Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Last part. Finally! I really owe a lot of these insights to my study group companions, Lewis, Izzy, Pia, Jen Simons, Cami, J.R., and Sarah Lee. They've been really great, insightful people, and I hope to be seeing them in the next schoolyear. :)

10. After two semesters of philosophy, we have the privilege of retrospect in asking this question: What is Philosophy? Lauer claims that Philosophy cannot be defined, for "the kind of reflection required for defining philosophy is itself philosophical. We can only know what philosophy is by doing it." In this case, we affirm; philosophy is an attitude that human beings bring with them in coming to terms with reality.

Philosophy, to Marcelle, cannot be defined in a final, arbitrary manner. Despite that, one may use a “working definition” (Though the word “definition” must be avoided, in actuality.) of sorts, as one performs philosophy, in order to further appreciate its value. This is what we mean by the privilege of retrospect in asking ourselves what Philosophy is all about. We recognize that Philosophy cannot be defined with finality, and that it is also a mystery in that respect. Saying so, however, does not mean we cannot say anything further about Philosophy, given that Philosophy is as Philosophy does. In this respect, we have two semesters of doing Philosophy backing us in order for us to elucidate an idea of how Philosophy has unconcealed itself to us thus far.

Defining Philosophy requires a kind of reflection that in itself is philosophical. Intriguingly, it is a rule of thumb that you cannot define something by itself. Philosophy seems to be the only pursuit of knowledge exempt from this idea. Other sciences can be arbitrarily defined, in that we need not speak of biology in a biological sense. We can speak of computer science in a binary manner, instead of using computer science itself to define computer science. The distinction that Philosophy holds in this respect is something that is both perplexing and worthwhile to contemplate upon. Philosophy, in this respect, is a cut above the rest.

Thus, because effectively reflecting on something, especially in the realm of secondary reflection, requires us to immerse ourselves in it, we must do the same in the realm of Philosophy. With this line of reasoning, we realize that the best way for us to know Philosophy is by doing it. Again, leading us back to the fact that Philosophy is as Philosophy does. There is no question that in our further immersion into Philosophical thought, we come to know what Philosophy is. In the very structure and form by which we undertake Philosophy, we realize that to designate it as a rigid discipline is hardly what is needed in order to realize the truth regarding the very nature of Philosophy. There have been, after all, countless ways wherein great philosophical thought has been made present, even in the most unlikeliest of circumstances, such as when one is under the influence of alcohol, or is contemplating whether or not he or she will commit suicide.

Any attempt to define Philosophy in a definitive sense kills Philosophy, for we must realize that to define it is to limit it. When we define Philosophy, we may say that since Philosophy is a mystery, a definition will “solve” this mystery. But we know for a fact that this is not the case. The more we attempt to do Philosophy and come to an understanding of it, the more questions we inadvertently ask, because Philosophy is not a given set of questions and answers. Philosophy requires us to ask profound questions, yes, but the profundity of our answer lies in how far it will take us down the quest to further know and comprehend truth. Philosophy, after all, is not merely a discipline that follows a strict procedure one cannot deviate from. The mere fact that there are so many ways to philosophize tells us that many people can look at a single phenomena and glean different insights, based on how this phenomena has related itself to each of them. It is like silence: when we speak the name of silence and attempt to define it to another, the silence dies.

Therefore, what we should do instead is to imbue into our mindset the “spirit that vivifies”. We speak of Philosophy not as something we can concretely explain and encase in an imaginary box. We are better off knowing Philosophy by applying Philosophical thought to our lives, and in the things that are revealed to us in our doing Philosophy. In the things revealed to us lies the very heart, or the very spirit of Philosophy, of which we acknowledge as our guide in further Philosophical thought. Yes, we are embarking in a process in this quest for truth, but this process is not yet finished, as it continues to develop in temporality. As we further use what devices we pick up from Philosophy to further our philosophizing, we then gain even more tools to further this process, as we see how Heidegger’s notion of truth being composed of a more basic truth is played out in temporal progression and development. In debating terms, there is a lot of leeway given in attempting to define a motion, thus, the definition is obviously not definitive in nature. In spite of this, one cannot just contradict the "spirit" of the motion, in that there is a general direction that this motion is attempting to progress into. With this in mind, the spirit of Philosophy indeed has great leeway as well, but it must be oriented in the desire to know reality. The quest for truth.

