The intention of this paper is twofold: to present a philosophy of values. with the help of the noted phenomenologist of value, Max Scheler, and to show the indispensable role of philosophy in value education, especially in the context of national reconstruction.
It has been said often that at the root of our economic and political instability as a nation is a moral crisis of such paramount degree that our culture has been termed a "damaged culture." Recently, we have been ranked third among the most corruption-ridden countries of Asia. Graft and corruption have become an accepted way of life for most of our countrymen, not only for government officials and their relatives. Undoubtedly, moral recovery must go hand in hand with economic and political recovery. But such a moral recovery requires an understanding of values, notably in the field of education; otherwise our value-education thrust will be haphazard and lacking in direction.
This paper hopes to contribute to such an understanding of values. But more than that, it proposes that such an understanding of values entails an emphasis upon teaching philosophy in our curriculum, perhaps more than, but not at the expense of, the other disciplines.
WHAT ARE VALUES?
The first thing to be said about values is that they are objects of our intentional feeling. Intentional feeling is different from the sensory feelings of the five senses (e.g., pain, tickling), from bodily vital feeling-states (e.g., tiredness, illness, health), and from psychic feeling (e.g. sorrow, joy). By their very nature intentional feelings are feelings of something; they are oriented towards values. Spiritual feelings such as bliss and despair are essentially intentional being directed towards the value of the holy, but other feelings acts like preferring, love and hatred are likewise oriented towards values.
Values are given to us in intentional feeling. We "know" values by feeling them, they do not wait for our rational justification in order to appear in our lives. Our intellect is blind to values just as the eyes are blind to sounds. This does not mean that we cannot reflect on values, but when we do (as we are doing now) we are no longer reflecting on value as value, but on value as a concept. An illustration of this point is the value of service, of being a person-for-others. The Ateneo de Manila constantly drills this message into college students for four years through their courses and reading materials. The Ateneans are intelligent enough to understand this, but how many of them venture to spend a year or two in a service-oriented job after graduation? For the few who do, the decision usually comes after an immersion program, which enables them to feel the experience of poverty.
As objects of our intentional feeling, values are essentially qualities and are not to be mistaken for goods, though goods are carriers or bearers of values. The misconception of value for goods may be due to our language. The Pilipino word for value is "halaga"; but another common expression used by young people, "bale", of Spanish origin, which may also mean "worth". "Bale" refers also to that small piece of paper Filipino brings to the sari-sari store, with the words "good for" a can of milk or a bag of sugar. But values should not be mistaken for goods. As qualities, values qualify our life and do not easily give in to quantification; as qualities, values are objective and immutable, whereas goods as carriers of values vary and depend on the subject, time, circumstance, and situation. A metaphor may be of help here. The color green is a quality seen by the eyes and different from the color black. If I paint the green board black, it is now a carrier of the color black whereas before it was a carrier of the color green. The quality green or black does not change; only the board has changed.
It is important to stress here the immutability, the objectivity of values; for values, especially higher values, call upon the person and when the person fails to respond to a value, it is not the value that is destroyed but the person himself. Justice as a value calls on the person to be just, and if he does not respond to this call by being just, it is not the value of justice that is destroyed but the person himself. We are here reminded of the words of Socrates: "To do injustice is worse than to suffer injustice." As qualities, values transcend man.
The ambiguity of values lies here in their immateriality. Our life attains a quality because values constantly present themselves to us, and intervene in our life as instigators of action, as a prospect for commitment, as a reason and standard for behavior and expression, norms and principles of conduct, and as criteria for aesthetic appreciation and economic utility. But values elude all their embodiments or carriers. A value gives itself in an object to be desired, but once the goal is attained it affirms itself in the form of another demand. It is in this sense that we can speak of the universality of values--they exercise an influence on the totality and unity of our life. Values form a kind of horizon to our life.
More especially, values generate an ought-to-be and an ought-to-do. For instance, because justice is a value, justice ought to exist and I ought to be just. Values, in other words, ground our obligations, beliefs, ideals, and attitudes, without being identical with them.
