The very idea of Filipino philosophy in Mercado: Philosophy or having deep thoughts about the world? Dennis Apolega [2nd Draft] INTRODUCTORY REMARKS When one says “British philosophy” one may refer to David Hume or Bertrand Russell. When another says “French philosophy” one may refer to Rene Descartes or Jean-Paul Sartre. For both there are a number of commentators who have written on them. Also, one can distinguish between the philosophers and the commentators on the philosophers. One may even add that there are Humeans, Russellians, Cartesians and Sartreans; people who subscribe to their ideas but may or may not be commentators themselves.
It is relatively easy, though sometimes facile, to do some categorizing like the previous examples. These ignore some important issues. There are the interrelated and interpenetrating issues of methods or approaches. For instance, the term “continental philosophy” is problematic if one talks only of geography1. This is because the Vienna Circle is geographically in the Continent. Wittgenstein is Austrian and Carnap is German but both are hardly considered “continental philosophers. ” What may be characterized by “Continental” is the method and sometimes the accompanying theoretical assumptions.
Yet by this time some personalities in philosophy, both Western and Eastern, can easily be identified. But what about “Filipino philosophy”? Who are the personalities that one may cite? I am not yet even talking of methods or approaches like in the previous examples. If one were to look at the literature of “Filipino philosophy” then one of the personalities is Leonardo Mercado. That Mercado is the pioneer in what has been called “Filipino philosophy” is acknowledged by Mercado (1985: 61) himself with his “A philosophy of Filipino time” published in 1972.
The contention of this paper is that while I may be able to acknowledge that Leonardo Mercado has made a significant contribution to Filipino philosophy, and in that sense he may be regarded as a Filipino philosopher, Mercado himself cannot. If anything, this is detrimental to the progress of “Filipino philosophy”, whether as to its status as philosophy or the debates within it. FILIPINO PHILOSOPHY: MERCADO’S CONCEPTION But what is “Filipino philosophy”? Or if Mercado is the pioneer in “Filipino philosophy”, what is his conception of Filipino philosophy?
For Mercado (1985: 61) the answer to such a question is: …Filipino thought is understood as his world view or philosophy. It is not the philosophy of any individual philosopher as it is in the Western tradition but rather the philosophy of the people, its diwa or Volkgeist. The sense Mercado ascribes to Filipino philosophy makes it very unique. When he speaks of the “Western tradition”, my previous examples of Hume, Russell, Descartes and Sartre fall under this and are quite different from Mercado’s conception.
By implication, Indian, Chinese and Japanese philosophy, insofar as there many individual philosophers in each (For example Aurobindo, Confucius and Nishitani respectively), would not even be like Filipino philosophy. I find it puzzling that Mercado would not find this problematic because in his conception there can be no individual Filipino philosopher2. After all, Filipino philosophy is the worldview of the people (Filipinos), what is called diwa. Some may quibble that Mercado is actually referring to “Filipino thought” and not “Filipino philosophy. However, Mercado (1985: 61) continues by writing that “Filipino philosophy or the people’s diwa is what is, not what should be. ” Mercado writes this to start the idea that Filipino philosophy has strengths and weaknesses and that it can be the “basis for the Filipino’s development, since it is his own model. ” By “what is” Mercado, in my view, is pointing to the idea that the diwa can be better. Mercado also thinks importing Western models in understanding Filipinos is mistaken. Mercado significantly says that, “The result–as seen in various development attempts–has mostly been disastrous. I am ignorant of the “various development attempts” that Mercado talks about. Worse, he does not cite these attempts. More significantly is his mysterious claim stating that such attempts have “mostly been disastrous. ” If one follows Mercado’s train of thought, regarding the role of Filipino philosophy for the Filipinos’ possible progress, then can one have the possible negative inference? Was the adopting of “Western models” to understand Filipinos been detrimental to the Filipinos’ progress?
Perhaps, one may reduce this question to: “What does Mercado mean by ‘disastrous’ relative to those purported “development attempts”? The other problem I find in Mercado’s conception of Filipino philosophy is the difficulty of determining the meaning of “philosophy of the people”, the diwa. What does Mercado mean by “philosophy of the people”? If it is the philosophy of the Filipino people (and by extension there are no individual Filipino philosophers) then are all Filipinos philosophers? There is a pronounced difference between the claims (a) Anyone can be a philosopher and (b) Everyone is a philosopher.
