Are there any Filipino philosophers?


Existentialist Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre

How much politics can we take, eh? Or dealing with Philippine media and its pandering, sensationalist ways. It is time to get cerebral.

Are there any Filipino philosophers?

That was my starting point for this article, along with wondering what Google or Wiki have to say about existentialism.

I always enjoyed philosophy, although reading the stuff was invariably hard for a guy who wanted to get out of the classroom and onto the basketball court. I got through one page of Hume before my brain cramped, and 28 pages of Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus“, before coming to realize the “Dummies Guide” was less painful and not so repetitive. Speaking of repetitive, I did read the “Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, although I don’t know if that is philosophy or a self-help book, you know, like how to put hinges on a door.

I did read all of a small Descartes book in college, which is why I think I am.

As an aside, the fundamental philosophical question asked by Camus was, “should I commit suicide or not?” Man, bummer. I’ll leave it to you to figure out the answer. It is not rocket science.

It is Philosophy.

  • ex·is·ten·tial·ismegziˈstenCHəˌlizəm, noun, a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will. [google]

Wiki elaborates, although I suspect that no philosopher of deep and profound thought would get caught dead reading Wiki:

  • In existentialism, the individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been called “the existential attitude”, or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.

Boy howdy, tell us about that meaningless or absurd world. We do follow Congress, after all.

Kierkegaard and Sartre were the pound for pound champs of existentialism.

  • A central proposition of Existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means that the most important consideration for individuals is that they are individuals—independently acting and responsible, conscious beings (“existence”)—rather than what labels, roles, stereotypes, definitions, or other preconceived categories the individuals fit (“essence”).

You know, like existentialists are accountable for their acts and are not puppets of gods or leftist dogma. Individually accountable, you dig? So if we have individual integrity (existence), presumably we can develop communities of integrity (essence).

Okay, enough of that.

I was able to identify two notable Filipino philosophers:

Antonio S. Cua: Born in Manila in 1932. Filipino Chinese. Graduated from Far Eastern University in 1952. Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley.Taught at Ohio University, State University of New York and Catholic University of America. Main interests were Western moral philosophy, moral psychology and Chinese ethics, in particular Confucian ethics. He was chief editor of the Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy, the first English-language encyclopedia on ‘Chinese philosophy’. Died 2007.

Alfredo Pimentel Co 许培堆: Born in 1949 in Naga City. Filipino Chinese. Undergraduate and doctorate (1976) from Royal University of Santo Tomas. Robust post doctoral studies in Hong Kong and France. An apparent free lance philosopher, or what’s an existentialist to do, he has taught at universities in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Europe, Russia, Canada, India and some other places. Also Ateneo de Manila University, De la Salle University, and University of San Carlos. Founding President of the Philosophy Circle of the Philippines. Currently the President of the Philippine Academy of Philosophical Research and Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education’s Technical Committee on Philosophy. His students refer to him as the venerable master.

Dr. Cua was an OFW Confucian and Dr. Co is a near-term Dr. Rizal without the politicians, generals, Spanish or priests on his back. Like, a very studied, traveled, multi-lingual, intelligent man of the world.

“What’s the point, Joe Am, what’s the point?”

Well, this is where I get overbearing and judgmental as Americans here are inclined to do as we try to figure out why our brains get yanked out of socket by peculiar Philippine ways. Please switch channels if this is troublesome, or find a place in your heart for forgiveness.

The point is that I don’t see a lot of Filipinos wrapping their heads around either of the very basic concepts of “personal accountability” or “patriotic sacrifice”.

Take personal accountability. Take note of how cheap life is here, with murders and train crashes and buses crashing down mountainsides, relentless baby making, dogs on the highway, seven riders to a motorcycle and the unending crabbing and carping. Nobody does anything about it. They make excuses and cast blames.

There doesn’t seem to be such a creature as a Filipino existentialist. Well, not many, anyhow. About as many as there are philosophers. A person with his feet on the ground who does not need to defend himself from others or apologize or make excuses. Or tear others down. A person who relishes accountability.

  • So Filipinos seem to deny themselves as INDIVIDUALS.

I know there are great Filipino singers, actors, boxers, basketball players, writers, and artists . . . and one great politician, who happens to be president . . . But I don’t see a lot of great Filipino problem solving, the skill to think through and solve problems to move the Philippines crisply forward, toward wealth and health. Problems hereabouts are solved with power and favor to the benefit of the few, not the whole of the Philippines. Missing is the concept of “caring for the all of us”. This just isn’t a part of the cerebral constructs for many.

  • So Filipinos seem to deny themselves AS A COMMUNITY.

So what do you get if you have a person who denies both his own personal integrity and the integrity of his community?

A nonexistentialist.