Thus, because this quest for truth is a never-finished process, and as human beings, we are attempting to discover and appreciate the truth in the interhuman, we must therefore carry this Philosophical attitude in our attempts to make heads and tails out of our lives. In our attempt to come to terms with reality, we certainly need a Philosophical attitude: one that is skeptical of appeals made to authority, or religion, or tradition, and see a more rational explanation behind the appeal. Being Philosophical, in that one searches for truth, means that this being skeptical is simply a tool in order that one has a critical attitude to how he or she perceives reality. Otherwise, we will simply accept anything that has been said to us, hook, line, and sinker, and the fact remains that in doing so, we are not furthering the quest of truth. There is no determination to know reality. Being bereft of this critical attitude contradicts one of the earliest ideas of the human being, that he is a rational animal. To fall for this trap is to simply "leave stones unturned". In man's determination to know reality, one must be willing to investigate for himself or herself the validity of the claims made by myth, opinion, or authority, and in doing so, be able to know what there is to accept or reject in these appeals.

While the idea of philosophizing the allure of Maui Taylor may indeed be funny, perhaps we can look beyond just the outer layers of what has been said about her, in hopes that we may find a more profound reason why she seems to tickle the fancy of most men. We realize that a lot of men find Maui Taylor to be particularly stunning, but is this the true measure why she is so popular? Perhaps if we look at the basic truth, that the aura she exudes is a “provocative innocence” we seem to be unable to find in other stars of her grain, then perhaps, this dearth that she nicely fills up (Pun not intended.) is clearly the very thing that makes her all the more attractive to people. This is more rational, than saying it’s the silicon, or perhaps that it’s her publicity machine alone.

Because of this thinking, Philosophy is more than just a rigid study, for it is a way of life. It helps us make sense of things that goes on in our lives, and in our critical understanding of phenomena, we are better able to understand the meaning of our lives as we unfold. Philosophy, as an attitude, means that this attitude itself must be treated critically, for if we were to settle on a single, immutable, and universal method of doing Philosophy, then we kill the overflowing reality and the mystery that Philosophy truly is. And with two semesters of doing Philosophy behind us, we can say with conviction that this overflowing reality of Philosophy is something we can hold onto not just to come to terms with the realities we are immersed in, but to elevate the profundity of our life in our ability to elucidate the reasons behind the phenomena we are part of.

11. Philosophy is an "overarching rational reflection on experience, progressively revealing more and more of what experience implies, growing itself as experience grows, expands, as thinking affects the way we experience." (Lauer) The great philosophers serve as milestones or markers of the collective human experience, constituting a whole that is always evolving and never-finished.

When everything has already been thought of (In a process of elimination. Not literally speaking.), Philosophy steps in to rethink what has been left unthought by other disciplines. The scope of Philosophy, in spite of this realization, is still overarching, in that it attempts to unturn every stone it sees in need of unturning, which leads to even more questions for them to be asked. While this may sound limiting to Philosophy, it is actually not the case, for so much is left unthought by other thinkers, especially when we look at how they seem to neglect the effort to rationalize experience, as they tend to analyze for other purposes instead. Philosophy will thus step in and attempt to rationalize experience, and in doing so, reveal the significance of these experiences, and will even teach us how we may better our own experiences.

To say that Philosophy is overarching is to mean that it encompasses experience, and attempts to reflect upon something that the thinker himself or herself is indeed immersed in. What does this overarching actually “overarch” (To invent a Bulaongesque term.) upon? We say that it overarches experiences in an attempt for it to be comprehended and further appreciated. But you see, Philosophy itself can only be understood by doing it, and so, we can say that experience (Of philosophizing.) guides our experiences (Of Philosophy or others.). As a guide, a self-nourishing guide even, to a large extent, Philosophy must be valued in its capability to actually open one's mind to the realization that there is far beyond the sensate. Philosophical thought, after all, is far from being sensate in nature.

