Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Learnings in Critics

I look back to the passing first semester and I realized that one of the things that I appreciate in my study of philosophy is precision. To be honest, I do not have it yet, as I am still working at it.

Clarity is one fundamental aspect in my craft as a budding wordsmith. And clarity goes with precision: doing away with estimates, nipping the bud of probabilities and going straight to the point. I so appreciate how we can explain things without resorting to the use of too much words, which most of the time, muddle the sense of the idea.

This is much of use in terms of writing academic papers and even in composing impromptu prayers.

Methodic doubt is defined as the “doubt absolutely necessary for certainty.” I begin with a doubt, not because I hope to be skeptic all the time. This doubt is not an end in itself, but as a necessary means to attain certainty.

In various situations, Socrates feigned ignorance, not because he was one, but because it was his way to reach the truth. To be methodical doubter does not mean one is against certainty, but one needs to be in this state of doubt in order to subject the evidences at hand into an objective purification process. I personally believe that everyone who genuinely seeks for the truth should have this in his/her framework.

In practical terms, I would catch myself many times, doing a rundown of the things that I need to do makes me feel certain that I do not leave any important task undone. This is on top of the bulleted list clearly scribbled in a post-it note in front of me.

Critics made me more aware of the reality of our mind’s finiteness. Our mind has the possibility to fall in the state of error, which refers to a “false judgment,” or worse, we can be ignorant (a state in which the subject lacks the knowledge) of something.

I am aware that I have the tendency to forget terms, names of people, directions, tasks and responsibilities. The list is legion! And aside from the virtuous mark of humility, accepting my limitations, I’ve come up with means to ensure that the possibility of “error” and “ignorance” be prevented: taking down notes during class, electronically recording the lectures of my professors (via the MP3 courtesy of Fr Rey!), and reviewing my notes as soon as time permits me.

Much like the scientific process, the Scholastic Machinery is a systematic procedure geared towards having a deeper grasp of an issue. The process involves defining keywords, and taking into account the opinions of individuals. The method concludes with an informed and well-substantiated conclusion.

This methodology offers me a worthwhile means in coming up with an enlightened choice as it makes me reflect in identifying the root cause of a situation or an issue at hand.

This is especially of help to me when I write articles, say reflection papers or even blog entries, which usually have a leaning towards argumentation/persuasion. Of late, I realized how this method has also been of big help to me in preparing catechetical lesson plans as it helps me to become critical and hence, makes me appeal to the sense of reason of the students.

I mentioned earlier the methodic doubt, which is also one of the remedies of error, but I thought it best to distinguish it because of its hardcore philosophical nature. Hence, I am left with three things which may be used in order to treat error: (1) Purity of heart, (2) Sincere love of truth and (3) Petition for Divine help.

The first time I encountered them, I shook my head in disbelief and asked myself as to what these three are doing in a philosophical treatise. Honestly, I initially saw them as mere exhortations, and I wrongly though that they did not have any tinge of reason in them. However, things became clearer when Fr. Mike explained them one after the other.

After undergoing Critics for one semester, I realized how one’s purity of heart, his sincere love for truth and the appeal for Divine help are especially of valuable help to someone seeking for truth.

At this stage of my philosophical formation, I know nothing much of Francis Bacon, but having encountered his brainchild ‘Idols of the Cave,’ I can say that it’s such a wonderful contribution not only in the realm of philosophy but also in the other dimensions of our life as human beings, such as psychology, ethics, etc.

‘Idols of the Cave’ aims to put a label on the prejudices of individuals putting a probable explanation from where they may have derived these biases.

Bacon’s invention not only makes me ask “where is this person coming from?” but more than that, it helps me examine my biases and prejudices with people. Sure thing, I have been aware that I have biases with certain behaviors of people, but his “Idols” have offered me a possibility of enabling me to ‘name’ them.

Despite the many thoughts of Kant, which others consider as “thought-less,” I salute him for leaving such a beautiful thought, which proves to be an effective guide in directing our acts towards the preservation of the common good.

His categorical imperative, which is the central philosophical concept of his moral philosophy, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law," has earned for him such a reputable niche in the fields of morality and philosophy.

It has led me to consider some of my ways, especially those that only cater to my interest. And whenever I would catch myself considering doing it, almost immediately, this question makes its repeated refrain in my ears: “what if this becomes a universal law?”

As a human person and as a budding Salesian, this ‘duty,’ makes me consider sowing my own seed of goodness, hoping that those who would taste its fruit will be encouraged to propagate their own.

The definition of evidence is one of the philosophical terms I endeared myself with; not simply because of the cadence of its definition “splendor of truth seizing the assent of the mind,” but more so, because of its neat precision and succinctness.

Evidence is an invitation for me to believe, and to be certain of something.

Let me explain this on a personal note. One afternoon in my catechism class, I saw how my students responded to the way I drove home a point: by using a cellphone of one of their classmates (that time, it was playing a loud melody while I was painstakingly making a connection between text message and God’s desire to be connected to us.) I was sure they saw the point because, modesty aside, their faces lit up and their heads (about ¾ of the population!) moved up and down.