

More and more Filipinos are leaving their own county out of this growing consciousness of nothingness which has become a phenomenological fact of our daily lives.  Such nothingness manifests itself in different forms and levels of deficiency, from basic nutrition to public healthcare to quality education to public order to good governance to name a few. It is precisely this awareness of nothingness which impels one to create himself according to Sartre. But as we have seen, such self-creation is defined these days no longer in terms of a self-project.  With the advent of global economy, underwritten by liberalist ideology, self-creation has been equated with mere acquisition of skills considered marketable in well developed countries such as those mentioned above.  The current generation sees their becoming no longer as a meaningful pursuit but as an endeavor towards a more profitable future.  Certainly there is nothing wrong in aspiring to earn more; what makes the situation lamentable is the reduction of human potential to mere acquisition of profit.   This obsession with profit, either in individual or social scale, is the chief characteristic of the modern society and it infects the way individuals look at themselves and the manner with which they relate with one another and the world at large.  Sartre’s notion of freedom as the key to human creativity has no place in modern society.  There is no need to be free after all; our fates have been decided and our journeys has been charted by the gods in the Olympus of the global economy long before we could learn how to dream   Our needs have been subsumed by the needs of the market.  Our hopes are pinned on the worldwide financial forecasts.  Our angst hangs in the balance of the shifting behavior of the global trade.  The only freedom left in us is the freedom to choose which skill to acquire to match the demands of the labor market or the freedom is to stay home and starve ourselves to extinction.  Such is the famous Sartrean irony of freedom.  Whether to be the worlds’ laborer or to remain poor in one’s own country is a matter of a personal cboice.  Freedom is both our transcendence and condemnation.  There is really no exit out of it.  The Sartrean notion of freedom is a celebration of individual autonomy and at the same time, a phenomenology of the irony of the human condition.  Sartre’s existentialist philosophy is an exploration of the inherent promise and problem of becoming human which freedom itself underlies.  Sartre reminds us that:  “Man is all the time outside of himself: it is in projecting and losing himself beyond himself that he makes man to exist; and, on the other hand, it is by pursuing transcendent aims that he himself is able to exist. Since man is thus self-surpassing, and can grasp objects only in relation to his self-surpassing, he is himself the heart and center of his transcendence. There is no other universe except the human universe, the universe of human subjectivity. This relation of transcendence as constitutive of man (not in the sense that God is transcendent, but in the sense of self-surpassing) with subjectivity (in such a sense that man is not shut up in himself but forever present in a human universe) – it is this that we call existential humanism. This is humanism, because we remind man that there is no legislator but himself; that he himself, thus abandoned, must decide for himself; also because we show that it is not by turning back upon himself, but always by seeking, beyond himself, an aim which is one of liberation or of some particular realisation, that man can realize himself as truly human.”

There is therefore something definitely remiss then when the individual is disempowered of his ability to surpass himself and relegated merely as a cog in the machine of global wealth creation; when the individual as a being for-itself is reduced and restricted into a mindless being in-itself by the lords and masters of profit.  Sartrean philosophical anthropology, when read with critical caution, is a good reminder of the beauty of becoming human, which sadly, is gradually fading from the appreciation of the modern individual.  Or maybe it has not really faded but suppressed by a caricature of himself as free man inside the cage he himself gilded with gold and silver.

On Religion, Atheism and Ethical Responsibility

Filipino Catholics celebrate the feast of the Black Nazarene on the 9th of January every year.  Millions of devotees would flock to Quiapo to join the traslacion, or the commemoration  of the translation or enshrinement of the image of the suffering Christ in its present location. Observers have often described this massive display of Catholic devotion as a showcase of Filipino religiosity, one that is marked by filial loyalty, by a physical, almost visceral expression of faith, by tales of desiderata and narratives of answered prayers. The broadcast media see in this event a romantic dramatization of the plight of the common Filipino; others see in it an outpouring of a sublimated angst against the political and economic inadequacies which characterize Philippine society; still others prefer to look at it as a raw portrayal of simple faith, one that finds a glimpse of the divine with the feel of the paved road under one’s naked feet or with the faint scent of the holy lingering in the white hanky that brushed the face of the miraculous ebony.

An article published in however provides an alternative, better yet, a Levinasian perspective on what is traditionally perceived as a purely religious affair.  Rather than asking whether Quiapo reflects the true color of Catholic faith, it raises instead the same question tirelessly probed by Levinas: does it make the Pinoy a better neighbor?  The article was written by Paterno Esmaquel II, a multimedia reporter for Rappler and once an associate editor of the The Guidon, the campus paper of the Ateneo de Manila University.  In the said article, Esmaquel directs his attention to what he perceived as a glaring disparity between the devotees’ almost manic outpouring of religiosity and their utter oblivion of any sense of social responsibility.  This observation was inspired by an interview done by Esmaquel with Fernando Zialcita, an anthropology and sociology professor, also, at the Ateneo and editor of the notable book Quiapo: The Heart of Manila and author of the highly rated Authentic Though Not Exotic:Essays On Filipino Identity.  In the said interview,  published likewise by Rappler, Zialcita explained: “The devotion to the Nazarene should be seen in the context of utang na loob (debt of gratitude): ‘God gave me some tremendous gift – napagaling ang miyembro ng pamilya ko (a family member was healed) – so what will I offer in return?’ Something difficult like, sasali ako sa prusisyon taun-taon (I will join the procession every year), risking my life.” He described the Nazareno devotion as an “awesome” display of gratitude to God for graces bestowed upon devotees and their families. This devotion, consistent with Filipino loyalty, according to Zialcita, is often limited only to the family and to the “angkan” or clan. As such it fails to take into account “social responsibility to a group larger than their family.”

