Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Politics of Nation-Building

World War II did not only demolish the social, economic, and moral fabric of human society. It also erased man’s faith in reason itself. The rise of fascism and Nazism in modern day Europe meant that human beings no longer believed in reasonableness. Even the most learned have surrendered their destiny into the hands of a cruel despot and evil tyrant in Adolf Hitler who inflicted inhuman atrocities to the powerless. The Philippines is not unfamiliar with the ills of modern civilization. The country too has suffered under a ruthless regime.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

What is Language? (A Short Review of Hermeneutics)

Structuralism was influenced by the developments in the science of anthropology, which has made the novel attempt to study language objectively in the same manner as the human artifact in the field of cultural anthropology. Structuralism, whose origins can be traced to the works of Ferdinand de Saussure, was intended “to be a human science, imbued with the full rigor and objectivity of the natural sciences, just as Freud had intended psychoanalysis to be a science of the human psyche.” (Johnson 2002, 228)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Social Justice and the Politics of Difference

(Public Lecture, 5th Philosophers' Rally, Ateneo de Davao University, 2017)

The philosophical itinerary of this inquiry will not seek to offer an alternative theory of justice to that of Rawls. But instead, it will attempt to rework the requirements[1] in the Rawlsian starting point and reconstruct its normative content in order to include situated and historical contexts. It will revise the ahistorical nature of the Rawlsian ‘original position’, using the context of a ‘politics of difference’, taking into account the reality of unfair ‘positional differences’ in society.[2]

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Some Important Concepts in the Philosophy of Technology

(Plenary Lecture, 6th Social Ethics Society Conference, Secdea Resort, 2016)

For Martin Heidegger, the relation between modern technology and humans appears to be a technical one. Technology is firstly a means to an end. It can be roughly described in terms of the efficiency of devices. But Heidegger finds this description inadequate. Modern technology, for Heidegger, in fact, is a mode of revealing. Man, he argues, is entrapped in this mode of being in the world which he calls Gestell or Enframing.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Modern Liberalism and the Challenge from Communitarianism

(Public Lecture, World Philosophy Day, University of San Carlos, 2014)

The role of political philosophy in contemporary times has remained intact, and it is to address the most important political question known to man since the ancient times: What is the meaning of justice? The socialism we find in Marxism is a philosophy not just of protest or criticism, but a moral philosophy of detailing the struggle for equality that seeks to transform political structures. Liberal democracy right now may or may not provide the answer. But this is only because there is really no fool-proof moral prescription to the problem of social justice.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Faith and Reason in the Secular Age

The End of Faith by Sam Harris (2004) presents a brand of atheism that is quite radical in terms of attitude and its hatred for God. This is understandable, considering that it emerged out of the secular age and the vast advances brought about by science which render faith in God dispensable and intellectually superfluous. In this paper, I will summarily dismiss the contentions of Harris by presenting the unity of faith and reason in the secular age.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Virtual Reality and Social Media

(Conference Paper, PHAVISMINDA Conference, University of San Carlos, 2014)

This paper is an attempt to investigate virtual reality and online social media. It tackles the power and limits of online technology, analyzes the importance of online social media to democratic citizenship, and its capacity to create wealth in the consumer world. However, it also argues that online relationships somehow reduce humans into cyborgs and more fundamentally, it asserts that online technology – that flat world[1] phenomenon as Thomas Friedman calls it – has only increased the huge divide between rich and poor.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Dictatorship of the Old Order

(Conference Paper, PHAVISMINDA Conference, Visayas State University, 2013)

Political relations define the state of affairs of a nation. Where a country is immature politically, its people will naturally desire or cry for justice from their government. The poor, who lack the requisite resources for a life well-lived, have no other means except to kneel before their leaders. Development is impossible if people are denied access to or are excluded from the just distribution of social goods. People starving and queuing for food assistance indicate the enormous inequalities that systemic political elitism can create.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The God Question

