Monday, May 21, 2007

The search for Filipino Philosophy



Is there a Filipino Philosophy? I read an essay titled “Doing Philosophy in the Philippines” by Dr. Afredo P. Co and his answer to this question can be summarized this way: Since the Philippines is a melting pot of cultures brought about by invasions, missionaries, trade etc. the Philippines has no distinctive and native philosophy to speak of. He goes on to say that the Philippines is a Spanish creation and an amalgam of east, west, north, south, Christian, pagan, Malayan, Muslim etc. cultures. “Ours is the identity of the new age—ambivalent, polymorphous, processual, always becoming.” According to Dr. Co, philosophy as a formal discourse is a Spanish import. Dr. Co is writing with a postmodern perspective. (His essay is part of an essay collection titled “Two Filipino Thomasian --from the University of Stro. Thomas and not Aquinas--Philosophers on Postmodernism.”)

I don’t know if I’m (an old college student) qualified to challenge a professional philosopher’s essay but since Dr. Co is not reading this blog, I’ll try with the knowledge that my arguments can be destroyed by the touch of his (or anyone’s’) pinky.

First what is the measure of a thing before it can be called a philosophy? Is it formalism? A system? Because if the search for the Filipino philosophy is the search for a philosophy patterned after the Graeo-Roman-Jewish-English-German etc. system of Philosophy then the wrong instrument is being used. What one will find is a Graeco-Roman etc. philosophy because there’s a template, a fingerprint already at hand to act as a reference to whatever is being searched, hence to fail to measure up to that reference meant failure in identification. What tool must we use in searching for Filipino Philosophy? That is the first question in the exploration for the search for Filipino Philosophy. I think the western philosophical tools are inadequate or inappropriate for this task. Then what is? I don’t know but I think this is where Filipino thinkers must start.

One may ask, is there such philosophy without a system or a structure? This is one of the tasks of the philosopher also—to find and formulate a system or order from an existing, albeit primitive philosophy or potential philosophy. They criticize, deconstruct, reconstruct whatever it is that they do to philosophies in order to make it “presentable.”

Second, whether we like it or not, philosophy, to be recognized as a philosophy must have a founder, a champion, an innovator. It must have a thinker to attach it to. But Filipino’s has no recorded sage in the level of Plato, Confucius etc. But is that requisite for a philosophy to exist? We have no champion in philosophy because we have not searched all the individual cultures in the Philippines with diligence because if this is done, in their epics, in their poems, in their songs, in their myths there is and will always be champion of wisdoms. Mythical these people maybe but then again most philosophers especially Asians are mythical, or mystical. It must also be understood that some Asians philosophies became “recognized philosophies” because they are in part became political creatures in the form of governmental ethics.


Dr. Co has mentioned that there’s no such thing as native Filipino culture because there’s no culture to speak of in the first place; it was destroyed by foreign intrusion etc. I agree but that does not mean the Filipino’s lost all of it. We are an archipelago and the diversity of languages is a testament that there are survivors. I think what Dr. Co is thinking when he that we have no national language he may be referring to the death of the Alabata, the ancient Filipino alphabet. But as present history proves and the modern Filipino, the national language, is proving a national language is still in the process of being created because there exist a regionalistic mentality among the Filipinos. Yes, Filipino, the national language, is being taught and being used but there are still more Cebuano speakers than the Tagalog based Filipino.

Third, there’s this tendency to think of philosophy as abstracts and not practical. Hence what is considered articulation is verbal conceptual articulation. But it is that necessarily so. A practical people with practical language will have practical philosophy. A highly abstract people like the Greeks will have abstract philosophy. An organic people like the Chinese will have an organic philosophy. What is the measure then? Environment is a factor.

Fourth, is we tend to think of a Filipino Philosophy as a unified Filipino Philosophy. If I follow Dr. Co’s argument that the culture is preserved in its language it follows that since the Philippines has hundreds of languages then the search must be for Filipino Philosophies and not for the Filipino philosophy. Leonardo N. Mercado in his book “Applied Filipino Philosophy” tried to do a comparative study of Filipino philosophy by comparing local languages like his exploration of the word beauty ( aesthetics) and according to Dr. Co “Mercado is still on the level of comparing them but he has not established what can be categorically claimed as the Filipino Philosophy.” I think that Dr. Co is (not) forgetting that the Philippines is a country of many nations. There’s no “the Filipino Philosophy” there is “ Filipino Philosophies.”

Fifth, what is meant by formal philosophical discourse? Logical? Dialectical? Empirical? Pragmatic? Etc. Do we have to apply these things in search of Filipino Philosophy/ies?