In the context of Levinasian discourse, therefore, the feast of Quiapo is but a celebration of identity garbed in the language and tradition of religiosity.  What we see in the annual affair is the public translation of an experience of want and fulfillment that begins with self and ends with self.  Even the divine itself is held hostage in this melee of private religiosities. One finds a very strong suggestion of totality in a religious festivity where everything, including God, is reduced to the imperatives of identity at the expense of the other. “It is interesting to note,for instance, that in 2012,” Esmaquel writes,  “the Nazarene procession left over 500 injured and also piles of garbage in its trail. The call then of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle – to clean up and show concern for the environment – went unheeded.” This year’s procession is no different.  As noted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial, entitled “Nothing sacred” and published January 12, 2013: “This year’s passage of the Black Nazarene took “only” 17 hours—the reported result of a redesigned carriage, new solid-rubber tires instead of inflatable ones, and better organization. Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Francis Tolentino described the event as “faster and more organized.” It is thus quite unfortunate that the annual pietistic display was crowned by a massive collection of rubbish. The estimates vary, but the devotees apparently left more than 120 tons of garbage. Public places like Plaza Miranda, Rizal Park and the streets leading to Quiapo Church were choked with assorted trash, plastic water bottles, empty food packs and rafts of other throwaway items…ndeed, how reconcile this terrible act of littering with the show of faith and devotion that the Feast of the Black Nazarene represents? How justify inflicting one’s garbage on others?  It’s obvious that those “faithful” who disposed of their trash without a thought for those who would have to clean up after them have much to atone for in terms of their inconsiderate and self-centered ways. It’s galling that as they were going through the motions of piety, they were actually causing the suffering of the street sweepers and the army of volunteers who would later pool efforts to clean up the avenues leading to the house of God.”

The feast of Nazareno, or any religious festivity, need  not degenerate into this level as long as we remember with Levinas that religion is not a mere private affair but a movement towards ethical responsibility. What is missing in the scenario cited both by Esmaquel and PDI editorial is a genuine experience of transcendence which frees one from the restrictions of subjectivity and flings him into infinity, which is the realm of the ethical. The devotees of Nazareno need to experience Quiapo as a religious event that allow them, beside experiencing answered prayers or spiritual satisfaction, the heightened desire for transcendence. In his essay, God and Philosophy, Levinas explains: “Affected by the Infinite, Desire cannot proceed to an end which it would be equal to; in Desire the approach distances, and enjoyment is but the increase of hunger. Transcendence or the disinterest­edness of Desire “passes” in this reversal of terms. How? And in the transcendence of the Infinite what dictates to us the word Good? For disinterestedness to be possible in the Desire for the Infinite, for the desire beyond being, or transcendence, not to bean absorption in immanence, which would thus make its return, it is necessary that the Desirable or God remain separated in the Desire; as desirable it is near but different: Holy. This can only be if the Desirable orders me to what is the nondesirable, the undesirable par excellence – the other (autrui). The reference to the other (autrui) is an awakening, an awakening to proximity, and this is a responsibility for the neighbor, to the point of substitut­ing for him.”

It is for this reason that, as explained by Dr. Leovino Garcia, even religion must leave a room for an experience of a-theism, that is, the space that allows one to look at God not as an object of need but as an object of desire, not in the sense of an objectified desire but in a sense of a constant activation of desiring.  This desire sees no end and does not settle for some proxy gratification.  Desire is a movement towards the infinite, inviting one to disengage from the self-affirmation of the same into the celebration of transcendence that constantly speaks to him within the context of his social relations. Such atheism, as Levinas explains  “conditions a veritable relationship with a true God Kad’abrd. But this relationship is as distinct from objectification as from participation. To hear the divine word does not amount to knowing an object; it is to be in relation with a substance overflowing its own idea in me, overflowing what Descartes calls its “objective existence.”… To posit the transcendent as stranger and poor one is to prohibit the metaphysical relation with God from being accomplished in the ignorance of men and things. The dimension of the divine opens forth from the human face. A relation with the Transcendent free from all captivation by the Transcendent is a social relation. It is here that the Transcendent, infinitely other, solicits us and appeals to us. The proximity of the Other, the proximity of the neighbor, is in being an ineluctable moment of the revelation of an absolute presence (that is, disengaged from every relation), which expresses itself. His very epiphany consists in soliciting us by his destitution in the face of the Stranger, the widow, and the orphan. The atheism of the metaphysician means, positively, that our relation with the Metaphysical is an ethical behavior and not theology, not a thematization, be it a knowledge by analogy, of the attributes of God. God rises to his supreme and ultimate presence as correlative to the justice rendered unto men.”