This paper discusses three of the most celebrated essays in the philosophy of religion, namely, Ludwig Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity, JAT Robinson’s Can a Contemporary Person not be an Atheist?, and Bertrand Russell’s Why I am not a Christian. I seek to amplify the logic and rationale behind these works while intending to initiate the reader to the basic assumptions of the authors. I will begin with some preliminary remarks on the philosophers, and specific commentaries on the essays will follow. I will attempt to provide a common ground and my counter-argument to the three positions on the God question in the conclusion.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The God Particle


The recent report regarding the discovery of the Higgs boson may put theology and philosophy to task. The claim of the ardent followers of theoretical physics is that this latest scientific achievement may finally resolve the answer to the biggest question out there – the beginning of everything. This paper discusses this basic insight. More importantly, it will consider the moral ramifications of the same and in particular, its relation to the problem of evil. However, the discovery of the "God particle", now the crowning glory of particle physics, presents a strong case against St. Thomas, for scientists at CERN may have finally put that final piece of the greatest puzzle out there – the very origin of the universe, one that seeks to bridge the gap between between ‘nothingness and reality’.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Hari ng Tondo", Asiong Salonga, Carla Abellana and the Aesthetics of Arthur Schopenhauer

“Hari ng Tondo” is a song by Gloc 9, featuring the alluring voice of Denise Barbacena, a rhythmic adventure that brings into the open a resounding depiction of the life story of Nicasio Asiong Salonga (1924-1951), a notorious gang leader, born and raised in Tondo, with all the acrimony, celebration and parody worthy to mention in any story that interests the mortal in us. Splendid in its portrayal of the criminal world, we thus borrow from Arthur Schopenhauer, who says, "nature is not divine, but demonic" (WR, p.349).

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rights-based Approach to Teaching Ethics

(Conference Paper, Implementing Business Ethics, Ateneo de Manila University, 2012)

The rights-based paradigm can be paired with the capability approach to advance a broader perspective in the teaching of moral philosophy. For students to realize the importance of moral choice in truly democratizing human development, they must have a clear-cut understanding of their most basic or foundational human rights. For instance, the tension between economic growth and climate justice must be seen beyond mere abstraction. The rights-based approach intends to enhance ethical reflection as it links moral issues to crucial aspects of human well-being, enabling students to recognize their indispensable role and stake on important social issues and problems.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Problem of Child Labor

Domination is not a necessary fact of human life. Most analysis on human injustice focus on causal links or the empirical without due regard for systemic wrong. This undermines the human being who is the moral locus of attention in a philosophical investigation. No human being has a pre-ordained destiny, and for this reason it is truly important to examine the rootedness of oppression and other forms of exploitation in modern society. Enrique Dussel points to the egocentric logic of the Western mind.  History, for him, is “the space of a world within the ontological horizon is the space of a world center, of the organic, self-conscious state that brooks no contradictions because it is an imperialist state.” (Dussel 1985, 2)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Social Justice and the Dignity of the Poor

In The Filipino Search for Meaning (1974), Fr. Vitaliano Gorospe, S.J., poses this fundamental point of inquiry: "How many Filipinos are really free to take into their own hands their own development and destiny and achieve by their own efforts the full human life to which they aspire?" (p.427) This question above is crucial in the issue of social justice. The ideal of social justice, as a matter of principle, is "based on the dignity of the human person", and incontrovertibly, includes "the relationship of the person to the material world and to the socio-economic structures of society." (p.438)

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Myth of Philippine Democracy

The Philippines as a nation is soaked in the blood of poor martyrs whose dream of a free country has been rendered almost impossible by a systemic disease. We do not even have a real representative form of government. The requisites of a democratic society – free and fair elections, civil liberties and respect for human and economic rights, are not enjoyed by the poor who constitute the majority in Philippine society. Three hundred years of domination has put the country into the brink of near death, unable to find its identity, its future destroyed by the remnants of the past.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Democracy and Human Development

(Conference Paper, PHAVISMINDA Conference, Ilo-ilo City, 2011)

