¨Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil. For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst? Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.¨

–Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

¨There comes a time in life when you have to let go of all the pointless drama and the people who create it, and surround yourself with people who make you laugh so hard that you forget the bad and focus solely on the good. After all, life is too short to be anything but happy.¨

–Kiara Sellars


These are feelings common in the human condition as we deal with people, events, objects and the future. In the face of an event we either feel thrilled or creepy. In anticipation of a possible circumstance we are either excited or apprehensive. In meeting another person there seems to be a spontaneous fascination or outright antipathy in us. In the presence of something we feel an impulse of fondness or aversion. We are ¨programmed¨ into these and there is no outright justification or instantaneous reason to explain all of these ¨good and bad vibes¨ as they recurrently occur in our daily lives.

In Sigmund Freud´s theory of the unconscious and Carl Gustav Jung´s theory of the collective unconscious, we are led to believe that we cannot be totally free from the distant and recent past which generally accounts for how each of us has been ¨conditioned¨ or ¨programmed¨ or ¨reinforced¨ to do what we do in the present. The whole situation defines a human being´s person with the way s/he behaves and acts and reacts and thinks and looks at her/his so-called ¨reality¨.  It doesn´t therefore need a lot of ¨erudite¨ explanation to give details on why something is delightful or repugnant to us. We just feel it. There´s a certain kind of feeling that instantly ¨vibrates¨ in us and it instinctively triggers either pleasure or irritation within.

In the context of the people of a primitive society—or even of primitive-minded people in a modern society—¨good and bad vibes¨ are generally construed as an attitude of deep superstition. There are certain ¨spiritual¨ components in human individuals that give off automatic signals to accommodate benevolent energies and avert malevolent forces. However, Freud and Jung transcended this ¨unscientific¨ outlook without ¨throwing the baby with the bath water,¨ that is, without dismissing the validity of the issue of ¨good and bad vibes¨. Some aspects of which had been taken up by the behaviourists of the Pavlovian-Skinnerian type but with a serious flaw in absolutely focusing solely on environmental conditioning and totally disregarding the equally significant genetic factor. In more recent developments, the Cambridge biologist Rupert Sheldrake has forged a better synthesis in his theory of morphic resonance (cf. The Presence of the Past)  which places more importance on the genetic factor over and above the environmental, though with a novel twist that the genetic does not actually mean innate at all but only habitual (which echoes Hume´s epistemological theory of constant conjunction in the context of human experience) within the primacy of the reality of changes continually occurring in the evolutionary process.

¨Good and bad vibes¨ are within our system. They are matters of feeling that transcend discursive explanation. It doesn´t however mean that our inability to get to an articulate description of their details dismisses them outside of the epistemological frontiers. At least, their reality could be meaningfully—though subjectively—understood even on the fringes of knowledge. The American (of German-Jewish extraction) philosopher Michael Polanyi devoted an entire volume—The Tacit Dimension—on the issue that there is a kind of knowledge in us which is inexpressible in a detailed discourse but whose existential meaningfulness in the reality of our being cannot just be relegated to insignificance. In fact, this is the category of knowledge that gives distinctive confidence and sanity in us to cope with the complex simulacra and contrapuntal voices that characterize actual life in this world.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 24 July 2013



¨What is truth?¨

Pontius Pilate´s question to Jesus

¨You can´t handle the truth!¨

–Col. Nathan R. Jessep (played by Jack Nicholson)

in the movie ¨A Few Good Men¨



On this particular issue about ¨truth¨, I´d rather focus more on the specific problematization of ¨sentential truth¨. In other words, I will not be concerned with the truth of an event or an experience per se in the objective, intersubjective or subjective sense. In the present consideration, I´d be more concentrated on the truth of beliefs uttered in meaningful statements. This distinctively philosophical approach—in the linguistic-analytic tradition—is supportive of the intent to determine whether certain beliefs are matters of knowledge or not with respect to how classical philosophy presupposes that ONLY true beliefs achieve the category of knowledge. In this sense, the question of being true or the problem of truth plays an intrinsic function in the technical aspect of philosophy mainly in the discipline of epistemology (the philosophical field that deals with the issue of knowledge). In the most fundamental formulation, knowledge is defined as true belief. To resolve whether a belief is true or not, it has to be initially articulated in a sensible statement and must finally pass the test of verification.

