Saturday, May 20, 2017

What is Language? (A Short Review of Hermeneutics)

What is language? Let us begin with this simple but difficult question. It is perhaps one of the most important questions ever asked in the history of Western philosophy. It is an investigation that opens a whole gamut of issues. The question, I suppose, is at par with the greatest metaphysical problem out there – what is being

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Iris Marion Young's "Justice and the Politics of Difference"

(Keynote 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. Instead, it will attempt to refine the procedural 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’, by 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)

This paper will be a short exposition of some of the most important concepts in the philosophy of technology: Enframing, Actor Network Theory, the Megamachine, Artificial Intelligence, and the Device paradigm. The paper will conclude with the Critical Theory of Technology.

1. Enframing

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 says, is entrapped in this mode of being in the world which he calls Gestell or Enframing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Michel Foucault: Three Works (An Analysis)

Michel Foucault, who was the Professor of the History of the Systems of Thought at the College de France, is considered as the most influential thinker in recent memory. His works have a profound influence on psychology, feminism, history, and the social sciences. His theory of truth as "power relations" presents the critical perspective of the post-structuralist approach to epistemology, ethics, and economics as the science of man, demystifying all that we have come to believe about the way things are.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Some Notes on Political Philosophy

Political philosophy, as a reaction to social pathologies, enunciates how human thought seeks to address one of the most important questions known to man since the ancient times: What is the meaning of justice? Indeed, poverty is one of the biggest scandals of modernity. In the words of Enrique Dussel, "philosophy must ponder what is not philosophical - reality itself."[1]

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Rebuttal to "The End of Faith"

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 any 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

According to St. Thomas, “God is simply the act of existing,”[1] and this makes clear the idea that God as the most perfect being means that God is the First Cause. Without a God as prime mover, everything in the world would only be contingent. Contingent beings have one necessary attribute, and that is they start as non-being in the beginning, hence they lack the requisite perfection, and as such, they must be created by something that already is. If everything is contingent, as St. Thomas’ third proof would suggest, then nothing could come to exist.

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 cannot be 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 fundamental locus of attention in any philosophical investigation. No human being has a pre-ordained destiny, and for this reason it is important to examine the rootedness of oppression and other forms of human injustice in our culture. Enrique Dussel traces all problems in Third World societies to the egocentric nature of Western thinking.  History, he says, is all about “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 very 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.

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.

Friday, March 4, 2011

On Amartya Sen's "Development as Freedom"

“Development as freedom,” in the work of Amartya Sen, means that the achievement of human well-being is “commensurate to the amount of freedom people do enjoy”. The lack thereof, due to cultural or political impediments, most especially among women, curtails the very meaning of life. But what is the meaning of human life? Crucial to the answer of this question, I think, is to be able to consider in the first place, why one asks such a question. The question is asked not because there are ends that human beings desire. The question is posed because without this question, the ends with which we position ourselves don’t have any meaning at all.

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

The Catholic Church argues that abortion is morally wrong because “the one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life.” (Pope John Paul II, 2003) The position of the Church is clear. Human life begins from the very moment of conception. This means that "no period from the moment of conception and along the path of embryonic and fetal development can be drawn to merit a moral justification for abortion on the basis of the right to privacy" or freedom of choice of the mother, "unless the life of the mother is in danger."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rights and Animal Welfare

Some people have very 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 in 32 days, many of them dying due to the difficult conditions in poultry farms. And of course, some people slaughter dogs and torture them before they are finally served in the dining table. So we ask – Do nonhuman animals possess rights? Do they deserve respect for life? While they do not have the moral rights and legal entitlements that humans are given, is there a basis for suggesting that they should not be abused? How do we morally evaluate the status of animals?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Positive and Negative Democracy: An Essay on Human Freedom

(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

Thomas Nagel thinks that global justice is not a moral issue. It is strictly political, he argues. Justice for him is anchored in associative relations that do not impose moral obligations on citizens with respect to how they are to relate to outsiders. This paper counters that argument. By citing historical injustices and by looking into the reality of unjust global structures today, it will be argued that the problem of global justice necessitates that people should take a moral stand.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Meaning of Liberal Equality

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 basic moral worth of the person, for ultimately, the person can be used in order to achieve maximum utility.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Can the word "God" be meaningful?

(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: 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

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s (1889-1951) Tractatus logico-philosophicus is a difficult book. But this should not prevent us from examining its important insights. This work is an attempt to grapple with Wittgenstein’s first book, the only one published during his lifetime. Although the goal of the Tractatus in constructing a logically perfect language is a mission impossible, it yields important philosophical points of view explaining the relationship between language, logic, and reality worthy of our philosophical scrutiny.We have lifted several epigrams from the Tractatus. An explanation follows each epigram.

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

(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

(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).”