In this paper, I will argue that while the democratic rights and entitlements of people are important, it matters how people are really able to fully use them, and how they use them depends on their sense of self-worth. The basic point is that to make democracy work, it must be stressed that democratic procedures alone do not guarantee the creation of a just or well-ordered society. In this sense, I will explain the important distinction between procedural and substantive democracy. If democracy is meant to serve the moral ends of society, then it must benefit ordinary people. Human development begins with the kind of choices people make and these choices are a reflection of the substantive freedoms people have and enjoy. Democratic institutions need to be repaired and strengthened, but this requires more than the improvement of constitutional provisions. The value of true democracy then depends on how people value their dignity as human beings.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Human Rights and Moral Education

(Conference Paper, PHAVISMINDA Conference, Tangub City, 2009)

What is moral education? This is the unpleasant question that I will examine in this paper. My intention is to bring into the open the root cause of all the evil pervading Philippine society. This paper puts into contrast, anxious of its possible failure, but hopeful of its potential, the humanist and the communitarian traditions that have inspired the search for the Filipino spirit. In terms of method, I will use Western philosophers and Filipino thinkers, hoping that the end result would enable us to play with the response to the question, and provide an opening to the window that leads us forth to the many possibilities of social change.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Abortion and Human Dignity

When does life begin? Conception happens when a male cell (spermatozoon) fertilizes the female cell (the ovum). It then becomes a zygote. This zygote contains the full genetic code of twenty-three pairs of chromosomes. Afterwards, the zygote undergoes the process of cell division. The zygote then grows then moves through the fallopian tube and gradually implants itself in the uterine wall.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rights and Animal Welfare

Some people have bad habits. For instance, pigs are transported in decrepit trailers or trucks, their bodies cut with blades to identify them. Chickens are grown at a fast rate so that they can be consumed after 23 days while raised in the difficult conditions of poultry farms. And of course, some people slaughter dogs and torture them before they are finally served on the dining table.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Positive and Negative Democracy

(Public Lecture, Ateneo Jubilee Lecture Series, Ateneo de Davao University, 2009)

Starvation, says 1998 Nobel Laureate for Economics Amartya Sen, “is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat”, not the fact of “there being not enough food to eat” . Consequently, he says that poverty is not the case of people’s “lack of income”, but rather, is “a matter of capabilities deprivation” . Income and other social primary goods are only suggestive of what people have or do not have – not of who they really are or of what they are capable of doing. Income, therefore, should not be suggestive of the kind of life a person is to live.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Question of Global Justice

The hegemonic relation between North and South needs no further restatement. While Kwame Anthony Appiah has argued quite well that the West is actually not what you think it is, the traditional powers in the world nonetheless continue to dominate the global order. The brutal reality is that there remains an unjust imbalance in global trade, the exclusion of others in the movement of people, and the military positioning of dominant states in some parts of the world.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Meaning of Liberal Equality

(Public Lecture, Philosophy Day, Notre Dame University, Cotabato City, 2010)

Classical utilitarianism argues that the basic moral value is utility or welfare. The basic moral good in this sense is that which is most beneficial. As such, the moral act is one that is aimed at the achievement of material satisfaction or gain. The human person, in this regard, is only secondary. The right act is always the achievement of the optimum benefit. This undermines the moral worth of the person, for ultimately, the person can be used in order to achieve maximum utility.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Logical Positivism's Critique of Metaphysics

(Seminar Paper, Ateneo Philosophy Symposium, Xavier University, 1997)

1. Language, Truth, and Logic, a book written by Alfred Jules Ayer in 1936, is considered as something to popularize what may be called the classic position of the Vienna Circle. (PHP) Ayer, being one of the foremost members of the Vienna Circle, just like other logical positivists, is attracted to the methods of science. A follower of Auguste Comte, a 17th century French philosopher, Ayer argued that because of the essential character of language, metaphysics is impossible. According to Ayer, metaphysicians are working on literally senseless writings without even seeing them as non-sense. Since what goes beyond phenomena cannot be verified, then what goes beyond phenomena cannot be meaningfully described.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Moral Selves and Politics as a Crisis of Meaning

(Seminar Paper, Ateneo Philosophy Symposium, Ateneo de Zamboanga, 2005)

Human existence finds at the very core of its being that it is perpetually underway to language. According to the French Philosopher Paul Ricoeur, it is through language that the responsible human subject is revealed, a subject who speaks and acts in a world that is immersed in constant conflict, a subject who continuously suffers in life but still desires to live. The human person is this never-ending desire to be.The human subject is always a mystery, and thus, he is to be understood indirectly. Human existence demands a detour through language.