Back in the old days, long before basketball and cheerdance competition became university obsessions, there was only a single event which turned up the excitement of most students and professors of the medieval academia.  That event is called disputatio.  Disputatio was an intellectual fest. It was a gathering of professors and students alike and it featured free, uninhibited intellectual exchange on hot topics of the day.  A disputatio was always guided by a quaestio and steered by a master who acted as moderator and intellectual resource. On occasions, a disputatio would adopt a free-wheeling form and students were allowed a no holds barred interaction with their professor, who was usually a magistro, a master, in the university.  Given the enthusiasm, attendance and level of energy that accompanied such event, a disputatio can be said to be the medieval Woodstock of the minds.

Disputatio was one of those novel things which infused vitality into the university as a result of Aristotle’s entry into the academic world.  Aristotle’s emphasis on ratio as a tool towards a discursive approach to knowledge enabled the medieval academics to shift from the traditional commentary on sentences to a new epistemological strategy which allowed them space to trade and examine arguments in the hope of settling a given quaestio. Through the erudite handling of the masters, disputatio proved to be an effective exercise to expand the intellectual horizons of students and professors alike.

St. Thomas Aquinas, during his stint at the University of Paris, was a constant leading participant in such disputatio.  He came to Paris in the year 1251 to begin his preparations for a professorial career in Theology. That time, St. Thomas was being considered to succeed Elias Brunet of Bergerac, himself a successor of Albert the Great, in one of the professorial chairs of the said university. Despite earlier opposition from the seculars and due in no small measure to his exceptional intellectual prowess, St. Thomas was granted the license to teach in 1256 even if he had not reached yet the mandatory age of thirty-five.  As a magister, Aquinas was tasked to lecture on the Bible from 9:00 am to 12 noon and attend to the disputed questions in the afternoon, hence the term disputatio.  A disputatio had two formats, the regular type held once every two weeks and the impromptu session held twice a year, usually during the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent, otherwise known as the disputatio de qoudlibet or qoudlibetal disputations. Between the two, it was the latter that drew larger crowd because it was open to the public and members of the audience were given free hand to raise their own questions, any question at all, from a very sublime topic of metaphysics to the tiniest detail of a mundane issue.  St. Thomas was known and revered as one of those who pioneered the use of latter type of disputatio and some of his known works like the treatises on truth, God’s power, the question of evil, soul, virtues and incarnation were actually transcripts of his public address.

St. Thomas was a serious student of Aristotle and a fierce vanguard of ratio as a tool for searching the truth. He in fact wrote no less than twelve commentaries on major works of Aristotle (like Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Physics, Politics, De Anima, De Ceolo)which  were considered by various commentators as works comparable in depth, integrity and scholarship as the Aristotelian sources themselves.  Aristotle stimulated excitement among intellectuals like St. Thomas because as explained by the Dominican author, Thomas O’Meara, “he brought a spirit of criticism over against piety, a realism in the structure of the human personality over against the reduction of faith or grace to signs or stories.” St. Thomas found in Aristotle freedom to explore new frontiers for Christian faith. “Within a freedom of inquiry,” O’Meara continued,  “Aquinas’ career unfolded around his constant and courageous assertion that Christian faith need not fear realistic world-views or sciences.”  Beside the Bible, St. Thomas used Aristotle as his constant reference notwithstanding the fact that he belonged to the Faculty of Theology and not to the Faculty of Arts which had the sole mandate to employ the corpus of the Stagirite in its curricula.

His Aristotelian devotion however was suspected by some colleagues as too avant-garde to fit the doctrinal canons of the Church.  Certain pronouncements of St. Thomas in fact, along with 219 others, were condemned by Bishop Stephen Tempier in 1277, a good three years after his death, all because of their affinity with Aristotelianism. While still alive, St. Thomas was already aware of this predicament but remained undeterred in seeking new expressions and formulating new resolutions for Christian faith with the help of Aristotle and his scheme for rational discourse. He was in constant engagement with those whose opinions were contrary to his –the neo-Platonists, the Averroists, the gentiles – exploring their arguments, clarifying them, detecting both their strong and weak points as he himself tried to fortify his own position in the context of their intellectual contrast. He wanted to spread the light (lumina pandit) not by throwing fireballs or hauling lightning from the sky but by letting it shine on its own through dialogue and reasoned argument.

He was at home with disputatio, had integrity of faith and genuine love for truth and he knew there was much to learn even from those whose judgments he didn’t share. He always believed we can discover truth only if we allow others to help us.

We must indeed guard truth against its greatest threat which after all is not falsehood but our arrogance and conceit which induce us to deprive others their space in what is actually a common enterprise. There is beauty in remembering that truth is a symphony and not a single booming sound that drowns out all other voices. The entire Summa Theologica shows us that.

Such is the legacy of St. Thomas Aquinas, which hopefully is kept in mind by us Thomasians.

On Filipino Philosophy and Gilles Deleuze

(The following is an excerpt of a longer article entitled “Re-reading Filipino Philosophy with Gilles Deleuze.”)