How then do we experience values? The key to this question is to be found in the notion of the human being as a person, for in a real sense only man and woman can experience values. A person, for Max Scheler, is the seat of the spirit, which spirit transcends nature. As spirit, the person is not part of nature, but apart from it; he (she) can determine himself (herself), direct his (her) own life. Self-determination is another word for freedom.
A manifestation of this is the human being's capacity to go against the drive of evolution, the instinct for survival--the person can willingly take his own life. In his freedom the person is the unity of diverse acts, past, present and future, and as such is openness to reality. In a similar vein, Martin Buber talks of the person as a being in dialogue with the world. The being of the person is a being of response-ability, and freedom is the precondition for the person's response to the other, whether another human, nature, thing, event, or God. For Buber the opposite of constraint is communion: to be free, and thus to be a person, means to be able to respond to the call of communion. It is here that values are experienced--in the dialogic relationship of the human being as a person. Unlike the animal which a biological need compels with the force of a natural physical law to satisfy necessities, values call for a free response from the person. There is no experience of value if value is not recognized as such, consented to and willed by the human being. Values appear in the human being's engagement with the world, in his (her) openness to reality. The experience of value is at once the experience of person. Values then are not created, but discovered by the person in involvement with the world.
The person is the unity of diverse acts, but among these diverse acts, there are three that characterize the person uniquely: (1) the act of reflection or the act of making oneself the object of one's thinking, (2) the act of ideation or abstraction, of deriving an essence from existence, and (3) the act of loving. Of the three, the last is the most important trait of the human being as person: a person is a being capable of loving. Loving and hating are the fundamental primordial acts of the person to which all our other acts are reducible to them. In this sense, a person is what he (she) is by what he (she) loves and hates.
Both love and hatred are movements of the heart oriented towards values. Love and hatred are similar in that as movements, they open up a hierarchy of values. The opposite of love is not hatred but apathy. Love directs us to higher values whereas hatred directs us to lower ones. It is interesting to note here that the Pilipino word "mahal" (love) also means "esteem" or "of high value".
|At the lowest rank are sensory values (the values of pleasant and unpleasant, technical values, and luxury values). Next in rank are the vital values of noble and vulgar, the values of civilization. Higher than vital and sensory values, both of which are related to the ego, are the spiritual values of justice/injustice, truth/falsehood, and the aesthetic values of beauty and ugliness. The highest values are the holy and unholy. Both spiritual and holy values refer to our being a person or spirit.
This ordered rank of values is also objective and immutable. What is subjective and mutable is our perception of this hierarchy, our "value-ception," and our concrete realization of values. Hatred is a disorder of the heart because it wrongly reverses the order or the rank of values. What about the moral values of good and evil? For Scheler, the moral values of good (positive) and evil (negative) are not to be found in this hierarchy of values but in their realization; they, so to say, "ride on the back of the deed." A deed is good if it prefers a higher or positive value in place of a lower or negative one. On the other hand, a deed is evil if it prefers a lower or negative value in place of a higher or positive one. Without the deed and the person who performs it, no moral good or evil occurs. In this sense, moral values are personal values--they originate from persons. But to the extent that good is the realization of higher values, the spiritual and the holy which refer to our being persons, and to the extent that evil is the realization of lower values, the sensory and the vital which refer to our likeness to the animals, then good enhances our personhood while evil degrades our humanity.
The moral acts of good and evil are based then on the person and not on any moral authority. Obligation, as we said earlier, is based on value, not the other way around. Values generate an "ought" through being modeled in a person; without a person to model them there would be no norms or obligations. In the case of moral values, nothing can make a person good but the intuition of the example of a good person, whose love, in turn, invites one to follow. Scheler cites the example of Christ loving the sinner Mary Magdalene and thereby effecting her moral conversion. Model persons are the primary vehicle of value transformation in our moral world.
