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On The Questions That

Matter
Lectures on the Philosophy of Being Human by
Leovino Ma. Garcia, Ph. D. Also includes insights and
reflections of his Philosophy 101 Class of 2012-2013
and 2013-2014.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Seeing
3 July 2012

Discussed Text: Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J., "Insight"

Fr. Roque Ferriols, famous for his reflections on being


human in Filipino, now introduces us to the foundation
of philosophical thinking, namely insight. Gaining an
insight would share the same meaning with
experiencing something, which is linked to tasting and
seeing. He reminds us in the introduction of his essay
that we do not seek to define philosophy in order to
understand what it is and how it is important in our
lives. Instead, it is understood by actually doing it, as
he would say when he talks about doing philosophy as
very much alike to swimming: Lundagin mo beybe!
One learns how to swim not by reading a thousand
books about swimming, but by actually jumping into the
pool and trying how to swim. Likewise, we cannot know
philosophy by talking about it but actually doing it.

What does philosophy have to do with insight, then? Fr.


Ferriols tells us basically that doing philosophy allows
us to see what cannot be seen at first glance by way of
insight. Through insight, we see what something
actually means and therefore, gives us access to what
something is as it exists. He expounds on this by
showing three examples of seeing with the mind.

The first is by getting the point of a joke, laughing about


it, and realizing through analysis how it becomes a
joke. This moment of "getting it" (i.e. understanding
why that particular joke is a funny joke), one not only
laughs but also understands well why it is funny, not
merely laughing along with others or not laughing at all
because you do not see its point.

The second example is Juan's insight about life after


the death of his grandfather, who was once, like him,
young and full of hope. He realizes that it is the way life
goes: at one moment you are energetic and dashing
and popular with the ladies, but as time passes by, this
energy fades and you are reduced to just another man
walking into this earth. I (Doc G) had this significant
memory of Fr. Ferriols as a youthful and fiery Jesuit
priest. During my graduation, he really wanted my
parents to come over to Manila, but one can only ride in
Manila-bound buses on a first come, first served basis,
and you have to wait for hours before you can ride in
another trip (buses then have wooden windows and are
not air conditioned yet). To "reserve" seats for my
parents who are waiting in line, Fr. Ferriols ran to the
bus, rolled up his soutane and hopped up the bus
through the window, just to reserve the seats for my
parents. Those were the days for this great Jesuit
thinker, who is now on a wheelchair, happy in his old
age despite his Parkinson's disease, and still teaching
Philosophy 101 to 9 or so students.

Fr. Ferriols noticed that this insight had once been said
by Homer in a poetic fashion, in a metaphorical manner
(he included two translations of The Iliad in his essay,
because his little student named Leovino Garcia gave
him a different translation). He wishes to show here the
power of the metaphor, as, faithful to its Greek
meaning, one that "carries us beyond" what we
ordinarily experience, as that which allows us to convey
something that we cannot fully describe. To have a
metaphorized eye is to have the ability to see
something and convey it through the similarity between
2 dissimilar objects. The leg of the chair, the foot of the
mountain, the opera singer floating like a galleon. We
see there a kind of linking, of copulating two dissimilar
objects in order to convey something that our "ordinary
language" cannot reach.

The third example that Fr. Ferriols mentioned is about


the number four (4). We gain insight on the meaning of
four, not only as "four" but also the sum of 1+1+1+1 or
2+2, through the very act of counting. We can count
four cars, four people, four buildings, and so on and so
forth. What is common here is that we do not mind
what kind of car, building, or person we are counting.
Rather, we are merely concerned that each one of
them counts as one.

This is called an abstraction, where we concentrate on


one aspect of a thing while temporarily not minding
other aspects of existing things. It is an important tool in
the analysis of insights and findings, as we momentarily
distance ourselves from reality in order to focus on
something. However, it has the chance of desiccating
an insight, freezing it and prohibiting it from becoming
open for other insights to spring forth. That is why it is
important that one should return to the "concrete
fullness of the original insight," that which is still rooted
in what is seen and experienced. Abstraction is both a
reward and a danger, and it takes much wisdom to
know how and when to use it or remain in it.

We see from these examples that insight is indeed a


kind of seeing with the mind, through the powers of our
thinking. More often, these insights are so reach that
we cannot exhaust its meaning, and therefore we are
called to look further, to think outside the box, and to
think otherwise. In doing something with an insight, we
also come up with other insights that perhaps be more
profound that what we have first seen. Likewise, it is
necessary for us to see, through an insight, whether
our conceptual analysis deepens a particular insight or
merely classifies it.

Perhaps the most important thing that Fr. Ferriols has


said about insight is that no one insight cannot be
completely understood, primarily because these
insights bring us into the heart of reality, which is rich
and inexhaustible in itself. That is why we need to keep
our minds constantly open for whatever that is to come.
Such openness is that which characterizes a
philosopher and separates him from the rest.

Or, in Fr. Ferriols' own words: Sa lahat ng ito, meron


pa! To do philosophy is a grasping at reality, but, it also
comes with the humble and yet hopeful claim that there
is still more to be seen.

Earl at 4:03 PM

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