Notes on the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

1. The world is all that is the case.

The world is the sum total of all state of affairs. Truth belongs to the world, and what is beyond it cannot be expressed. To express the meaning of the world means to express what can be said about it.For logical atomists, reality consists of objects. “Only objects exist, and ideas are mere mental copies of objects.” (PA) Multiplicities have to be admitted since this is the actual state of affairs of things.The statement also expresses the limitation of human knowing. Since the world is all that is the case, the object of human knowledge is limited to what can be known in the world.Thus, what can only be meaningful is the world and everything that can be said about it. The world exists like a compendium of facts, and language, that tool that describes what the world is like, presents the world into a form that makes communication and understanding possible.

Wittgenstein's Mature Philosophy of Language

(Seminar Paper, Ateneo Philosophy Symposium, Xavier University, 2002)

1. Analytic philosophy began as a reaction to F.H. Bradley. Bradley’s monistic idealism essentially destroys all contentions of multiplicity. For Bradley, all of reality is the content of one mind, the Absolute. The absolute is the reality. All objects belong to one and only one substance, the Absolute.Bertrand Russell rejected F.H. Bradley’s ideas, henceforth, the birth of logical atomism. Russell, in reaction against F.H. Bradley, says that the world consists of objects. Generally, the following illustrate the claims of logical atomism: first, that objects truly exist apart from the mind (extra-mental); secondly, that only objects exist; ideas exist in the mind (intra-mental); and lastly, that real objects are to be determined logically. (PA)Language, according to atomists, is truth-functional. A compound proposition is the truth-function of its constituent parts.

Perspective, Ideology and Social Reality in the Aesthetic Theory of Georg Lukacs

(Conference Paper, PHAVISMINDA Conference, Silliman University, 2007)

What is the function of a writer[1]? Consequently, it can also be asked, what is the function of art? To the first question, the response shall be direct – the function of a writer is to reveal reality. It is the writer’s task to inform human consciousness of the reality of the world and to put forward a perspective of the human condition. The second question needs an indirect route, for we need to ask what is presupposed when any aesthetic formulation is conceived. To this, we say, that art must reveal the truth. Truth must be in art; art must be in truth.

Childhood in the Margins: Levinas and the Mortality of the Face

(Conference Paper, PHAVISMINDA Conference, Camiguin, 2005)

Emmanuel Levinas elaborates in his magnum opus, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, the groundwork for an ethics of the human face, “choosing as basis, the ethical basis of society, the self’s responsibility for the other”1. For Levinas, the face, which is a metaphor for the other, refers “to the poor, the stranger, the abandoned, the orphan”[i], or put simply, the suffering man who is left in the margins, hungry, and dying. The face, the marginalized, reminds us of our responsibility. The “I’ only finds its meaning when it answers the call of the other. To be responsible means to proclaim that the “I” in the here and now is an “I” that says, “I am for you”.

Language, Being and Transcendence

Language, according to Heidegger, is the house of Being (Heidegger 1977, 193). It is the place where Being presents itself to Dasein (There-Being); Dasein is the place whereby Being makes itself accessible to man. Language, in this sense, is constitutive of the man’s being-in-the-world (Sallis 1993, 357). Man, as Dasein, has the fundamental character of thrownness. By being thrown into the world, it is through man whereby the Being of beings becomes manifest. It is through man whereby Being is known. Metaphysics, says Heidegger, is the basic occurrence of Dasein (Heidegger 1977, 112). For Heidegger, Dasein dwells on the disclosure of Being through the nothing (the unsaid in human speech), which stands as its groundless ground and source of meaning. The nothing, Heidegger, says, makes possible the openness of beings (Ibid., 105). This openness comes to man in language, for Being “is perpetually under way to language (Ibid., 239).”