If Filipino philosophy means articulation of native thought, doubtless we say that Filipino philosophy has existed long ago. What renders this proposition problematic however is the inherent ambivalence in the notion of the “native” itself.  At the turn of the 19th century, as the world was undergoing massive geopolitical shift and the Philippines’ was embroiled in its own struggle for sovereignty, one person attempted to define his own concept of the native. He was Jose Rizal.  In order to undertake his project of recuperating the meaning of the native,  Rizal turned to the Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas.  de Morga was a Spanish lawyer and was the lieutenat governor in the Philippines from 1595-1603. What he had to say, Rizal thought,  deserved his readers’ serious attention since he “governed the destinies of the Philippines in the beginning of her new era and witnessed the last moments of our ancient nationality. In his introduction to the book, Rizal appealed to his fellow Filipinos’ “consciousness of the past, already effaced from your memory.” The past Rizal was alluding to was the Philippines’ prehistory which he reconstructed from the reportage of de Morga. In Rizal’s fictive and romantic history, the Philippines had an authentic Malayan and Asian past, an established culture and a precolonial nationality.  All these however floundered with the coming of European modernity. Rizal’s de Morga annotation was desribed by the Philippine culture scholar Resil Mojares as a “nationalist counternarrative.”  As he explained: “Rizal’s decision to annotate Morga was not merely dictated by expedience but the discursive formation in which the nationalists operated.  They had to speak to, through, and against the European texts that had – by now they represented the past, present, and future of the country – ‘produced a Philippines that the Filipino nationalists now desired to fashion as their own.” While Rizal’s work was read more as a fictive rather than a historical narrative even during his time, it did however succeed in convincing his contemporaries as well as the reader of the succeeding generations that such pristine, native Filipino culture was possible.  Rizal’s legacy of nationalism would prove to be dominantly influential among scholars across different historical periods and and across a varierty of disciplines.  With the resurgence of nationalism prior to and during the heyday of Martial Law, philosophy too would lean towards the nationalist discourse.  It is within this context that one may read exponents of Filipino philosophy like Emerita Quito, Claro Ceniza, Leonardo Mercado and Florentino Timbreza.  The works they did were an attempt to bring Filipino philosophy closer to the philosophy we knew from the West and the same time highlight what is a typically Filipino native thought.  As noted by Mercado in his apologia: “All movements are based on a philosophy which bullets cannot destroy.  In the growing clamor for Filipino self-identity is implied the need for clarifying what Filipino thought is.  Colonial powers have ruled the Filipinos for the past centuries and in doing so imposed their own ideologies on the people. Intellectual colonialism is like a process of condiitioning; it induces a person to forget his own culture and eventually makes him ape a superior model…In short, the Filipino needs a philosophy to explain and support his identity.”

While laudable in their own rights and for what they intended to achieve, it is difficult to see how Filipino philosophy as conceived by the above-mentioned thinkers would advance given its entanglement with the problematic of identity which as pointed out above was something which Rizal in his annotation of Morga merely posited but left unchallenged.  Rizal thought of identity in metaphysical, essentialist terms.  Identity to him was something pre-given and something which can be lost and regained through a narrative return.  The campaign for Filipino philosophy is an extension of such project. Our local gurus could not be blamed after all for their short sight for the problem was not their handiwork but was merely handed down by a tradition of nationalist narrative steeped in fictive history and romanticism. Rizal himself, for all his genius, would not have subjected what he was writing to a self-critique aware as he was that what he was writing was not a philosophical piece but a work of propaganda meant as a counterpoint to the caricaturist perception of Spain about the Philippines. He would not have been aware that both identity and alterity are products of  hegemony of European modernity. In the words of Hardt and Negri: “Colonialism and racial subordination function as a temporary solution to the crisis of European modernity, not only in economic and political terms, but also in terms of identity and culture. Colonialism constructs figures of alterity and manages their flows in what unfolds as a complex dialectical structure. The negative construction of non-European others is finally what founds and sustains European identity itself.” This is a classic case of eternal return where one sees the predominance of reactive forces over the active forces and the perpetuation of the hegemony of the Same. The more Filipino philosophy persists in its recovery of a lost identity, the deeper it gets stuck in such quandary. In order to find its voice, Filipino philosophy must strive to assert its will to power. This happens when the negation brought about by the initial triumph of the reactives forces is itself negated (the negation of the negation) and the reactive forces themselves are dissipated in the process Nietzsche called “active destruction” – the event when negation is transmuted to affirmation.  It is through this that eternal return can lead the becoming of the active forces which Nietzsche and Deleuze described as the “eternal joy of becoming.” As a first step towards this goal, Filipino philosophy, instead of harping on a lost paradise, should instead harness its own intensity to critique, not retrieve, identity.  This is the same strategy Deleuze himself learned from David Hume. Philosophy for both Hume and Deleuze does not begin from any notion of identity since identity is yet to be constituted.  Here lies the radicalism of the empiricism of Hume. It is an empiricism that speaks of a world that is constantly slipping away from the grasp of the subject who pretends to know itself as well as the given.  Hume’s empiricism overturns this belief since the given is in constant flux; the given is a mere succession of events, of a movement that never follows a single trajectory. The best that the subject can do is to believe and to invent, that is, to engage the unknown. The singular feat of Hume according to Deleuze is precisely in spelling out this problem: the problem of the subject constituting itself in the given when the given itself is not given to subject.  It is in this sense that Hume becomes one of the primary sources of Deleuzean philosophy of difference. In this position, Hume himself is turning the triumvirate of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle upside down and is likewise radicalizing everything the likes of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche and Marx have to say after him.  In Hume, Deleuze finds an exclamation point for his philosophy of difference and Filipino philosophy itself can find in it a veritable starting point.  Filipino philosophy can turn to but cannot afford to dwell on history if it wishes to affirm itself.  The challenge is to find an expression of newness, an exploration of becoming.  In the words of Deleuze:  “History today still designates only the set of conditions, however recent they may be, from which one turns away in order to become, that is to say, to create something new.”