66 Responses to “Are there any Filipino philosophers?”
  1. “… which is why I think I am.” Haha, classic! 🙂

    I remember I wasn’t so into philosophy at university. The words felt dry somehow. Maybe I was too immature. Didn’t resonate within me. (“Polysyllabic puffery,” to borrow Robert Fulghum’s phrase from Words I Wish I Wrote.)

    I’d jotted down, however, a thought also by René Descartes: “…that there is no way open to the mind of man by which proofs superior to them can ever be discovered…”

    I think now that I’m 40 – (okay, ish. 40-ish.) – I’m inclined to disagree with Descartes. (Ahem! haha)

    Have you ever tried going on an extended period of silence? The first time I tried it, I did it alone at home, not supervised, not in a religious setting. For several days.

    The simple act of not speaking, not allowing distractions through TV or radio or books, peels away accumulated “noise.” The silence becomes profound surprisingly quickly. And in that silence – (which dwells in us all, no exception) – wisdom flows freely.

    I recall feeling so content in what I came to understand. However, later, I could not express it well at all, not even in writing, as I tried to share it with a friend. But it didn’t seem to matter in the least. I knew others always had access to it, and I figured that that gift of grace was for me alone at the time.

    If philosophers have the same experience which moves them to write, and they’re able to express it lucidly, then I envy them. Truly. I certainly cannot do it. 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, my, Dolly, you do have a gift of connecting brain to heart. The only time I was consigned to several days of silence was when my first ex-wife went on a royal rant of silent hostility. I fear I was mainly reflecting on how to survive and did not reach your deep awareness. That said, I did go through a period of meditations in my 30’s that pushed me toward soul-finding by emptying out what is . . . the am . . . for a new start. I don’t know what happened to that. Perhaps that is about when I met my second ex-wife or some other distraction.

      I think philosophers are rather wordy, myself. They spend a whole tome writing around a simple concept that, if they would simply say it, we could get on with applying it. My favorite philosopher is Carlos Castenada (“The Teachings of Don Juan”) and to this day, when hiking in the outdoors, I fold my fist to the earth to pick up the energy emanating from the ground. I doubt that Carlos is taught side by side with Hume though.

      • Carlos Castañeda! Oh my, memories! Must read again. I first read that particular book – isn’t that the one with the tiger? – in Palawan (El Nido), while I was bed-ridden for several days. I couldn’t walk, as my legs got terribly sunburned on the boat ride to the island, haha. Awful.

        As for the “royal rant of silent hostility” – haha, hilarious! 🙂 – I think profound silence isn’t something one must, of necessity, aspire to experience. Unless the heart craves for it. One can lead a perfectly full life without it, I believe.

        Maybe what a person needs, instead, is Joy. The small everyday joys, as well as the major milestone JOYS.

        I was out on my own a few years ago, enjoying an ice cream at Häagen-Dazs in Shangrila mall (closed now), when I had a sudden flash of insight. It felt like someone whispered it to me, but the voice was mine: “The Purpose of Life is Joy.”

        I was startled. (And not because I’d gone loopy and was hearing voices, haha.) From my Catholic-school education, I would have said that the purpose of life was Love. Not joy. And yet, there it was.

        And I’ve found it to be absolutely true. The loveliest words ever written, in my opinion, are from the poem “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”

        I won’t expound. Otherwise, I’ll go on and on. Forever. 🙂

  2. josephivo says:

    Often I think that there are 2 Philippines. There is a shadow Philippines too that is not as visible as the tricycle drivers, the loud newscasters or the massive mall visitors. It is an upper-middle class going to work daily, working long days to keep the economy turning. You meet them in factories, even in government offices but not in politics, they seldom appear on TV. They keep finding ways to work around the innumerable obstacles thrown at them by the (corrupt) “system” and because of this they have to be excellent problem solvers.

    Their situation is not so different from all non-communist people in Eastern Europe behind the iron curtain, or from the pro-poor priest and nuns in a ‘magnificent’ Church with gold cladded (and SUV driving) bishops. Their good intentions no match for the might of the establishment.

    The tragedy is that they are not organized in a political way. If they engage in a political movement they are too nice to compete with real (often dynastic) politicians. They keep hoping for change, e.g. when they supported a “pro-poor” candidate as Estrada, they were swept away by Estrada’s corrupt dinking brothers. Their only philosophy became ‘wait and see’ and work hard in the meantime.

    We should read and write more about these real Filipino hero’s.

    • Joe America says:

      We should. And we will, about three or four blogs from now. I think the true goal though is not just to write about them, but to empower them. It seems to me that empowerment is definitely possible. And desirable, to anchor Philippine development on good deeds rather than personal favors.

    • brianitus says:

      “The tragedy is that they are not organized in a political way. If they engage in a political movement they are too nice to compete with real (often dynastic) politicians. They keep hoping for change, e.g. when they supported a “pro-poor” candidate as Estrada, they were swept away by Estrada’s corrupt dinking brothers. Their only philosophy became ‘wait and see’ and work hard in the meantime.”