There are two verification methods—either of which may be availed of—to determine the truth of an articulated belief: the empirical and the analytic. The first is by way of perceptual experience (on which science basically relies) and the other is through the technicalities of formal logic (which may include in certain complex cases the use of mathematical processes). Verification through perceptual experience appropriates the correspondence theory of truth while verification through logical analysis rests on the coherence theory of truth.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth

Alfred Tarski, in his classic, ¨The Semantic Conception of Truth¨ [http://www.cs.uwyo.edu/~jlc/courses/comp-sem/Semantic%20Conception%20of%20Truth.pdf] succinctly lays down the foundation of the correspondence theory of truth in clear-cut and thus well comprehensible terms:

THE MEANING OF THE TERM ¨TRUE¨. Much more serious difficulties are connected with the problem of the meaning (or the intension) of the concept of truth.

The word ¨true,¨ like other words from our everyday language, is certainly not unambiguous. And it does not seem to me that the philosophers who have discussed this concept have helped to diminish its ambiguity. In works and discussions of philosophers we meet many different conceptions of truth and falsity, and we must indicate which conception will be the basis of our discussion.

We should like our definition to do justice to the intuitions which adhere to the classical Aristotelian conception of truth—intuitions which find their expression in the well-known words of Aristotle´s Metaphysics:

¨To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, or of what is not that it is not is true.¨

If we wished to adapt ourselves to modern philosophical terminology, we could perhaps express this conception by means of the familiar formula:

¨The truth of a sentence consists in its agreement with (or correspondence to) reality.¨

(For a theory of truth which is to based upon the latter formulation the term ¨correspondence theory¨ has been suggested.)

If on the other hand, we should decide to extend the popular usage of the term ¨designate¨ by applying it not only to names, but also to sentences, and if we agreed to speak of the designata of sentences ¨as states of affairs,¨ we could possibly use for the same purpose the following phrase:

¨A sentence is true if it designates an existing state of affairs.¨

In using the correspondence theory of truth, the truth of a belief articulated in a statement is determined by how its meaning (technically called ¨proposition¨ in formal logic) matches up with the state of affairs or fact it purports to tell, explain or—taking the term used above by Tarski—designate. The statement ¨Spain is experiencing an economic crisis¨ is true if and only if it corresponds to the fact that Spain is really experiencing an economic crisis.  The statement, ¨X is a student of Universidad Autonoma de Madrid¨ is true if and only if it tells the fact that X is really a student of Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. The statement, ¨The Partido Popular of Spain is dominated by fascist-leaning members¨ is true if and only if it can be proven beyond the shadow of doubt after conducting an in-depth research study, that facts show and hence establish that  the Partido Popular of Spain is really dominated by fascist-leaning members.

Nevertheless, in cases where the truth of a belief cannot be immediately established by the correspondence theory of truth, it should be maintained that such a belief is yet technically considered a matter of opinion based on the viewpoint of the one who holds it. In other words, a belief at the opinion level may not be construed to be true as yet for it is still subject to debates and argumentations to the point of even getting to be a controversial issue of widespread significance. Beliefs of this type have at least generalizing and at most universalizing claims and being so requires in-depth studies by experts in fields where these beliefs are specifically categorized and located. At the end of the day, concrete states of affairs will finally determine whether such beliefs correspond to them and must hence be accepted as indubitably true.

But there are also perennial matters of opinion. These are beliefs of people who do not even consciously think of subjecting what they believe to the truth test because of the personal notion that what they believe expresses their own conviction and nobody who doesn´t hold the same conviction has the right to question its validity, correctness and truth. Even the states of affairs to which this type of beliefs are supposed to correspond and from which their truth should be established are in one way or another blurred in deliberate equivocation and premeditated vagueness aimed to confuse determined criticism and close scrutiny.

There are however genuine beliefs of personal significance and hence subjectively proven without violating the correspondence theory of truth. The truth of a statement of a certain belief that specifically concerns the exclusive state of affairs of a particular individual is dependent on her or his unique circumstances that are not within the ambit of other people´s experiences and thus do not significantly concern them. In other words, the truth of one´s specific belief articulated in a statement is not subject to verification and/or validation of the objective type if such a statement tells of a circumstance whose reality is solely and hence uniquely that of the individual who experiences it alone in her/himself. The statement is true to her/himself and doesn´t require the concurrence of others. In considering this instance versus the previously discussed which concerns others on the issue of truth, it is essential to distinguish between and not get confused in events that require an objective approach on the one hand and a subjective attitude on the other.

The Coherence Theory of Truth

The coherence theory of truth is established in formal deductive logic and formal deductive logic does not necessarily commence within the scope of the world of empirical (experience-based) reality. The operational arena of formal deductive logic accommodates the formation of connecting statements with the intent to prove the truth of one statement on the basis of its coherence to the meanings of the other statements without any correspondence or reference at all to what is observable/perceivable in the world of experience. It doesn´t however connote that logic is not useful in the real world of experience. One´s knowledge of formal deductive logic is advantageous to essentially supplement the ability to critically analyse statements in discourses—both casual and formal—when the limitations of common sense creep in.