Rizal originally thought of Filipino identity as a molar reality, as something that defined who we were and whose reclamation is indispensable in establishing a national community. Succeeding scholars pursued the same line of inspiration and as shown in the paper, early exponents of Filipino philosophy infused their workds with the same mindset.  It was a philosophy anchored on nationalism which itself is fed by a memory of an identity, whole and intact, before it was deterritorialized by our European colonizers. As I argued in the paper, there is a need to re-visit Filipino philosophy since the very foundation from which it seeks legitimation is itself under question. Identity, says the Deleuze, is the very reason for the floundering of Western culture, the same damaged culture that we inherited from Europe with its alleged discovery of the Philippines.  To be truly liberating, philosophy, Filipino or otherwise, must extricate itself from the domain of the Same, that is, from the realm of identity.  The real matter for philosophy, in fact, the only matter, is the creation of concepts and according to Deleuze, concepts are created not by the sustaining what is but by provoking what can become.  This is how Filipino philosophy can evoke difference.

Filipino scholars of philosophy can no longer hope to reclaim what has long been deterritorialized.  This is not to say that native speculation has reached a dead end.  The value of the philosophy of difference of Gilles Deleuze as an alternative language for Filipino philosophy lies precisely in its ability to indicate new directions and to inaugurate virgin passage ways that can help Filipino speculation more than just a regional philosophy but a genuine field of immanence where both Filipino and philosophy can become.  To help us accomplish this goal, we are here proposing some Deleuzean concepts and how they may be applied in our pursuit of pushing the boundaries of Filipino philosohy ever wider.

First, identity is a molecular, not a molar, reality.  Following Hume’s insight, Deleuze tells us that subjectivity is not something pregiven; it is in constant flux, an assemblage that is constantly constituted.  From this perspective, we can read Rizal’s much mourned lost Filipino “identity” as a mere moment in a long episode of identity creation which continues until today.  The Filipino is not a figure that once was and would have been forever until deterritorialized.  The Filipino is a bundle of tales, a fusion of forces.  There is no reason to exorcise ourselves of our colonial past in the hope of finding a nationality that is pure and untouched for the Filipino is a field of constant deterrritorializing and reterritorializing influences. To think that we can be Filipinos without the any colonial intervention is to betray the very history of the word “Filipino” itself.  A Filipino speculation on philosophy can qualify as philosophy according to its capacity to create concepts that can elevate our understanding not just our ethnicity but moreso, the possibilities of our relational nature as human subjects. This notion acquires particular urgency especially in this age of massive Filipino diaspora and the postmodern blurring of the traditioal ethnic and cultural boundaries.

Second, Filipino philosophy should direct itself to becoming a minority.  In the past, our native thinkers considered it Filipino when speculation is done in contrast to the Western systems of thought or when the vernacular is used as opposed to the colonial language. Deleuze would hesitate to call this mode of philosophizing different because, as it is, it remains stuck in the negative. Difference, as Deleuze would have it, is not celebration of negation but a festive announcement of affirmation.  Filipino philosophy as a minority philosophy must not step back from a majority language or from a majority system of thought.  What it should do instead is insert itself within them and from inside, discover new way of saying, new mode of thinking well beyond or even against the majority’s very own.  Filipino philosophy can do this not only within philosophy itself but within other disciplines the way Deleuze interpreted the novels of Kafka, the paintings of Francis Bacon or French cinema.

Rizal’s hope was an experience of genuine becoming for every Filipino.  An alternative Filipino philosophy using Deleuze is a corrective to the belief that such hope is lost and such hope is past.  We are a people composed of singularities who continue to create and recreate ourselves from various social, cultural and historical intensities. As a philosophy of difference, Filipino philosophy is a narrative of our constant becoming. The principal task of Filipino philosophy is to resist not only the tendency to define itself according to the framework of ethnicity; it should in fact defy the very tendency towards definition.  The task of philosophy, if we follow Deleuze, is to push the boundaries ever wider, to create spaces that will make possible the creation of new concepts.  To use ethnicity to designate how we think and what we are thinking as Filipinos is to denigrate both philosophy and the Filipino by reducing them into metaphysical categories. It does not mean of course that the question as to what makes Filipinos Filipino should be set aside.  On the contrary, the only way to give justice to this problem is to keep it open.  Filipino philosophy, to become philosophical, must restrain itself from making conceptual prescriptions on questions that border on either philosophy and Filipino. Philosophy and Filipino – they are both singularities; they exceed identity. They can only become.  Read through Deleuze, Filipino philosophy means philosophy becoming Filipino and Filipino becoming philosophy.  What needs articulation is not identity but the creative process of engagement with a variety of forces which affect the singularities they both continuously become.