      Well, if the middle class, the politically-clueless middle class does engage in a movement, they tend to get hijacked by the established ones. In politics, it is difficult to go all Gandhi and be the change without having to embrace a bit of the old.

      In the case of Erap, you might want to recall that the UP economics people even jumped in on that bandwagon. Honestly, I can’t blame them, really. Here’s a fellow with mass support, what if he actually turned out to be THE ONE?

      Even the leftists had a temporary alliance with previous administrations when these assumed power. Basic premise was they could slip into the inner workings of government and possibly participate. You saw that during the time of Cory and the time of GMA, who had a nasty divorce with them.

      “Wait and see” from the middle class probably grew from the realization that unless you stand to benefit from the initial trickle of benefits of a president/politician you support, you’re better off just riding the wave. There’s no such thing as instant progress. There’s always building on previous gains to get to a boom. Even the current administration probably saw some positive developments from its predecessor. It’s just hell bent to differentiate itself from it.

      “Wait and see.” Maybe they’re just busy trying not to go hungry.


    • jolly cruz says:


      Your comments are spot on, except that i think its the midle-middle class rather than the upper middle class who has this strong desire for community. More than any other setor in the economic divide, it is the middle middle class who seek a sense of understanding and consideration from the rich and the poor.

      Both the rich and the poor have feelings of entitlement. The rich because of their wealth and power, the poor because of their poverty flaunt the law. Just look at the traffic situation, it is the poor middle middle class with their mid range sedans who always obey tthe traffic laws. The rich with their huge SUVs and the poor with their jeepneys, tricycles, karitons, etc always go against the traffic and cut into the lane of those who obey the law.

      These are the people who will never adopt a philosophy for the common good. It will always for their own individual interests. In Congress the rich have the political dynasties and political oligarchs and the poor have the red party list groups whose representatives will never win an election individually.

      Somebody has to represent the “poor” middle middle class who truly works for the improvement of the community.

  3. brianitus says:

    Uncle Joe,

    Slow day for me. I’m still trying to figure what this post is really all about. I sort of feel that there’s a *wink* *wink* behind this one, especially on that angle on accountability and taking action.


    • Joe America says:

      Maybe you are smarter than you think, *wink**wink*. The straight shot: advocating personal accountability (existence) to undertake the personal sacrifices needed to build a wholesome union (a particular kind of essence). But it was also for the humor, because philosophy is way too deep for me to comprehend. So I goof off. 🙂

  4. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    Filipinos are natural born PILOSOPO. “Pilosopo” is native for “Philosopher”. Filipinos hate Pilosopo. It is their nature. Pilosopo is derogatory label when used in the Philippines, go ask anyone. BUT when you use the word “Philosophy” or “Philosopher”, it is not derogatory. It means to Filipinos as a person having a PhD.

    My parents and my siblings label me PILOSOPO because I think differently. They call me Pilosopo when I reason out. I am PIlosopo because I am rebellious.

    Pilosopo and Philosopher are practitioner of Philosophy but the meaning is lost when you say it in Tagalog or Visayan or Ilocano in any dialect up and down from Babuyan Island (where PDAF theives will eventually end up in exile) to Jolo (Muslims hate Pilosopong Pilipino).

    So, there you are, Joe. There are no Filipino philosophers. Not because it doesn’t put food on the table and send children OFWing. Just because it doesn’t sound right UNLESS there is Chinese blood in ’em.

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, a very helpful cultural perspective, Pilosopo. That explains why the two Filipino philosophers are of Chinese extraction. “Mariano Pilosopo Pacifico”. Works for me . . . nice cadence . . .

  5. edgar lores says:

    1. I would have to agree with Mariano. Contrary to digital documentation, the country abounds in philosophers.

    2. One can find them everywhere, in class rooms, in restaurants, on the pulpit, in barber shops – especially in barber shops – and in social media.

    3. In the country, the appellation is conferred on anyone who presents a weighty argument from a totally unexpected direction. People will say, “Ah, pilosopo ka, ano?” (“You are a philosopher, aren’t you?)

    4. Philosophy is a daily pursuit of the low and the mighty. Two prime examples:

    4.1. From the low pulpit: An archbishop reasoned that “Contraception is corruption.” Translated into Existentialist terms, the pithy notion can be stated positively as: “The prevention of existence is a sin as it is antithetical to the propagation of original sin.” Now if that isn’t philosophically deep – and contradictory – what is?

    4.2. From the high Coconut Palace: The VP will not admit that the Makati Parking Building is overpriced by P2 billion out of a total cost of P2.7B. He denies that a cost of P84K per square meter is not in excess of the industry standard of P27K – P33K. Contrary to empirical data and mathematics, he claims there was no overpricing but savings. That the city in fact realized savings in the magnitude of P200M.