To get to the truth of a statement by coherence, such a statement should be located in an argument. In formal logic, the term ¨argument¨ is technical. To quote some portions of the introductory part of the Logic section of my book, An Introduction to Philosophy: Readings in Academic Philosophy (with Logic) [http://issuu.com/ruel56/docs/intro_to_philo], p. 219, the following fundamental concerns should be emphasized:

The general field of logic is argument. Technically, argument is understood not in its ordinary meaning of bickering or quarrelling where two or more people are involved in a shouting match. In logic an argument is a discourse wherein a statement is being proved to be true by means of other statements that serve as evidence to the former. . . .

Argument are different from mere assertions because the latter are only statements not connected with each other logically, i.e., nothing is being proved and the statements do not serve as evidence for any other statements. . . .

In logic, it is not enough to be concerned with argument; the argument has to be correct. This is the specific concern of logic: correctness of argument. The logician is therefore responsible for dealing with the standard rules of correctly getting from the evidence to the statement whose truth is being proved—the latter we call ¨conclusion¨.

Logic, therefore, is the study of the rules of correct argument.

By means of a logical argument, a claim formulated in a statement is proved to be true as the other statements which serve as its evidence cohere with it. Otherwise, the claim is false because the argument is invalid. Let´s get to an example of a logical argument where we are supposed to prove the truth of the compound statement, ¨If a student always studies his lessons, he will surely get good grades¨ on the basis of two related compound statements that serve as evidence to and hence cohere with it: (1) ¨If a student always studies his lessons, he will always pass his examinations¨ and (2) If a student always passes his examinations, he will surely get good grades.¨ This is a valid argument called hypothetical syllogism and the process proves the correctness and thus the truth of the claim.

However, a set of true empirical simple statements used as propositions in a logical argument to prove a claim may end up invalid and with the claim being false. An example of which is to prove that ¨All Spaniards are Europeans¨ on the basis of the premises that ¨All Spaniards are human beings¨ and ¨All Europeans are human beings.¨ The argument commits the fallacy of undistributed middle term. Hence, the claim that ¨All Spaniards are Europeans¨ is false on the basis of the other two premises used as evidence to prove it. The invalidity of this particular argument stresses the point that formal deductive logic has basically nothing to do with the truth of certain statements on the basis of their correspondence with matters in the world of experienced reality.


This is the path of honest-to-goodness philosophizing in and out of the academic premises. Truth is still one of its aims and rationality will always be its beacon in such a commitment despite the ¨energetic¨ campaign trail of post-modernism in western philosophy to vigorously stamp out objective truth along with the significance of rationality in their ¨philosophical¨ quests. Meanwhile, classical philosophy of the linguistic-analytic mould will always be on the more realistic plane where objective truth is fully recognized and signified along with an equal recognition and signification of subjective truth appropriately demarcated and acknowledged in their respective contextual terrains.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 15 July 2013



Are we really supposed to be good? Who in what circumstance has conditioned and required us to be good? Doesn´t it seem that the question is contextually dependent and not emanating from a universal mandate that we should actually be good in all situations? If that is the case, then perhaps it could also be good to be bad in certain instances. Sounds paradoxical. But this leads us back to the question, ¨Who has given us the obligation to be good?¨ I think the most basic issue we need to initially settle in the present discussion is to determine the meaning of ¨good¨ in the language-game wherein the question ¨Why should we be good people?¨ is asked.

The fundamental assumption derived from instances wherein the question is commonly asked suggests a moral language-game. In other words, the term ¨good¨ in this context refers to what is considered and valued as a desirable quality from the perspective of morality. Hence the issue, if it has to be dealt with philosophically, is a matter of ethical consideration. The philosophical discipline of Ethics—which is subsumed under the general philosophical branch of Axiology (Philosophy of Values)—is essentially concerned with the rational interpretation, analysis and evaluation of certain moral beliefs, standards and principles preserved, upheld, protected and promoted as ideal precepts in the conduct of human interactions in the social locus. Morality in a general sense is deemed to be social and thus cultural.