THE VALUE OF PHILOSOPHY
There are as many definitions of philosophy as there are philosophies and philosophers. Our task here is not to define it and thus limit the value of philosophy to its definition, but to seek its meaning in what it does in the context of the other disciplines, in the human and natural sciences, and in the ordinary endeavors of the human being. This leads to seeing the value of philosophy as corresponding to the points we mentioned regarding the nature of values.
The Western tradition has always associated philosophy with wisdom, forgetting the "love" that precedes wisdom in its original meaning. Our culture has not been spared of this Western influence for pamimilosopo means also to be pedantic, to be theorizing and to juggle concepts in a dull and narrow manner. But "to philosophize" was originally to search passionately for wisdom, to love it because one was not in full possession of it. Far from being purely speculative, philosophy is first of all felt, a passion, a desire, a value.
What is this wisdom that the philosopher loves? The Eastern tradition can offer us interesting answers, and we turn to the East for wisdom. The Hindu word for philosophy is "darsana" which means "to see", not just with the eyes or the mind, but with one's whole being. What is to be seen with one's whole being is none other than the truth or the real, namely, what is unchanging, eternal and universal. The Chinese tradition terms philosophy as "cheh-hsueh" ( ). Hsueh means learning, but cheh ( ) is a compound character made up of a hand ( ), a measurement ( ), and a mouth ( ); that is to say, philosophy is learning to measure one's words with one's deeds. To philosophize is to know in a very different way from a learning a skill; it is first of all to learn to be moral where one's speech, feelings, knowledge and action are integrated in one whole. The wise man is one who always knows the good to be realized in any concrete situation. The clever, on the other hand, is one who knows how to utilize persons or things for whatever end, good or otherwise.
Where does love for wisdom emerge; when does a person begin to philosophize? It should be said at this point that just as it is only the person who experiences value, only human beings philosophize. Different philosophers have varied accounts of the beginning of philosophizing: Plato traces it to wonder, Descartes to doubt, Jaspers to the limit situation. Whether it is in wonder, or doubt, or helplessness that one begins to philosophize, something of the very nature and reality of the human situation does impel the person to do so. Robert Johann calls it the tension of human experience. This tension springs from the very nature of the person as openness to reality, as response-ability to the other (nature, fellowman, society, or the Absolute), as not being identical with oneself or as self-becoming. Springing from the tensions of human life, to philosophize is to bear witness to this situatedness of our humanity.
But what does a philosopher do with this tension that a non-philosopher or one who has ceased philosophizing does not? The philosopher brings it to consciousness, awareness and reflection, making explicit what is implicit in human experience. Reflection in this sense is bending back on oneself, becoming aware of one's own life, which includes the world of the other. "The unexamined life is not worth living," says Socrates, but if it is to be authentic philosophizing this examination of one's life can never be a sort of navel-contemplating.
There is, however, another sense to reflection beyond the mere clarificatory bringing one's experience to consciousness. This is the critical sense: to reflect is also to gain distance from oneself and one's situation. A "disengagement" is a necessary moment in philosophizing; this is not an escape or alienation from reality but is meant to provide a "second look," holding back instinctive reactions, and examining one's presuppositions and prejudices.
At this point, the "retreat" of the philosopher is not different from the scientist's objectivity. Likewise, the scientist in his concern to solve the problem at hand distances himself from the problem in order to examine its parts, test his hypothesis, and verify his conclusions. To philosophize, however, is to be concerned with the whole or totality, and if the scientific process and data are relevant to this, then these too must be taken into consideration and questioning. Thus, the objectivity of the philosopher includes subjectivity, or to be precise, to be objective is to be intersubjective. In the sense of Gabriel Marcel, to philosophize is secondary reflection, to be concerned with the mystery of being, not in the theological sense of being unknowable but in the sense of a "problem" which encroaches upon one's own being and that of others.