In the case of (a), one may be referring to the history of philosophy wherein individuals, who seemingly are from a different field, are more remembered for their work in philosophy and as philosophers. An example would be William James who earned a degree in medicine and was a professor of physiology, and then later of psychology, before becoming a professor in philosophy. However, James was acknowledged as a philosopher long before he became a professor in philosophy. In this qualified sense, to claim (a) is to point also to the idea that anyone has the potential to be a philosopher even if one is from a different field.
There are many assumptions involved in (a) but I will leave it at that3. The point here is that it is significantly different from (b). Also, (a) can be qualified further by citing examples in the history of philosophy. So, by saying that Filipino philosophy is the “philosophy of the people”, the diwa of the Filipinos, how can Mercado differentiate (a) from (b)? Are there not countries with inhabitants that are probably older than even the Filipinos? So why does Mercado not claim the same for these countries? That is to say, why do they not have their own “philosophy of the people”?
For some examples, why not Germany having German philosophy in this sense? How about China having Chinese philosophy in this sense? The Germans and Chinese as examples are not included since there have individual philosophers only. But the Germans and Chinese do not have, respectively a “philosophy of the people. ” The possible rejoinder is that Mercado is speaking of diwa, referring to Filipinos and their worldview. From what I gather this is Mercado’s conception: He thinks Filipino philosophy is different from what he supposes Western philosophy is and what he supposes other Eastern philosophies are.
Both his suppositions include the idea that each – Western and Eastern except Filipino – has individual philosophers and none of diwa. So now I can take this rejoinder into account as (c) Every Filipino is a philosopher. That is, Filipino philosophy, conceived of as the worldview of the Filipinos also conceives of all Filipinos as philosophers by virtue of having a Filipino worldview. Mercado’s conception, however, does not exclude the possibility that there may be other places wherein one may say there is a “philosophy of the people. Of course, that would also mean that there does not seem to be any identifiable individual philosopher. But then again, this is just another way of stating that whatever that place might be; all the inhabitants of that place are philosophers. Another characteristic of Filipino philosophy according to Mercado (1974: 67) is that Negatively, the Filipino’s world view is nondualistic. This should not be taken to mean monism, for monism can mean either an emphasis on the subject (idealism) or an emphasis on the object. The nondualistic world view or horizon acknowledges the distinction between object and subject.
Positively, the Filipino wants to harmonize the object and subject Before this passage, Mercado introduces this as the “underlying principle” or “leitmotif” of Filipino philosophy. But how did Mercado determine this? What were his methods? How did he justify it? In the next section I discuss Mercado’s method in order to deal with these questions. TROUBLES WITH MERCADO’S METHOD To speak of a “philosophy of the people” as Mercado does, one may readily think of anthropology, sociology and the other social sciences in determining such.
For again, Mercado’s conception of Filipino philosophy is diwa, the worldview of the Filipinos. One must use these social sciences in order at the very least record the worldview of the Filipinos. I will not touch upon the methodological problems in determining what a significant sample of Filipinos is for determining what a “philosophy of the people” would be. But this is an issue that cannot really be ignored for what if there are significantly different worldviews for Filipinos as a whole? How can one say that such a sample is a representative sample of the “philosophy of the people”?
Mercado (1977: 6-9; 1985: 63-4) contends that it is in analyzing the language that one finds the worldview of the native speakers of such a language. Mercado justifies his use of “metalinguistic” analysis in this view of language. His analogy and justification with this view of language is by claiming that Aristotle would have had different categories if he used a different language. This is highly problematic4. Mercado’s work is therefore, replete with examples culled from the dialects of the Philippines and his analyzing them.
Mercado, perhaps aware of the problem of what a significant sample is, further qualifies that he used this kind of analysis with the three largest spoken Philippine languages. Mercado (1985: 64) adds further support for his method of analysis by writing that: The reports received were positive. For instance, one professor from the University of the Philippines intentionally did not read my writings, but tried a statistical approach to discovering the Filipino psyche. After reading my works later, she wrote that the facts obtained through the metalinguistic approach had paralleled her findings through the statistical approach.
I do not know in what way this professor’s work “paralleled” Mercado’s work. Mercado simply states that it does. In a reworking of his 1985 article Mercado5 (n. d. ) writes that the meanings of words are not sufficiently reflected in a dictionary: the nuances of terms have to be verified in a people’s practices and beliefs. That is why the phenomenology of behavior is a complementary method which may confirm the findings of the first method. So what is a phenomenology of behavior? One may well remember that phenomenology deals with the first person point of view (subjective).
