Sunday, January 22, 2012

The very idea of Filipino philosophy final

[The first part is here. The second part is here. This third installment pretty much completes the draft of the paper I wrote. The full title of this draft was "The very idea of Filipino philosophy in Mercado: Philosophy or having deep thoughts about the world?". ]

I have one further problem with method. Mercado’s (1985: 66-7) “comparative oriental philosophy” seemingly depends on a seemingly unacknowledged debt to the later Wittgenstein by talking of “family resemblance” and that “… the meaning of a word depends upon its usage.” Putting it charitably, Mercado’s “comparative oriental philosophy” is just about the comparison of ideas. Also “comparative oriental philosophy” depends very little on the later Wittgenstein.  “Family resemblance” and “..the meaning of a word depends on its usage” appear to be notions just mentioned and with no apparent significance. Mercado (1985: 71-2) claims that Filipino philosophy  is non-dualistic by only comparing and contrasting it to Chinese philosophy. I map out his comparison as:
Similarities of Filipino and Chinese
1. Harmony with oneself, others, with nature and with the Other world.

Differences of Filipino and Chinese
1. Yin and Yang are only in the Chinese.
2. In Confucian thought, males are prioritized.
3. In Filipino thought, there is more gender equality.
4. The Chinese have the Five Agents or Elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth).
5. Item number 4 is absent in Filipino.
From this comparison, Mercado (1985: 72) imputes philosophical importance by writing that doing comparative oriental philosophy is already fruitful. That is, by comparing one might see what is unique in Filipino philosophy. However, I do not see a need to even call or consider such product as “comparative oriental philosophy.” Instead, one may speak here of a comparing and contrasting ideas, but its uniqueness and importance is lacking. One may compare and contrast an apple and an orange, and myself liking oranges more, would impute importance to what makes oranges more unique than apples.
            Perhaps more significantly since Mercado’s method are Western, if one follows his claim that the adoption of Western models of understanding is disastrous9 then how can his own approach to his conception of Filipino philosophy not be disastrous? Unless Mercado redefines his conception of Filipino philosophy, then it follows that this also leads to disaster. Of course, what Mercado means by “disaster” is still unclear.

            I believe that Leonardo Mercado, in one way or the other, has contributed to the discussions in philosophy, especially discussions on Filipino philosophy. I can also say that Mercado is a philosopher whatever problems in method he may have had that I tried to show in the previous section. However, following his conception of Filipino philosophy as diwa, Mercado cannot be a Filipino philosopher. Mercado would be at most a personality in philosophy and this is something that is counterintuitive to me.
            The methods Mercado uses and his justification for such methods only buttress the idea that such belong in the social sciences. It is in the social sciences like anthropology and sociology that one may be said to interpret and validate anthropological and sociological data. While philosophers may give insights to such data, it is not the job of the philosopher to validate sociological data so as to aid in prediction and control.
            One of Mercado’s (1985: 61) mysterious claims that “various development attempts [using Western methods10]--has mostly been disastrous”, if correct would also apply to him. Mercado’s methods are Western, especially phenomenology (phenomenology of behavior), pointless comparison with trite assertions seemingly culled out of context from the later Wittgenstein (comparative oriental philosophy), and “metalinguistic analysis”. 
Maybe it is true that many different kinds of individuals have “deep thoughts about the world.” But they are not all thought up of by philosophers. One finds novelists and poets in literature with deep thoughts. One finds scientists in the social and natural sciences with deep thoughts. What “deep thoughts” mean I have left unanswered. Different disciplines have ways of determining whether that “depth of thought” has any application or whether it is applicable to such a discipline. Mercado may leave us with the idea that Filipinos have “deep thoughts” about the world but not Filipino philosophy as he conceives of it.

[Here's a partial reference list on Mercado:
Mercado, Leonardo.1974. Elements of Filipino philosophy. Tacloban City: Divine Word Publications.
________. 1977. Applied Filipino philosophy. Tacloban City: Divine Word Publications.
________. 1985. A synthesis of Filipino thought. Karunungan 2
________. 1992. Kagandahan: Filipino thought on beauty, truth and good. Karunungan 9
________. N.d. Synthesis.]]

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