Ang Hanap-buhay ng Pinoy at si Martin Heidegger

Umaabot na sa halos sampung milyon ang bilang ng mga Filipino na nagtratrabaho o naninirahan sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng mundo.  Ang bilang na ito ay patuloy pa na nadadagdagan sa bawat libong umaalis ng bansa araw-araw.  Mula pa noong dekada sitenta, nang isa-polisiya ng administrasyon ng dating pangulong Marcos ang paggawa bilang kalakal, naging mas madami at mas mabilis ang paglikas ng mga Filipino.  Lalo itong umigting sa saglit na paglago ng pandaigdigang ekonomiya pagdating ng dekada nobenta. Maliban sa Amerika, paboritong hantungan ng karamihan sa atin ang Australia, Canada, New Zealand at Singapore. Ang mga estudyanteng pumapasok sa kolehiyo ngayon ay sa ibang bansa na nakapako ang mata hindi pa man nakakatapos. Kahit ang mga may trabaho na ay nagsisipagbitiw sa kani-kanilang opisina, eskwelahan, negosyo o pabrika para makipagsapalaran sa buhay sa ibang bansa. At kahit sino sa kanila ang tanungin kung ano ang nagudyok sa kanila upang mangapit-bansa, iisa ang sagot na maririnig sa kanila: hanap-buhay.

Pilipinas ang mundo ng mga Filipino o ang Da na tinatawag ni Heidegger. Dito nararanasan ng Filipino ang pagkakatapon sa kanya.  Dito nagaganap ang kanyang pakikisangkot sa Meron. Subalit, batay sa nabanggit na, tila may kabalintunaan ang nangyayaring pakikisangkot ng marami.  Pakikisangkot ito na nilalarawan ng pagtakas, ng paglikas.  Pakikisangkot ng pagtanggi na ariin ang sariling pagkakatapon.  Masisisi ba naman natin sila?  Katwiran ng isang kaibigang umalis kamakailan lamang papuntang Vancouver, masyado na raw mahirap ang buhay sa Pilipinas. Pakaunti na raw nang pakaunti ang oportunidad para sa progreso at ito’y lalo pang nababawasan dahil sa katiwalian sa gobyerno.  Malabis na rin daw ang paglaganap ng polusyon na tumalab na hindi lamang sa hangin kundi pati na rin sa tubig at sa lupa.  Hindi na raw ligtas para sa mga anak niya ang manatili sa isang lugar na maaaring magdulot pa sa kanila ng malubhang karamdaman balang araw. Nakakabagabag na rin daw ang dalas at dami ng insidente ng krimen na dati’y sa mga panulukang madidilim lamang nangyayari;  ngayon, tila nagiging karaniwang kaganapan na ito kahit sa loob ng mga tahanan at ang kriminal ay hindi na mga estranghero mula kung saan kung hindi mga taong kabilang sa pamilya.