Liken it, if you will, to a plant that waters itself to fruition. We recognize here the potency of experience, as in each experience, our capability to reflect and rationalize it will lead us to further enriching experiences. We realize that experiences, after all, are incremental. One will start with learning how to speak before learning how to read. When one knows how to read, then one will know how to write. In philosophizing and coming to terms with the realities of one’s experiences, it progressively (Or incrementally.) develops, as our experiences gain more meaning as we further reflect on them. How many times have we heard someone claim that an action was done out of a whim? By reflecting on this action, we may determine what goes behind that whim, and what truly is the motivation or impetus for such an action.

For instance, no longer is eating with the family just something routine. As one nears marriage and the imminent promise that he will not be sharing these family meals (At least not as often.) any longer, he will have a deeper appreciation for this experience. As he reflects on this further and further, he will then learn to make his succeeding experiences with his family more fruitful. Thus, the experience of reflecting upon this experience affects how we experience it. This is the power wielded by Philosophical thought, in that it becomes a way for us to transcend experiences. By knowing, for instance, the significance of an actual experience, the knowledge of this significance carries us beyond what is actually experienced. It is value-added, so to speak.

Experience is indeed the best teacher, for in philosophizing, one’s experience becomes more profound, and this teaches us to experience. In gaining experience, we are not merely concerned with the acquisition of knowledge, or learning lessons. What we should look into in this respect is how one may learn to use this acquired knowledge in the service of life. As Code Red would say, “What good is a heart, if you’re not gonna use it?”

In this respect, we therefore acknowledge that because not all rationalization is Philosophy, we need to turn onto “authorities” that are actually more of markers and milestones than actual “authorities”, seeing how many times each of these great thinkers have been lambasted for their ideas. These great philosophers are salient points in history that have had profound experiences, and at the same time, equally profound explicitations of these experiences. Like Descartes, we are living in an age of confusion and pluralism. Had he not thought about the Universal Methodic Doubt, how many of us could have easily come up with the same instant? Without his ideas, what would Gabriel Marcel even have to repudiate in his phenomenological point of view about man as an embodiment and not merely a res cogitans?

Because Philosophy is a process, and it is a process that is still unfinished, these great thinkers are footholds in the insurmountable wall that we must climb that is Philosophy. Their experiences, and the ideas they formulated through their experiences all lead us to better understanding our own experience. At the same time, the more we better our understanding these experiences, the more we learn how it is to experience. As we take their ideas into consideration, and, seeing the merits or flaws in them for ourselves, attempt to individually appropriate (Making it our own.) that which we believe to be of pertinence to us, then we carry their elucidations of their experiences further down our collective voyage of discovery. Thus, the experience of philosophizing is not merely an experience, but a very special and very serious fullness of life, for it leads us to know how to experience.

All these experiences and elucidations by philosophers, along with our own contributions (However meager they may be.) are part and parcel of the construct that is the collective human experience. All these make up a whole that is always evolving, for it is unfolding itself in temporality, and is in this respect never-finished. We further our appreciation of experiences by reflecting upon them, and these reflections, when elucidated, add and forward our desire to know reality; the very pursuit of Philosophy. In doing so, we see that man's collective history is an unfinished process, but a process of significance, nonetheless. Much can be said about our experiences, and their significance can indeed be enhanced by reflecting upon them. Because we continue to build new truths upon more basic truths, we will continue forth in our never-ending quest for reality: an unfinished reality that is made up of the collective human experience. Its evolution and unfolding in the path of further enlightenment is indeed something to marvel at, for as we learn more and more how to experience, the significance and profundity of these experiences likewise become deeper. Our lives, being unfolded in temporality by virtue of these experiences, thus become more profound and noteworthy.

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