    5. This makes the VP a philosopher. Therefore if the VP becomes president, he will be a philosopher-king.
    5.1. This conclusion also makes me a pilosopo.

    • Joe America says:

      And thus we developed the concept of the absurd . . .

    • 4.2 – P200M savings! 🙂 We ought to say thank you pa pala!

    • sonny says:

      Joe, I get depressed when it seems that philosophy is nothing more than Occam’s Razor rather than the life vest that it is.

      • Joe America says:

        The correct answer is usually the simplest. Well, but I dare to disagree that such is discouraging. Philosophy is like the difference between applied math and theoretical math. Theoretical math stretches the mind, applied math makes things work. By stretching the mind, we figure out new ways to be applied. Philosophy is indeed the life vest for figuring out how and WHY to get along, but getting along is an applied skill.

        • sonny says:

          Es verdad, amigo.
          My world of Philosophy was first opened by the Logic & Epistemology of the Scholastic Philosophers. This entry point in turn brought me to Existentialism via the lens of Jacques Maritain and onto currently the Phenomenology of St John Paul II. I have difficulty with the philosophers of the Enlightenment, mostly navigating their thoughts (no surprise really). But this field gives quite a ride from day one. Thank you for opening it up. It does make for more understanding as to where everyone here is coming from.

  6. andrewlim8 says:

    My comment to this piece will attempt to answer the title of the post directly: Are there really any Filipino philosophers?

    While the other commenters have made credible and humorous arguments re their existence in the common folk and in our leaders, I still ask:

    Where are their published works? What are their heavyweight ideas that can claim to be groundbreaking and a breakthrough? Aside from the witticisms and speeches of public figures, who writes their ideas down and gets it published?

    In traffic, this is an occasional topic with my wife. And not just philosophers- I also ask, where is our Da Vinci, our Michaelangelo, our Macchiavelli, our Isaac Newton, or Ben Franklin or Voltaire? Where are our explorers, inventors and discoverers? Or where is our Christopher Hitchens?

    Much of what we can call intelligentsia came about only in the late 19th century, when our heroes came back and wrote down their thoughts, some after coming back from Europe studies.

    But since then, there hasn’t been much. The closest I can think of at the moment are bad examples: the roster of intellectuals that Marcos deployed to provide a philosophical justification for his New Society that included Adrian Cristobal.

    Maybe Teddy Boy Locsin qualifies, even if he is so disagreeable. Can any of our former Presidents qualify? What I have noticed is the capability of many of our public intellectuals to hold contradictory positions simultaneously: Tatad and Saludo can come up with Scripture and Catholic doctrine and simultaneously defend the corruption of the Marcoses and Arroyos, respectively. Is this a breakthrough idea?

    What original and breakthrough ideas have we come up with?

    • andrewlim8 says:

      I remember reading a piece on this by Leloy Claudio in Rogue magazine. He argues that our upper class have become pedestrian in their intellectual pursuits- they just consume popular culture like everybody else. Who can think like Claro M. Recto or Jose Diokno these days?

      Normally, intellectuals and philosophers would come from their ranks, having been freed from the need to make a living.

    • Joe America says:

      If I reflect on this, I’d say breakthrough ideas need a platform and an audience. A platform is the reason and means for doing it and the audience is someone who benefits or appreciates it. The Philippines is successful at creating martyrs (Rizal) and villains (take your pick), because the platform is suffering and struggling to survive amongst all the power peddlers who have control of everything. There is no platform for science because the nation’s struggles have occurred just as everyone else was digging and delving and spending (mechanization in the early part of the century, space and computers during the Marcos era). The nation does have top-class singers and actors, because there is an audience for that, and doing it is comparatively cheap. I look at Dr. Co and made the remark that he has all the qualities of Rizal but get executed for protesting Catholicism or Arroyo. But there is no audience for Dr. Co because he is just a brilliant teacher.

      The other thing is mental constructs, the point Parekoy at Raissa’s blog mentioned, that there is an Asian complexity to Filipino thinking, which (my conclusion, not Parekoy’s) gives the mind the capacity to rationalize away everything, especially the fulfillment gained and effort needed to be first rung at something.

      Just speculating . . .

      • Joe America says:

        I would add, look at how Germany set out to improve its World Cup performance. A national program to spot, train, and give opportunities to the best soccer players around. The Philippines has no national effort to aspire to anything. If the nation did, it could be the best in the world at whatever it applied itself to. Well, not basketball, because there is an altitude problem. But medicine. Art. Football. Agronomy. The brains are here, the athletic skills, the artistry. The platform is not. Nor is there an audience. Those things don’t sell well in the mainstream press until there is a winner. That sells.

        • Cornball says:

          Intellectual navel gazing is an end in itself, or it could be just the beginning, take your pick. It doesn’t need a platform.