The tension in human life calls for a resolution or reconciliation of a sort different from the solution of the scientist, for here the philosopher's own self is involved--his very being is at stake in his reflection. In the metaphor of Marcel, the philosopher is like a person trying all sorts of positions in bed to get some sleep. Philosophical reflection attempts to see the "sens" of everything which for Claudel is the meaning of a word, the direction of a river, the opening of a door, the smell of a perfume, the texture of a cloth. To philosophize is to be concerned with meaning or in Pilipino, kahulugan whose root is "hulug" meaning "fall" as one would say in English, "fall into place". To philosophize then is to integrate, both past and future in the act of presenting the meaning of one's life, both personal and social. Ultimately, of course, the raison d'etre of philosophy is the person's inner longing to achieve harmony or unity with one's self, with nature, with others, with God--it is the very meaning of sagehood in the Oriental tradition.
It is not surprising then that the authentic philosopher must also be a lover of justice of which Socrates, Confucius, Mencius, Gandhi and Sartre are examples. After all, justice implies a vision of the totality of the situation and a respect for the dignity of the human person. The philosopher must also be a peacemaker or a lover of peace, for peace reconciles the conflicting forces within and without one's self.
Just as value is the object of our intentional feeling, philosophy makes us sensitive to the quality of our lives. The greatest danger that faces our nation today, and any nation for that matter, is apathy or sort of spiritual anesthesia. Philosophy awakens us from our spiritual slumber, our take-for-granted attitude in the same way as does literature or the arts.
But more than literature or the arts, philosophy not only sensitizes us but also brings us to the level of holistic, critical and evaluative reflection. This is the second value of philosophy, a step beyond sensitivity which makes it sensibility--reflection.
Just as values differ from and transcend goods, philosophical reflection enables us to see beyond the facade of superficiality the perennial, lasting and deepest quality of our lives. Because philosophy attempts to see the totality of any human experience, it can provide us with a vision. This is important in the task of national reconstruction, for the development of a society cannot be haphazard and aimless. Short-term goals and long-term objectives have to be blended harmoniously, which requires a vision of what the country intends to be. This vision, of course, must be rooted in the historical realities of the present. Although philosophy may lack the discipline of the sciences and technology, it is nevertheless trained to inquire into the basics. Philosophical reflection seeks to go back to the roots of any human endeavor; it sets the foundation.
Both vision and foundation demand of philosophical reflection a critical sense. Properly philosophical thinking is reflective and critical: reflective because it is critical, and critical because it is reflective. Traditionally, thinking was considered reflective when its object was inside the mind. But much thinking about oneself--daydreaming for instance--can be anything but reflection. Thinking is reflective when it is done disinterestedly without preconceptions and when it opens to a broader horizon, that of values. Just as values form a horizon in our lives, so philosophy, in its search for truth, opens a range or hierarchy of values against which we must evaluate the quality of our lives, the sensibleness of an issue or of a project. This is the outstanding value of truth--it lights up other values, including that of justice. In the light of truth, the world is not just a world of facts and figures, but one imbued with priorities, a sense of importance and purposes.
One cannot overestimate this critical role of philosophy especially for a people undergoing a transition from a long period of dictatorship to a new era of self-determination. For national reconstruction and total human development this critique must necessarily include a re-evaluation of traditional Pilipino values and traits.
Finally, just as values generate an ought-to-be and an ought-to-do and call forth moral persons, so philosophy invites us to be integrative. This integrative function of philosophy is more an ideal to be achieved rather than a guaranteed role, for philosophy does not impose but springs from the responsible freedom of the philosopher as a human being. Philosophy urges us to be moral persons, persons of integrity who are in self-possessed because their speech, feelings, thinking and action are one. This unity derives from commitment to the value of persons. Philosophy invites us to be true to ourselves and our humanity, by committing ourselves to the value of other humans. Just as love is the movement towards the realization of higher values, so philosophy moves us to be responsive to the value of persons--to love.
The above-mentioned values of philosophy make it indispensable in value-oriented education. Needless to say, these insights concerning value and philosophy have grave implications for our curriculum, pedagogy, and especially the person of the teacher. But this is the topic of another discussion.
Ateneo de Manila University