Kaya nga para sa kanilang nakaalis na, ang kanilang pag-alis ay hindi pagtakas; hindi ito pagpiglas sa kanilang pagkakatapon.  Udyok daw ito ng kanilang pagmemeron bilang mga Filipino.  Tugon nila ito bilang Da-sein sa paanyaya ng sisilip-kukubling Meron.  Bilang Da-sein, pananagutan nila sa kanilang sarili, sa sariling kanilang-kanila lamang, ang maghanap ng isang makakatotohanang pag-iral, ng isang buhay na marapat sa kanilang pagsisikap at mga inaasam. Kung ang Da-sein ay kinakatha ng kanyang sariling posibilidad, hindi niya maaaring talikuran ang tawag nito.  Ang tanong na hinaharap ng isang Filipinong nagmemeron ay kung paano tutupadin ang mga posibilidad na ito sa harap ng maraming balakid na nakaharang sa kanya. Nais niyang umunlad; nais niyang matupad ang mga pangarap; nais niya ng mas matatag na kinabukasan ngunit matay man niyang isipin, mahirap maganap ang lahat ng ito habang siya ay nasa Pilipinas. Kung sinabi ni Heidegger na ang Da-sein ay naglalakbay patungo sa posibilidad, ayon sa kaibigan ko, mas ramdam niya na ang buhay niya dito sa Pilipinas ay patungo sa wala.  Parang ganito rin ang binanggit ni Heidegger nang ipinanukala niya na ang buhay ng tao ay sadyang papunta sa wala, ibig sabihin, lahat tayo, lahat ng sa atin ay lilipas din. Gayunman, hindi ibig sabihin nito na ang ating pagsisikap maging ganap, maging totoo ay  maaari nating ipagwalang bahala. Sa katunayan, dahil nga lahat ay lilipas din, mas mahigpit ang ating pangangailangan ng makapag-iwan ng lagda ng ating pagiral. Sa ganito naiiba ang pag-iral ng Da-sein; sa ganito rin siya mas nagiging ganap at totoo. Nakikisangkot ang Da-sein sa panahon at tinutugis ang kanyang posibilidad dahil nga batid niya na bukas makalawa ay wala na siya. Ang pagiging pansamantala mismo ng panahon ang naguudyok sa Da-sein na makilahok, na yakapin ang bawat sandali, na salubungin sa halip na hintayin lamang ang posibilidad na nabibilang sa kanya.  Dahil dito, masasabi natin na sadyang may malapit na kaugnayan ang kalinga at bagabag. Ang kalinga ay tugon sa udyok ng posibilidad. Ito ay isang malikhaing pagtupad sa ating pagiging itinapon. Ang pagkalinga ay pagtalima ng Da-sein sa posibleng mangyari sa kanya.  Nagpapamalas siya ng kalinga sapagkat naniniwala siya na mayroong mangyayari. Ang kalinga samakatwid ay nakatuon sa posibilidad at hindi sa isang teritoryong geograpikal. Kaya nga kung kinakailangang lisanin ng isang Filipino ang sariling bansa, ginagawa niya ito dahil itinapon ang Da-sein upang kalingain ang sariling posibilidad.  Ang pagkatapon samakatwid sa Da-sein ay hindi nangangahulugan ng pagkakapinid sa bakuran ng isang bansa. Ang pagkatapon ng Da-sein ay pagiging laan sa iba’t ibang posibleng mangyari na tanging Da-sein lamang ang makakabatid sa paraang siya lamang ang makakahanap.  Kung walang nangyayari at kung walang nakikita sa kanyang buhay, dito makakaramdam ng bagabag ang Da-sein. Nababagabag siya sapagkat nababanaag niya ang wala: walang pag-asa, walang pagkakataon, walang kinabukasan, walang pagbabago.  Ang lahat ng ito ay pahiwatig ng wala.  Ayon kay Heidegger, hindi natin nakikita ang wala mismo.  Nababanaag lamang natin ito sa mga bagay-bagay na tila ba unti-unting humuhulagpos sa ating mga kamay o sa paligid na waring naglalaho sa ating paningin: sweldong ayaw tumaas, presyong ayaw bumaba, trapik na hindi malutas, kontratang hindi maisara. Sa ganito nagpapamalas ang wala.  Sa harap nito, nababagabag ang Da-sein na baka walang mangyari.  Dalawa ang kanyang posibleng maging tugon: pag-ibayuhin ang kalinga o kaya tuluyang masadlak sa buhay na karaniwan.  Tinuturing ni Heidegger na karaniwan ang buhay na paulit-ulit; isang buhay na nakakulong sa sirkulo ng nakagawian na: natutulog, bumabangon, pumapasok, umuuwi, napapagod pagkatapos ay matutulog ulit, babangon ulit, papasok ulit, uuwi ulit, makakaramdam ulit ng pagod hanggang sa makatulog ulit at magpatuloy ang buhay na nakasanayan. Hindi ganito ang buhay ng Da-sein.  Kung tutuusin, positibo pa ngang maituturing ang pagpaparamdam ng wala.  Dahil dito, nauudyukan ang Da-sein na tumalima upang magpamalas ng kalinga. Silang nakaramdam ng udyok na ito, sila ang naglakas-loob na mangibang bayan upang hanapin ang buhay na mas totoo para sa kanila.

Ang hanap-buhay ng Pinoy samakatwid ay maaaring tingnan sa dalawang lebel.  Una, sa lebel na ontik, ibig sabihin, sa lebel ng karaniwan nating pagkaunawa kung ano ang hanap-buhay – walang iba kundi ang paghahanap ng ikabubuhay.  Sa ordinaryong karanasan, ang paghahanap ng ikabubuhay ay bahagi ng ating pagtanggap sa mundo bilang mundo at sa ating tadhana bilang itinapon.  Nagugutom tayo kaya kailangang kumain; nabibilad sa araw kaya kailangan ng silungan; nangangarap kaya kailangang mag-aral.  Lahat ng ito ay kailangang tustusan ng salapi kaya malaking bagay sa kahit sino man na magkaroon ng permanente at maayos na hanap-buhay.  Ang hanap-buhay sa ontik na pagkaunawa ang nagbibigay ng materyal na katiyakan sa pagmemeron ng tao.

Maliban dito, may isa pang kahulugan ang hanapbuhay; ang hanap-buhay sa ontolohikal na kahulugan.  Ibig sabihin nito, ang paghahanap ng buhay na makabuluhan at may pinaglalaanan.  Ang ontolohikal na hanap-buhay ay higit pa sa trabaho.  May mga taong kumikita ng malaking salapi subalit nananatiling salat sa loob dahil hindi pa nila nasusumpungan ang buhay na totoo para sa kanila. Marami sa ating mga kababayan na nakaalis na at matagal nang naninirahan sa ibang bansa ngunit hanggang ngayo’y waring dayuhan pa rin sa kanilang sarili sapagkat bagamat nakatuntong na sila sa lugar na kanilang gustong puntahan, ramdam nila na mayroon silang hindi pa nararating. Sa gitna ng akala nilang katuparan ng kanilang pangarap, naroon pa rin ang pakiramdam na hanggang ngayon tila ba sila’y namamamahay pa rin.