          We all seek answers to our questions. Does it mean that just because we are satisfied with an explanation that that’s the end of it and that any alternative views will be pointless and superfluous? When do we stop asking questions? Are we asking the right questions? Do we still have to find answers ourselves even if it’s beyond our comprehension and even embrace the possibility that we might not be prepared to accept?

          Do we sit on the fence and keep an open mind or is it better to take sides?

          Just asking.

          • Joe America says:

            Sitting on the fence is necessary until all (or most) information and wisdom is in, then it is best to take a side, remaining flexible to new knowledge all the while. Advocacy is important. It inspires change. It can also inspire damage. Moral of the story: choose your side well.

    • Maria Janisa says:

      Andrew,I’ve been googling for Filipino philosophers and their published books from 9am today and couldn’t find any.Maybe I’ll just give up and wait till my return in the Philippines.

  7. gerverg1885 says:

    What’s happening right now is this: nobody among the middle class who aspires to lead has the guts and the platform (program of government) that will be accepted by the masa and who still has that kind of thinking that nobody could stand up to the power of money when it comes to challenging the entrenched politicians.

    There is a way, I always think there should be a way if the middle class would only come to realize that it is their participation in this sham of a democracy that keeps them in the rut they’re in, that they must understand that the independence they celebrate with the ruling class is not what it means because there are too many of them who are still shouting to the top of their lungs for land to own and cultivate but are kept waiting by the landed elite (including the President and his family) because they had been inured to protesting during every SONA and wait for another year to protest again for land to own and about their centuries-long grievances for equality and justice.

    They should have seen the reality that unless they find someone who will honestly lead them, nay, walk with them, to bring down the established order by way of peaceful reforms, their protests that only hurts their members physically would only end in more and more frustration and anger and endless waiting.

    The President;s hands are tied when it comes to the issue of land reform because his family belongs to the few who controls the many who could not muster any strength to reverse the situation when they have the numbers to do so.

    Estrada will play with any cards laid out before him because he was only after the honor of the position that he dishonored. Little did the middle class or the masa knew that he conspired with the Marcoses to win the Presidency because he looked at that position as a gambler, not as someone who will serve with integrity and honesty.

    • Joe America says:

      I like the characterization of Estrada. Very vivid. Playboy gambler. The middle class indeed needs to figure out a way to be powerful to find the artful balance between between the entitled and the poor. Up with the middle class.

      Let’s work on that.

  8. ivyemaye says:

    Well, this is where I get overbearing and judgmental as Americans here are inclined to do
    You don’t say Joe…an over bearing yank…never!
    Well I am a cynical Brit.
    The Pinoy have a very strong sense of community in respect to the family and their neighbourhoods. I can not say that is the same in the UK. In this respect this is a very caring community.
    As for existentialism I had a bucket load of that when I was an Art Student in the North East. of Englan. Reading Dostoevsky and all that slav angst along with watching endless Bergman films.
    No here there is a lot more sense. No to drama drama and yes to party party. No time for navel gazing.
    I studied philosophy for a bit and frankly was bored.
    Watch the Monty Python movies The Life of Brain and the Time Bandits cover most of the bases pretty well, so you don’t need your Jean Paul Sartre or any other uber French intellectual.

    The best critique I have seen to date on Philippines culture is the movie/film Himala. This shows all the strengths and weaknesses of this amazing culture. A movie master piece.

    Put away your Jean Paul, go out take a selfie selfie, some video karaoke and party party…no time for drama drama…leave that to the super intellectual French and the intensely introspective Russians..

    • andrewlim8 says:

      I like this guy’s approach to life. 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, feet on the good earth, an excellent philosophy, if you don’t mind my saying so. John Cleese is my idol. We’re about the same height, I think, but I can’t goose step with such determined flair. (Fawlty Towers)

      • Joe America says:

        re. Fawlty Towers, this television show of the 70’s was a nonstop stream of sight gags and double meanings, played mainly off an insufferable Hotel Manager named Basil Fawlty, played by John Cleese. There were 12 episodes. Each opened with a framing of the hotel on a little hill, the sign of the hotel directly in front. But the letters of the sign changed with each episode, one of the unending clever tricks that makes the show worth watching again and again.

        Episode 1: “Fawlty Towers” (the letter “S” is askew)
        Episode 2: “Fawlty Tower” (the letter “L” is askew)
        Episode 3: “Fawty Tower” (the letter “W” is askew)
        Episode 4: “Fawty Toer”
        Episode 5: “Warty Towels”
        Episode 7: “Fawlty Tower” (the letter “L” is askew)
        Episode 8: “Watery Fowls”
        Episode 9: “Flay Otters”
        Episode 10: “Fatty Owls”
        Episode 11: “Flowery Twats”
        Episode 12: “Farty Towels”

  9. edgar lores says:

    Serious answer from the top of my head.