Every human being under normal circumstances is born and raised in a particular social milieu. S/he in the process acquires the fundamental social beliefs, values and practices instituted in that society´s cultural network. Within such network is the society´s moral standards and practices—ideal principles and behaviours exceedingly cherished and held in high esteem through generations. They constitute the moral paradigm of that society´s denizens. They are the yardstick through which what is decent and honourable and just and fair from the viewpoint of that particular society is called good. Entailed in this notion is the performance of certain adequate duties to satisfy specific social expectations. What ought we to do? This is the foundation where the concept of the good is couched. Through the threshold of this moral assemblage emanates the question, ¨Why should we be good people?¨ And the quality of an act in this sense is not automatically considered good by self-judgment per se; it has to be acknowledged and accepted as desirable in the light of  dominant cultural patterns within the overall range of the society´s moral system.

But societies are not all alike in terms of culture. Sociology calls this, ¨cultural relativism¨. In this sense, certain moral standards and practices of a particular society—being matters of culture— may not only differ from but could even be diametrically opposite to those of another society´s. In other words, what is deemed to be good in society A could be evil or bad in society B. As a case in point, having four wives at most in an Islamic society is good but having one wife is not bad at all but is likewise within the range of what is accepted as good. However, in a Christianity-influenced society, heterosexual monogamy is standard while deviations are frowned upon, i.e, regarded as immoral. There are culturally approved—and even appreciated—practices considered moral in primitive South Pacific societies but are judged immoral in the context of more modern western societies (based on scholarly research studies done by professional anthropologists of leading European and American universities). These scenarios lead us to the notion that being good as a matter of socio-culturally determined morality is relative.

However, despite this reality of cultural diversity that creates moral relativity, the question ¨Why should we be good people?¨ is basically a standard moral question posed in any social formation aimed to draw people towards a general state of mutual accord with the implicit purpose of strengthening social cohesion via moral reinforcement. And right at this point, we just cannot ignore the path leading to the threshold of politics—the superstructure of society which has the guts to articulate in rhetorical manner the general presuppositions of morality in a social order and henceforth create certain requirements to serve specific ideological agendas premised on paradigmatic details that define what is supposed to be considered as good.  It is important at this point to realize that there are dominant factors that constitute the mechanics and dynamics of social change affecting the moral configuration within it. This is the political.

It is one thing to be aware of the ethics of morality which philosophically looks into the rationality of specific moral standards and practices in a social landscape and in the process locate them against the broader backdrop of the universality of the principle of human flourishing to determine their power to sustain human dignity. It is another thing though to point to the reality of the politics of morality that in one way or another exerts a forceful effort to redefine what is good according to its power-affirming agenda.

In the ethics of morality, boundaries are set to demarcate one culture from another and judge a moral practice at least in the light of its cultural distinctiveness and at most against the backdrop of the principle of human flourishing. In the politics of morality, the presence of dominant power-wielders in society possibilizes the imposition of a new moral order that redefines what is good even to the point of distorting the rational presuppositions established by and in the ethics of morality. The politics of morality has a bad side. It was the politics of morality that reigned supreme when former US President George W. Bush uttered in one of his highly theatrically charged speeches after the 9-11 tragedy: ¨If you are not with us then you must be against us.¨

Why should we be good people? The ethics of morality responds in rational and reasonable terms. The politics of morality is evasive; it simply and purely wants obedience and subservience—no more no less—and for it, that is the meaning of being good. In a lot of cases where the ethics of morality conflicts very seriously with the bad side of the politics of morality which dominates society either through the instrumentality of government or religion, the more ethical alternative is to be bad and being so is good. Within the purview of the ethical, the question ¨Why should we be good people?¨ makes sense. And in defiance of the same question emanating from the threshold of the political, the better and more meaningful question worth deliberating on is ¨Why is it good for us to be bad?¨

© Ruel F. Pepa, 9 July 2013



“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu

“The search for something permanent is one of the deepest of the instincts leading men to philosophy.”
― Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy

Evolution . . . History . . . Revolution . . . Genetic mutations . . . Biography . . . These are all stories of changes. Certain aspects of today are different from what we had yesterday. After decades of economic prosperity, the country is now experiencing a crisis. . . . Once a dictatorship, now a democracy.  Air and water pollutions have become major global issues in heavily industrialized societies of the modern western (and westernized) world whereas more than a century ago, they were never big deals at all. Humanity has gone through a series of civilizations all the way from the first wave (agricultural age) to the second wave (industrial age) to the third wave (information age). [Cf. Alvin Toffler´s The Third Wave (published by Bantam Books USA in 1980 . . . http://es.scribd.com/doc/21790569/The-Third-Wave-Alvin-Toffler] The American physicist-turned-business-and-futurist-philosopher Karl Albrecht even attempts to conjecture on the emerging ¨fourth wave civilization¨ of the 21st century in his essay ¨Brain Power: The Last Unexploited Capital Asset¨ (http://www.karlalbrecht.com/articles/pages/brainwave.htm) and carry on the discussion of the continuing trend from where Toffler left it off. Albrecht observes:

Futurist Alvin Toffler gave us the concept of the three great waves of change in human history. The first of Toffler’s socioeconomic waves was agriculture; the second was industrialization; and the third – upon us now – is the wave of information. Although we’re currently fascinated with this awesome Third Wave, it won’t be the Last Wave.