Sa isang banda, tila mas mahirap pa ang kanilang kalagayan kaysa sa mga taong naiwan dito sa Pilipinas.  Oo nga’t mahirap ang buhay dito; oo nga’t salat sa maraming bagay subalit parang mas malalim ang hiwa sa loob nilang nandayuhan sa ibang bansa. Bagamat walang bansa ang Meron at ang pagkatapon sa atin ay walang pinipiling rehiyon, hindi rin naman maikakaila ang malaking kaugnayan ng mundong pumapaligid sa atin at sa ating totoong pag-iral. Ito ang dahilan kung bakit para kay Heidegger, walang anomang lugar na maglalapit sa kanya sa Meron kundi ang Alemanya sampu ng kanyang tula, ng kanyang kasaysayan, ng kanyang mga awitin, maging ng kanyang mga kagubatan at kapatagan.  Gayunman, hindi nangangahulugan na mas malapit sa Meron silang hindi nangibang bayan at nagpaiwan dito sa Pilipinas.  May kani-kanyang lakbay ang bawat isa at sa kanila, iba-iba rin ang pagdanas ng Meron.  Ang tanging pagkakatulad ng Pinoy sa isa’t isa, mangibang bayan man o dito manirahan, ay ang bagay na lahat sila ay naghahanap-buhay: nagnanais kumita at naghahangad makakita. May malaking pagkakaiba ang malaking sweldo sa ibang bansa at ang pagtitiis sa kakaunti dito sa Pilipinas subalit alin man sa kanila’y maaaring maging daan papalapit o papalayo sa Meron. Kung tunay na mayroong pilosopiyang Filipino, dito dapat magsimula ang kanyang salaysay – sa penomenolohiya ng hanap-buhay ng Pinoy.

First Philosophy

Philosophy is a government-mandated course in Brazil.  Not only is it a mandated course, the law requires it for all high school students.  So even before they take up philosophy in college, Brazilian high school students have had three-years worth of studying philosophy.

I read this interesting fact from Carlos Fraenkel’s article “Citizen Philosophers: Teaching Justice in Brazil” published in the January/February 2012 online issue of the Boston Review. The webpage said that the article will be part of  Fraenkel’s forthcoming book entitled Teaching Plato in Palestine. The bottomline, as written by Fraenkel, is that the government believes philosophy is crucial in propagating citizenship education. Brazil believes that its citizens will be better off when they are able to think critically, to form well-reasoned judgments, to be conversant in social and political issues and to be engaged in the pursuit of justice through the discipline that philosophy provides them. The program has had its own of critics but one cannot deny the overwhelming support it enjoys particularly from the economically-challenged sector of Brazilian society.

Those among us who grew up in the 80’s will probably remember how it was for Brazil during those years.  Like the Philippines, it also suffered under an oppressive regime, the economy was bankcrupt, poverty rate was at rock bottom and peace and order situation always threatened the country with collapse.  Like the Philippines, Brazil was also able to shake off the dictatorship which used to rule it but unlike the Philippines, it has outgrown by lightyears the poverty and instability of the past. Brazil is part now of the so-called G20, an informal alignment of the top 20 economies worldwide.  Global rankings have always given Brazil the highest rating in terms of human development, governance, education and employment. As an exclaimation point to what it has achieved, Brazil was recently likewise bestowed  the honor of hosting of two major global events: the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016.

This is Brazil.  What we find at the other side of the continent, in Northern America, is exactly the opposite.  In the same Boston Review, published on its April 5, 2011 issue, Todd Edwin Jones, Chair of the Department of Philosophy of  University of  Las Vegas, Nevada, decried in his article “Budgetary Hemlock: Nevada Seeks To Eliminate Philosophy” the university decision to phase out the entire philosophy deparment of  ULVN due to budget cuts.  This is no isolated event. British philosopher AC Grayling of University of London and Oxford University established his own College of Humanities in the face of the same funding reduction for humanities imposed by the administration of David Cameron.  We find here a rather curious juxtaposition between philosophy and economy.  Societies on the rise are more friendly with philosophy. Societies in decline are the ones who think it is superflous. Have they lost love of wisdom due to societal decline? Or does the society decline because it has ceased loving wisdom long ago? We must remember that Athens fell not because of Socrates’ death.  Socrates died because Athens has lost her moorings and the only tragic consolation it could afford was the death of the one who cared for her the most.

These things come to mind in the light of K+12 being contemplated by the Philippine government and its possible repercussions on university education  in general and philosophy in particular.  The UST Department of Philosophy is optimistic that the first university in Asia which created the first ever philosophy program the same year it was founded will not be the first to turn its back on philosophy.