Dr. Co’s concluding statement is I think fatalist. “As I said, you not need not worry any longer about the search for a Filipino philosophy, for when you philosophize with excellence, your articulation is bound to be recognized here and elsewhere, now or later. And since you are a Filipino philosophizing, then that philosophy of yours becomes Filipino.”

I don’t think a people can survive without culture, without philosophy. Tribes have ethics that must require sophisticated discourses and articulation, no matter how primitive they seemed to the highly abstract western philosophy, but they must for how can they survive? The search for Filipino Philosophies is a worthy enterprise. Although Dr. Co does not discourage this endeavor, it seems that he has already made up his mind as to what Filipino philosophy should be and is all about—skills in articulation, articulating other philosophies.

I have one suggestion, Why not start the explorations of Filipino Philosophies by exploring Filipino cuisine. I’m not joking. Mercado tried by exploring the Filipino’s sense of time, why not try, again, Pinoy cuisine.

It’s not a matter of nationalism or patriotism, but I think there is or there are native Filipino Philosophies to speak of. I can feel it because we Filipino have values and practices, an ethos and an ego that is uniquely ours. If there’s smoke there must be fire! There’s discourse in there, and definitely there’s Philosophy in there. It’s just that in the search we must invent the tools —that is, if we have to.

27 comments:

artist mind said...

sir your blog was really good, i just read it twice today & you really had a point of saying that Filipinoes had different philosophy from other culture maybe because we are mix race that's my conclusion. i wanna thank you cause i also had a research & your blog was really a big help, keep it up sir God bless!

faye said...

sir.. I learned so much from your blog.....it helped me in answering my Prelim Examination about Filipino Values...I am also a teacher..taking up masteral degree.Thank's for sharing your knowledge...

Anonymous said...

i am searching for filipino philosophy of education when i came accross your (philosophy...) I think messages like this will help a lot for people questioning what is imposed knowledge to them :-)

Will said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

everything that is , IS philosophy both the dr and you are wrong in arguing. Philosopy studies the fundamental o nature of existence, of man, and of an's relationship to existence. In the realm of cognition, the special sciences are the trees, but philosophy is the soil which makes the forest possible.

A philosophy is a comprehensive system of ideas about human nature and the reality we live in.It's a guide for living, because the issues it addresses are basic and pervasive, determining the course we take in life and how we treat other people. THE FILIPINO HAS A philosophy as all other does. No nto go into the "area" of metaphysics (the theory of reality)

kim said...

i have just read your blog about the search for filipino philosophy. it really helps me a lot in my studies. i am a philosophy student. one of my subjects now is filipino philosophy. what i am searching now is "the relevance of studying filipino philosophy". if you can write even a short essay about this topic, i am very much thankful for that..
this is my first time to read your blog..

lanz dugz said...

sir you made a nice blog and i appreciated it. sir i know that time will come that we filipinos will come up with our own philosophy. maybe in the next two or three centuries. its because us of now we are in the stage of discovering and digging out the filipino thought.

Anonymous said...

if dr. alfredo co will read ur blog, perhaps he'll said nothing, "he already created a space", he gained a doctorate in philosophy and has much right to publish such books concerning Filipino philosophy. however, i quite admire ur blog. i mean to say it and their is so much Filipino professors aside from Co that have published books about this subj. such as Dr. Emerita Quito, Dr. Romualdo Abulad, and Dr. Timbreza. They have diff. perspectives about Filipino philosophy, better read it. as dr. E. Quito said, it's up to us how we define philosophy that best applied in Philippine setting...

totomel said...

hello sir... i read dr. co's stance on filipino philosophy as well with dr. abulad elaboration for the search of it. they had the same weight as what you have been ruminating; and if discussed, may lead to an initiative for the search of Filipino philosophy. the question of whether it exist or not or it is subtle or perpetually inchoate may always linger especially that there is no parameter to start from. if we start from the greco-roman aspect, then filipino is just developing: it might have profundity but with no form as thomas mann would put it.then if we start on the mystical aspect of the oriental approach, then filipino philo may have been extant but will remain unconsciously knowned. i neither hold one argument to side on but weigh on the exact certitude on which it might enlighten some truth in it. but i really agree with your point that this topic should be brought up to dialogue with person concerned for only then that verity of our thought may be unravelled. afterall we are on the move to stand that filipinos have a distinct thought apart from what is commonly known.

i really like your blog. and if you wouldnt mind, may i have the honor to link you sir?

