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Commentary

Wanted: philosophers

In the darkest of times, when the night of impunity and the blatant disregard of the remaining safeguards to democratic practices seem to be a society’s norm, philosophers are wanted. After all, philosophers claim to be the possessors (or at least the pursuers) of truth and wisdom. And as the owl of Minerva, that creature symbolic of the virgin goddess of wisdom Athena, flies only by night, philosophers must likewise leave the comforts of their universities and begin flying into the darkness of our era’s night, to seek and stand by the truth, and accompany others to do the same.

It is without wonder that Aristotle condemned tyranny as the most perverted type of government. In tyranny, one raises oneself to power by means of the most despicable and corrupt ways. There is the circumvention of democratic practices, or the use of threats and force against dissidents, or the manipulation of public opinion, or the blatant attack on the freedom of expression. History has produced a number of tyrants, and we Filipinos have had our share in the past, as well as in the present.

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Shouldn’t philosophers condemn, in a manner similar to Aristotle’s polemics, the contemptible evasion of our dear representatives of the standard congressional procedures just to immediately pass their highly coveted Con-ass?

Or can’t philosophers follow Frantz Fanon in condemning the killing of innocent civilians and progressive activists as attacks against the wretched of the earth?

Or, finally, shouldn’t philosophers, following Plato, be more aggressive in delineating (right and wrong) opinions from truth, and hence see both the attacks on the media and the proliferation of fake news as untruthful and therefore philosophically unacceptable? Philosophers must do more than mere speculation, especially in the darkest of times: Theoretical musings must be coupled with and integrated in practical engagements.

There are more than four big philosophical associations in the Philippines. But other than organizing conferences where philosophers and thinkers share their researches, these associations have not really manifested their stand concerning the issues that our society faces. At the very least, they could perhaps make a unified statement, one which, if not condemns, then criticizes the current state of things. After all, this is the very soul of philosophy: critique.

This critique would be reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s text: A voice comes to one in the dark. At the most, philosophers, following the analogy of Minerva’s owl, must begin to surrender the comforts and security afforded by the academic world, and start walking the talk, and even walking the extra mile. This mile-goer is the militant, as the French philosopher Alain Badiou maintains. Perhaps, in a full-scale tyrannical rule, philosophers have to be militants of truth. Indeed, this is the time when philosophers are wanted.

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Regletto Aldrich D. Imbong is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of the Philippines Cebu.

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TAGS: democracy, freedom of expression, Inquirer Commentary, philosophers, Regletto Aldrich D. Imbong, tyranny
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