    1. There are two simple reasons why there are no Filipino philosophers:
    1.1. We are Easterners
    1.2. We have no libraries

    2. Most Eastern countries, with the exception of India and Japan, do not have philosophers. What there are are scholars in religion, native culture or legal studies.
    2.1. Eastern philosophy is largely religious philosophy associated with Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Shintoism.
    2.2. Western philosophy, with the exception of Scholasticism, is largely secular.

    3. Western and Eastern philosophy differ in the basic question they seek to answer. The first is open-ended and the second is not. The first is concerned with an open cosmology of celestial objects and the second with a closed cosmology of heavens, gods and deities.

    3.1. Eastern philosophy, being predicated on religion, asks the question: “How?” That is, how do we live life to accord with religious or social precepts. And the how has been reduced to habitual observance of certain behaviours and rituals.

    3.2. Western philosophy, not being predicated on religion but on knowledge, asks the question “Why?” That is, why does the universe exist? And why are things the way they are?
    3.2.1. The “How” part of Western philosophy consist of the methodologies of knowing how we know (Metaphysics and Epistemology) and what we know (Empiricism and Science).

    3.3. The tradition of Western philosophy is also well established, rooted in Greece, but flowering mainly in continental Europe and Great Britain.

    3.4. Note that American philosophy is largely concentrated on political philosophy and, lately, moral philosophy.

    5. The Philippines, having been a colony of Spain for gazillion years, is the victim of Scholastic philosophy.
    5.1. The approach of Scholastic philosophy as propagated and practiced by the Catholic Church is not one of open enquiry but of authority.
    5.2. From Wikipedia: “The scholastics would choose a book by a renowned scholar as a subject for investigation. By reading it thoroughly and critically, the disciples learned to appreciate the theories of the author.”
    5.2. It is also well known that the Church discouraged learning in the natives. Rizal and his cohorts were influenced by European ideas.

    6. Finally, we have no libraries, no books, from which knowledge may be absorbed.
    6.1. Consequently, our reasoning ability is slightly higher than magical thinking and superstition still reigns in the countryside and in Congress.
    6.2. The rigors of logical and analytical thinking are neither encouraged nor practiced. We can be good analytical thinkers, as shown in our proficiency in IT, but we only use analysis in our work and rarely in our personal lives.

    7. Which leads us to a third reason: most of us are too busy to survive in comfort to examine Life. It is not only that existence precedes essence, but subsistence precedes essence too.

    • Joe America says:

      Profound. Powerful. Perfect.

      What happened to the libraries, I wonder. Education has always been prominent in form, at least. But you are right. There are no libraries. Quite amazing. And so there is no central theme about reading and researching and organizing solutions. I wonder if the Dewey Decimal System is taught here. I think you are the third Filipino philosopher. I should have put you on the list.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      What is there a need of Library when Filipinos have one book that answers it all? THE BIBLE. If anyone believes in God, there is no need of Philosophers. The answer is in there … lemme see now … it’s got to be one of those convoluted verses.

      • edgar lores says:

        Did you find it? 🙂

      • sonny says:

        Maybe Filipinos who have only one book (the Bible) to go to know something many others do not notice. The Bible is not one book but 73 books that point eventually to one Man, the Logos, the one Word that God has spoken.

  10. I have long pondered upon Filipinos’ disinterest (even distaste, ever heard the derogatory term pilosopo?) on Philosophy. So imagine my joy when I saw this blog entry on my RSS feed.

    On my musings, three themes often come up: 1) the simpleng-tao-lang-ako attitude we Filipinos cling to. I am a simple man with simple dreams living a simple life that is perpetually happy. This is a very beautiful philosophy to live by… and equally boring. 2) Our education system is designed to make four things, doctors, lawyers, engineers and workers for the first three’s employ. All four are designed to be part of a bigger system. Having the existential attitude will not be tolerated. 3) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. ‘nuf said.

    These themes snuff any urge for deep thought. Just my 2 cents.

    • Joe America says:

      Welcome to the Society, Christopher. Your three themes make a lot of sense. I laughed at the punch line of 1), got dejected at 2), and resigned to subsistence as “the way” at 3).

  11. Micha says:

    The intellectual flourishing of Western Enlightenment came mostly as a struggle against religious tyrants, egomaniacs, and their royal pawns. Even the English Reformation was dubbed by Cromwell as a sham because it was largely meant to satisfy Henry VIII’s libido over and above falsifying Catholic theological bullshit.

    It’s no surprise the Philippines have, generally, a bankrupt intellectual pursuit because its educational system is corrupted by hundreds of Catholic schools, colleges, and universities across the country.

    What vigorous intellectual habit could possibly come out if you were drilled and brainwashed by “Catholic education” from pre-school to college even if it’s from the exclusive Immaculate Conception Kindergarten School or Ateneo School of Economics.