Anonymous said...

Each one has its own interpretation based oh his study, experience and intuition. As filipino its good to have our own Philosophy to be claimed as our own, that depicts our own value and thought.
Sir, what will be the scope when we say Filipino philosophy, because its a broad topic.thank you ang May God Bless us all!

Anonymous said...

he is my teacher also..OMG!!i dont know how to start this reaction paper for the karunungan book.. :(

Anonymous said...

My friend, Dr. Co is my teacher and I heard his side about this. He is trying to state that there is no Filipino Philosophy only, as brought about by the idea that the Filipino culture is composed of many cultures. He is not beating the idea that there is no such thing as "Filipino Philosophies." As far as Philosophy is concerned, anyone can Philosophize as long as you are rational or at least rational enough. You are creating an entirely new point and it's not beating Dr. Co's for you say that there is such a thing as "Filipino Philosophies" and no "Filipino Philosophy" and the idea that there is no "Filipino Philosophy" is exactly Dr. Co's point. He is arguing more on the side of the academe, that Filipinos can't have a Filipino Philosophy in its system as we philosophize in the manner and pattern of the west, etc. The point that I do not agree with is the point that there can not be a Filipino Philosophy, it is with certainty that there can be Filipino Philosophy in the academe, the point is, as for now, there is none yet.

Anonymous said...

We are all but recent leaves on the same old tree of life and if this life has adapted itself to new functions and conditions, it uses the same old basic principles over and over again. There is no real difference between the grass and the man who mows it. ~Albert Szent-Györgyi

thank you sir...
its help me alot interms of philosophizing about filipino philosophy, and i do believe that someday one of the filipino will become a great philosopher, actually im mastering philosophy course and if ever kindly help to pursue my goal by giving some suggestion regarding of this topic, eventually i already finish my first thesis defense and its so silly it's just all about metaphysical concept of freedom according to levinas fraterna et liberia...if you would like to reply you can drop by my email demystifyingme@rocketmail.com

TAJ said...

taj would say...

If we will base our argument on the way the ancient philosophers thought about Philosophy then there is a filipino philosophy, basing upon the modern thought then there is none.. it simply means that to say whether there is or none, it depends upon the person, if you think that to philosophize is to think, and if you think that you are thinking, then there is filipino philosophy if you are a filipino, and so on...

tnx...

Anonymous said...

OMG dr. co is my teacher in Logic. he is the best teacher ever! really. i just love him. the way he talks, the way he teaches and his stance...ohhh his stance. :) he is the best of the best that's all i could say i just hope that i could get at least 2.25 in his class. i did bad last prelims, but i know i will do better this finals. good luck to all of the students of dr. co. :) dr. co is the venerable master! XD

Anonymous said...

OMG dr. co is my teacher in Logic. he is the best teacher ever! really. i just love him. the way he talks, the way he teaches and his stance...ohhh his stance. :) he is the best of the best that's all i could say i just hope that i could get at least 2.25 in his class. i did bad last prelims, but i know i will do better this finals. good luck to all of the students of dr. co. :) dr. co is the venerable master! XD

Anonymous said...

In every tom's existence, at some pass‚, our inner throw goes out. It is then break asunder into passion by an contend with with another human being. We should all be glad for the duration of those people who rekindle the inner inspiration

Anonymous said...

In everyone's time, at some pass‚, our inner fire goes out. It is then bust into flame beside an be faced with with another magnanimous being. We should all be under obligation recompense those people who rekindle the inner inspiration

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I would have to disagree with this blog. To each of the author's point:

First, philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language.[1][2] It is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. Since there were no critical, systematic study/approach and reliance on rational argument documented or that we are aware of, the pre foreign-influence era approaches (if any existed) probably did not qualify to constitute philosophies.

Second, prior to foreign intrusion, Philippines had the tribal/austronesian cultures. Even if there were unstructured philosophies it is difficult to determine any was originated from the Philippines, or inherited from their Austranesian ancestors from outside of Philippines (quite likely the northerly islands like Japan or Taiwan where their ancestors came from).

Third, philosophies do have both abstract and practical aspects. After all, philosophical ideas reflect in one's behaviors, values and judgements.

Fourth, the Greeks and Chinese have always had many dialects/languages spoken throughout their history. Yet there are vast number of distinctively recognizable Greek and Chinese philosophers.

Fifth, people certainly can survive without culture. The human beings have been around for 30,000 years, how do you think they survived the first 25,000 or so without philosophies? I suppose you can argue most animal packs have philosophies as they all survived and seem to have some kind pack code of conducts or even ethics.