One may also add that the behavior here might refer to the third person point of view (objective) or more strongly as the denial of the subjective by Skinnerian behaviorism. In this view there is a problem of reconciling subjective and objective with this kind of analysis6. But what does Mercado (1977: 11-2; 1985: 64-66) mean by “phenomenology of behavior”? Basically, it is the use of phenomenology (in the typical first person point of view) on the results gathered by social scientists. This may very well translate as: the personal insights of the inquirer (thoughts about the data) and the results of the social scientists (data).
Mercado (n. d. )7 justifies his approach by saying that: However, one philosopher cannot have the first-hand experience of everything. Where such data is wanting, s/he therefore has to rely on the findings of other social scientists. The use of anthropological data is by no means to equate them with philosophy (or theology), as some critics may imply. Phenomenology is a methodology, while philosophy is the result of the methodology used. The problem here is that just about anyone can have some insights about such data. The issue skirted here is how such insights are valid and philosophical.
To say, against critics who think Mercado is doing anthropology, that “philosophy is the result of the methodology used” is either a truism or presumes that anyone with insights developed from anthropological data has philosophical insights. This presumption is problematic because practictioners of the disciplines in the social sciences, for examples, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists etc. , do provide insights with the data that they have gathered. Social scientists do this at conferences, seminars and dissertations. So does that make the social scientists’ insights automatically philosophical?
But then again, on Mercado’s terms, if these were Filipino social scientists then they would be philosophical. So why not just have any Filipino look into anthropological data? Mercado (n. d. ) in the next sentence implicitly and perhaps unwittingly answers this by writing that, “One check of its validity is its consistency of explanation as well its ability to predict future phenomena. ” Is it not the job of social scientists to validate the “consistency of explanation” and to determine the “ability to predict future phenomena”? 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. CONCLUSION 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.
ENDNOTES 1. It is to Derrida that I owe this line of reasoning. 2. Gripaldo (2007: 298) has a similar objection. I try to develop a different objection later. 3. For example, I would not include the obvious like babies, the comatose and those in a vegetative state. 4. Taken by itself, it seems that Mercado’s metalinguistic analysis is susceptible to the same criticisms put forth against the Sapir-Whorf thesis. It may be a truism that one thinks relative to a language and that there are words that one would not find in another language.
But it is another thing to claim that languages are incommensurable as stronger adherents of the said thesis claim. Now, I do not know if Mercado really does make a claim similar to the incommensurability of languages. But I take that either Mercado thinks that (a) Aristotle would have thought differently in a different language or (b) Aristotle thinking in a different language from Greek would not be recognizable as the Aristotle we know. To claim (a) would be a truism and to what degree is left hanging.
To claim (b) is incoherent for why even name the said thinker Aristotle? While there are varying interpretations on Aristotle, there are different degrees on the differences of interpretation. Also, with these different interpretations comes the different translations, are those who read Aristotle in a language other than Greek to think that they have been mostly wrong, if not totally wrong, about Aristotle? Of course, a possible rejoinder is that the criticism is off since the analogy talks of Aristotle thinking in another language.
However, the issue here is to what extent language influences one’s thoughts about reality. I am inclined to think that Mercado would invoke (a) because he himself wrote articles and books primarily n English not Filipino. So if it is (a) it is not much support. 5. That I presume form the conclusion of a book. 6. Donald Davidson’s (1996) view is that subjective, intersubjective and objective form a triangle, a metaphor to describe reality. The three aspects for Davidson may affect one another but are not reducible to one another.
Even keeping with Davidson’s triangle, he keeps the three aspects distinct, or under a description as Anscombe (who influenced Davidson), would say. 7. Mercado (1985: 65-6) writes pretty much the same thing but with different personal pronouns. 8. In the article, Mercado (1985: 74) names Vitaliano Gorospe as one such critic. 9. I have mentioned this in the section on Mercado’s conception of Filipino philosophy. 10. Mercado used the term “models” and did refer to elitists who imported such “models. ” I do not think there is anything missed out by my using “methods” instead of models.
There is also elitism in disciplines and education, I do not think common folk would know about his methods, does that make Mercado elitist? REFERENCES Davidson, Donald. 1996. Subjective, intersubjective, objective. In Current issues in idealism. Edited and introduced by Paul Coates and Daniel D. Hutto. Bristol, England: Thoemmes Press. Derrida, Jacques. [Publication, reference to Points, interviews with Derrida] Gripaldo, Rolando. 2007. Is there a Filipino philosophy? The philosophical landscape: A panoramic perspective of philosophy.
Manila: Ample Printing Press. 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. http://www. crvp. org/book/Series03/III-8/chapter_xi. htm Accessed 30 November 2007. Timbreza, Florentino. 1987. Understanding Filipino philosophy. Karunungan 4