    Is there a validation of existentialist thought in St. Augustine University?

    • Micha says:


    • sonny says:

      The human condition has been constantly studied and scrutinized by both pagans and religionists who are extremely gifted in observations, analyses and applications. Here are two views apropos to this discussion of the human condition:

      one comments on the recent demise and putative revival of religion in Russia (the country that sought to obliterate religion in ideology and practice):

      … the other is a religionist’s proposal to ameliorate that human condition, using existentialist principles borrowed from Jacques Maritain and St Augustine, among others

      • Joe America says:

        It’s interesting that if Putin is visiting a cleric to confess once a week, he must have a lot on his conscience. Like lies about the Ukraine and his proxies shooting down civilian aircraft. Oh well, none of us is witout sin I suppose. (The Crisis Magazine article)

      • edgar lores says:


        That first article scares the bejesus out of me. If God uses straight and crooked lines, then He is the author of good and evil. That He would use crooked Putin as an instrument is unthinkable.

        The second article appears use reason and logic, but it’s fallacious.

        1. That only natural law can adequately justify the rights of man.
        1.1. A fallacy here is called “affirming the consequent”. The “rights of man” do not need justification. They can be taken to be self-evident.
        1.2. Also a post hoc. It makes a false correlation when the antecedent, natural law, has not been proved.

        2. That human life has two final ends, one earthly and on heavenly.
        2.1. This is a “begging the question” fallacy. It assumes there is a heaven.
        2.2. Also a “mind projection fallacy”. It assumes the universe as it wants the universe to be.

        3. That all laws is imposing certain moral claims on other people, therefore imposition is justified.
        3.1. This argument is pernicious in that it does not make a distinction between secular law, which is based on reason, and sectarian law, which is based on belief.
        3.2. For example, if homosexuality is genetic, then same-sex marriage laws are rational. 3.3. In contrast, if you believe homosexuality is unnatural, which is unscientific, then same-sex laws are abhorrent.
        3.3. Item 3.2 is acceptable; item 3.3 is not.
        3.4. Further, item 3.2 harms no one; item 3.3 does.

        4. That non-legal institutions are necessary to maintain moral standards.
        4.1. Yes, secular non-legal institutions but not religious institutions. Democracies are non-sectarian in nature.

        5. That culture precedes politics and law.
        5.1. Here again Catholic thinking betrays it’s hair-splitting tendencies as in artificially distinguishing the sinner from the sin. Culture is not separate from politics (governance) and law (order). Culture embraces these two and a whole lot of other elements.
        5.2. Come to think of it, existence does not precede essence. The Manifest is a hologram of the Unmanifest. The wave is the ocean.

        I didn’t finish reading this second article.

  12. parengtony says:

    Rene Saguisag”s take on judicial overreach (8/29/14 Manila Times column):

    “I do not hate pork, which continues to be used in the US and which we did not misuse in our time (1987-92). I want it kept, like the Judiciary Development Fund, with more transparency and collegiality. It should not be the Chief Justice alone disposing of billions.
    And I want to clip the Supreme Court’s powers and bring it down to the level of the US counterpart, from Marbury v. Madison in 1803 (which I studied at Harvard Law in 1967 and learned about Bickel’s unelected Least Dangerous Branch which is here, arguably the most powerful and therefore, the Most Dangerous Branch, thanks to its egocentric self-serving interpretation of Grave Abuse of Discretion, which it transmogrified from ConCom Commissioner Roberto Concepcion’s original concept in a martial law context).”

    • Joe America says:

      That is the point. I fear that those who complain about the President’s complaint don’t see how intrusive a nit-picking Supreme Court has become by welcoming every complaint and then taking it upon itself to cast all final wisdoms. This particular court seems unable to step back and read profound meanings into words, and prefers to wield words like swords to damage. The Court should not be engaging in every law that is passed, or welcome every complaint that is lodged.

  13. Jose Rizal is a great Filipino philosopher. He embodies the true spirit of a philosopher but where did that get him? At a firing squad in Luneta. What about Ninoy Aquino Sr.? Same fate, different venue.

    Rizal’s character, Pilosopo Tasyo, in the 14th chapter of Noli Me Tangere is a Filipino philosopher. Rizal is right on with his perception of how philosophers are treated in the Philippines. Pilosopo Tasyo got mixed reaction from his community because he is pessimistic, eccentric and cynical. Some questioned his sanity and others respected his ramblings. Others are on the fence because they can not tell if he is a “pantas” (wise man) or “baliw” (crazy). He is better labeled as crazy for his own survival.

    The modern day Filipino philosophers are from all walks of life for philosophy is not only gained through academics but also by experiences. The most obvious ones are the intellectuals who sought refuge in ivory towers. Can you blame them? They are silently observing and analyzing the government but they muffled their own voices out of fear of retribution.