Samnak PJ Concepcion said...

Here's the "Ay, ay mali" case for Filipino philosophy by Samnak P.J. Concepcion.

Dr. Alfredo Co has stood out for his pearls of wisdom during our Artlets years. He's two years ahead of me. But like Dr. Co, I have searched for the truth and its meaning.

Has he thought about the word "ay" and the phrase "ay mali" as a proposition for the ubiquitous Filipino philosophy?

The phrase "Ay, ay mali" indicates the state of wonder or perplexity of the Filipino mind in its search for reason and the truth. Hence, the phrase sows the seeds of the Filipino philosophy.

Writer LOL, because can the phrase "Ay, ay mali" replace the Cartesian "Je pense donc je suis" or "Cogito ergo sum" in Filipino philosophy?

Contrary to Fr. Mercado's findings, the Filipino has the word "ay" for being. "Ay" serves as predicate for the subject. Further to his findings, the indefiniteness of the Filipino language show the infinite and selfless nature of the Filipino mind.

[I have said that there can be no Filipino soul in Filipino letters because the Filipino mind is selfless. Where/What is the Filipino soul in Filipino letters has been an academic question since my Artlets years.]

Continuing with the theme of the selfless nature of the Filipino, it has been shown by the gentle ancestors in the Tabon and Angono caves where the concept of a rational soul has never existed. I believe that they have survived not only through instinct, but also by observing a selfless moral code. Can that be the Filipino primitive philosophy?

Because the Filipino is selfless, he's at home in his eastern setting with the sages that have relied on intuition. And because the Filipino will perceive things and will separate them into existence and non existence, he's become the bastard rational son or daughter of the western thinkers.

If these assumptions are proved wrong, then there must be sufficient reason to doubt their truth. I bet ya the person that doubts is a Flipino that will say "Ay, ay mali." He/she has begun to philosophize and to exist.

Anonymous said...

for me its quit true that we cannot claim that we have our own. but we are now in the making...we have a lot of brilliant country men who are trying to come up with a Filipino philosophy. for the filipino philosophers out there let us support this endeavor.,.,mabuhay ang Pilipinas

John Luis Guades III cmf said...

i wish i was able to read this blog entry way back during my philosophy years and have published the thesis on my own blog that same year (2004) so that i could have taken your point in revising my paper three years after it was written... thank you very for giving me this idea to revise my work which i have just decided to post on my blog

Anonymous said...

i think mr co's assertion is stating the obvious: realizing that we dont really have any filipino philosophers.

George C. dela paz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Douglas Moore said...

Thank you for the interesting post. I know very little about the Philippines but have stumbled across a weird fact that has me intrigued, I start with the following question which has a very curious answer. What linguistic group of people in the world are the most active in querying the internet in the global search for knowledge? The answer is that the speakers of Tagalog are the most represented. To demonstrate this, go to Google Trends. Here, one can look at the social and geographical statistics for the use of keywords in queries.
(Google Trends can be found from Goolge.com then click more then even more and click Trends)
I first did a search on ‘Aristotle” and was surprised to see that Tagalog speakers searches were the most represented – by far. English was second. I then tried ‘Stoicism’ and got the same result. This, I thought was getting very intriguing. I had to look Tagalog up in Wikipedia to find out who spoke this language. What is going on here?
I then tried the following key words and Tagalog speakers came out on top every time.
Cosmology, Psychology, Philosophy, Theology, Epistemology, Marxism, Phenomenology, Sociology, communism.
Tagalog speakers are tops all the time. I tried ‘Socrates’ and found Portuguese and Spanish featuring higher. The fact that the Portuguese president was called Socrates would explain that.
I finally tried:
Chemistry, biochemistry, physics, English, mathematics, algebra, and even arithmetic.
Once again, Tagalog speakers were well on top with usually English coming a poor second.
Thus, as you say in your blog, the Filipinos are passionate about food but they also seem to be incredibly passionate about global encyclopaedic knowledge. – more so than any other peoples on the planet.
Can you explain this?

Anonymous said...

Filipinos are education-oriented, nowadays, Filipinos are even more oriented to be globally competitive in most fields. In the field of Philosophy, more seminarian-students (those who are trained to become priests) are the ones often searching for topics in Philosophy and Theology.
-levi (Divine Word Mission Seminary-QC, B-1997-

Anonymous said...

http://mysite.dlsu.edu.ph/faculty/gripaldor/articles/PDF/is_there_filipino_philo.pdf