Abellanosa: World Day of Philosophy

Abellanosa: World Day of Philosophy

NOT known to many, even among some in the academe, the third Thursday of November is declared by Unesco as World Day of Philosophy.

I would not be surprised if this does not mean anything among universities that have been busy with their technocratic delusions and negotiated responses to a totalizing global order.

This year’s theme invites people of goodwill to reflect on “the Human of the Future.”

In Unesco’s own words, hopefully “that universal language of thought” would be put “into service in order to identify all the ramifications of the crisis and to clear a common path for humanity.”

Sadly, Philosophy in the Philippines is not only not given priority by the academic sector. It has also been distorted, misrepresented, and even perverted in many ways.

There was little hope that by offering Philosophy of the Human Person in senior high, critical thinking would be augmented in the pre-college level. But the lack of readiness of the basic education sector has frustrated the full achievement of the objective.

The lack of faculty who are properly trained in the discipline ended up assigning the course to Values Education and Social Studies.

At the tertiary level, the discipline has remained present through the offering of General Ethics as part of the general education courses (GEC).

Logic, which used to be the common GE course, is no longer part of the college curriculum. Is this a sound decision on the part of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched)? I surmise that the “experts” who were consulted had in mind that Philosophy of the Human Person in Senior High School would be enough of a preparatory course for General Ethics.

However, without Logic, students would be “woefully” unprepared for General Ethics and even Philosophy of the Human Person. In Classical Philosophy, Logic is the organon of the other branches of the discipline. Without it, the attempt to understand General Ethics and Philosophical Anthropology is like, to borrow my professor’s words, “going to the moon without passing through space.”

We have taken pride in the recent release of QS University Rankings 2023. Again, the big four universities in the Capital Region (UST included) have made it above the top 200 in Asia. One of the hallmarks of these celebrated universities is the place given to Philosophy. Decades ago, the late Professor Emerita Quito of DLSU pointed out in her short history of the country’s state of Philosophy what each of the four universities would be known for as their philosophical school: UP for its Analytic tradition, UST for its Scholastic (Thomistic) tradition, Ateneo de Manila for Phenomenology, and DLSU for what it then developed as an eclectic approach to the discipline.

I am not sure to what extent this observation has remained today. My point though is this: no University can genuinely claim to be one without any strong and serious philosophical orientation. A school may produce engineers, accountants, lawyers, and mechanics but without Philosophy (and everything in the humanities) it will only be supplying laborers for capitalist society and not persons who are genuinely humanized.

I must also remark with sadness that Catholic seminaries are supposed to be good training grounds in Philosophy, but this is no longer true today. I have a few intuition-based explanations for this. First, the study of Philosophy has been treated by most seminaries as a mere canonical requirement for ordination. In other words, the merit of studying philosophy has not been fully and genuinely emphasized even among seminarians who are majoring in philosophy. Second, many seminaries do not have professionally trained priest-professors in Philosophy; neither have they reviewed the timeliness and the relevance of their courses and syllabi.

I do not intend to stand as Philosophy’s counsel – fight for its existence and defend its relevance. I do not need to add anything to what Karl Jaspers already said: “philosophy does not need to justify itself.” For while many would consider it as a “superfluous brooding of dreamers," it is a “human activity” and “a task which the human person will always take so long as he remains as one.”


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