    • Joe America says:

      Actually, Rizal has moved from philosopher to god, so take care with your words young lady! 🙂 (I have that blog in the pipeline for Monday.)

      I am amused by the notion that there are a lot of philosophers hiding out in the halls of universities hereabouts, where it is comparatively safe. I’d say you are right about that. There is a lot of intelligence in the universities here, but the walls of power and favor prevent it from getting applied.

  14. gerverg1885 says:

    I can’t help but wonder where this country is headed for based on the kinds of governments that Plato discussed in the Republic. Looks like it’s only the aristocratic type that we could not be trying owing to so many heads and egos clashing violently due to overweening personal interests.

    Marcos tried a combination of timocratic, tyrannic and oligarchic forms which success became clear when he ended up the richest oligarch with the help of the military and the tyranny they employed to cow the citizenry into full submission to terror while he robbed the country blind.

    With the restoration of democracy, Ramos, as per the accusation of Estrada, had his own share of graft with the PEA Amari scandal which was not played up so much in the mainstream media and which Ramos did not bother to give an answer to the accuser since it turned out in the end that they were birds of the same feathers.

    It would be a long story to tell of GMA’s unforgettable stint at the presidency under the democracy we fought so hard to be restored and which Plato wrote as “one which holds out the promise of equality for all its citizens but delivers only the anarchy of an unruly mob (our Legislature?) each of whose members is interested only in the pursuit of private interests.”

    Plato, it turned out, was not a philosopher; He was a seer for having that keen foresight to write about the kind of government we have and the politicians whose presence we continue to bear and must continue to be tolerant of because they get elected even though their corruption is no longer a secret and they are no longer ashamed of being called corrupt to the bones.

    • sonny says:

      So clearly stated, gerverg1885!! We can run but we cannot hide yet try we must!

    • Joe America says:

      No shame. That is astounding, isn’t it? They only get angry that they got caught. But they show up in church.

    • edgar lores says:

      To put things in perspective from the long view of history: in the 493 years of captivity since 1521 and including the martial law years, we have experienced independence and freedom for only 60 years. A mere 12%.

      1. First there was the revolution against Spain.
      2. Then there was the revolution against America.
      3. Then there was the revolution against Japan.
      4. Then there was the revolution against Marcos.

      The first three were revolutions against foreign colonial regimes for state independence. All were unfinished revolutions until July 4, 1946. A period of 425 years.

      The fourth was a revolution against a dictatorial regime for political freedom. A period of 8 years.

      Hopefully, what is happening now is not a revolution but an evolution. We are in a struggle looking to establish good governance. The struggle is not only between a ruling elite and the mass of people but also between (a) traditional modes of behaviour and thinking and (b) new ways of thinking and behaviour.

      So the progression has been a series of (r)evolutions for (a) state independence, (b) political freedom and (c) good governance… all in pursuit of equality and social justice.

      The history of our country, and indeed of mankind, has been a roller coaster ride towards heightened consciousness in order to live fully. Eudaimonia, the art of living well, is the goal of all mankind.

      Are we winning? It is hard to tell. Christianity has had 2,000 years to effect a transformation. Have we learned to love our neighbours? No. Why not? I believe it is because the churches misinterpreted the message of Christ. Perhaps the misinterpretation was inevitable, even necessary, because mankind, the savage beasts, had to attain a level of civility. That level is not yet within reach. The beasts are not yet ready to receive, much less practice, the true message to which the Eastern religions are closer to.

      But mankind is young. The discoveries of Science, many forward-thinking people and humanist movements confirm we are on the right track.

      There are, and there will be, far more spills and thrills – or if you like chills – in the years ahead. Isn’t it exciting?

      Just… just let me get off at the corner.

      • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

        Nope! We are not winning.
        Benign0 lost to Supreme Court on TRO.
        He kicked out Chief Corona.
        Benign0 lost again to Supreme Court on DAP.
        He wanted revenge.
        His revenge is to run for 2nd Term which is constitutionally illegal.
        First he has to change the constitution for him to run.
        If he cannot change the constitution … hmmmmm …
        Something sinister will happen …
        We will be back to 1521 again in a big wide circular loop because like all Filipinos, Benign0 THINK HE HAS THE RIGHT SOLUTION LIKE ALL, 99,999,998 OF THE REST OF THE FILIPINOS.
        But I like Benign0. He may be a son-of-a-bitch but he is MY son-of-a-bitch.

  15. gerverg1885 says:

    I don’t know if these lines will fit nto the theme of the discussion; anyway, I”ll just share it to all of you who thinks as I think:

    There are no problem children when there are no problem parents as there are no problem politicians when there are no problem voters.

    Enjoy the weekend!

  16. One of my favorite de-recado musings of Joe America. Maraming salamat po! Methinks I should meet you one time to discuss the future of the planet Earth.

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