The Fourth Wave, I believe, will be the wave of consciousness – the “brain wave.” The last unexploited capital asset in business is the gray matter: the human capacity to think productively. Jeff Taylor, CEO of the Internet job exchange firm Monster.com, talks about the fast-approaching “smart gap,” a shortage of competent knowledge workers. He warns: “The knowledge worker is going to be at the center of company desperation.” One of the irresistible trends of Toffler’s Third Wave is a steady shift in the working population from “thing-workers” to “think-workers.” The trend goes far beyond the shortage of computer and software specialists. This shift to think-work may force us to completely rethink human education.

Humanity is perennially heading towards the future and we are no longer surprised to encounter novel theoretical configurations of what to expect in the next twenty or more years in a world that is categorically characterized by moments of transformation. Changes occur here and there in sudden or in gradual modality. The world is always in constant change and with this are our own respective perceptions of reality, i.e., our worldviews.

To cope with the ever-changing patterns of reality, we could decide to make ourselves relevant and updated and in the process be able to re-invent and thus equip ourselves with the latest technological breakthroughs to better understand and effectively participate in the events of post-modern significance. Otherwise, we get left behind and the most available recourse is to resign in a much more simple circumstances reliving Thoreau´s Walden Pond experience or making into reality Johann David Wyss´ Swiss Family Robinson´s fictional adventures in the wild. Either way—of progression or regression—is of course a matter of change.

In the sphere of academic philosophy, Plato stands out in the problematization of the issue of change versus permanence. His dualistic idealism holds the primacy of universal ideas over and above particular aspects of experience. Ultimate meaningfulness of reality emanates from the realm of universals and particular matters of human experience in the here and now are meaningless unless they connect with universal ideas.

Reality is viewed like in the construction of a house where a blueprint is initially required. The conceptualization as planned is primarily deemed necessary before the construction begins. In the case of particular chairs, we have them in various shapes, sizes and designs. They are perceivable, temporal, changeable and destructible. But beyond them in the realm of universals is the universal idea of ¨chair-ness¨ which is not perceivable by the senses, permanent, unchanging and indestructible. This is the ¨blueprint¨ whereon the existence of particular chairs is based. In other words, there cannot ever be particular chairs in the empirical world unless there is an ¨ideal chair¨ in the realm of universals.

In this connection, Plato contends that changes occur only in the realm of particulars but never in the higher domain of universals. Universal ideas are permanent and those that are of moral types as justice, honesty, love, integrity and decisiveness among others are the noblest ones that can originate only from the realm of universals and hence make human life in the empirical world worthwhile and virtuous.

Plato was basically an epistemologist who advanced the notion that true knowledge must be of universals or general types or kinds and not of particulars. To know a particular chair like an armchair or a monoblock chair, the knowing person must first know what general characteristics make up the ¨chairness¨ of chair. Otherwise, s/he cannot really recognize the particular characteristics of ¨chairness¨ in an armchair or a monoblock chair. Plato proposed that these universals are called Forms or Platonic Ideas. These are precisely and obviously expressed in mathematics. They are known by the mind, not the sense organs. The realm of Platonic Ideas is the Forms of things that can never change; it is a permanent realm. The philosophers, therefore, should be concerned with the realm of Forms rather than with this world of appearances, according to Plato.

[From: Ruel F. Pepa´s An Introduction to Philosophy: Readings in Academic Philosophy (with Logic), pp. 142-143 . . . http://issuu.com/ruel56/docs/intro_to_philo ]

This theory is however reversed in Aristotelian realism. Aristotle agrees with Plato that there are universal ideas and particular experiences. But contrary to his mentor´s theorizing, Aristotle asserts that universals do not precede particulars. In fact, it´s the other way around; there couldn´t have been ideas had there been no human experiences of particular states of affairs in the here and now. For Aristotle, ideas are mental conceptions that draw their configurations from concatenations of components whose most fundamental roots are the data of experience. In this sense, there is nothing ineffable or supernatural at all in universal ideas and the Platonic realm of universals is just an illusion. The idea of ¨chair-ness¨ is thus the resultant conception of the particular existences of different types of chairs we perceive in this world of human experiences. We are living in a world of particulars that constantly change in the space-time landscape. The real world is therefore indubitably a world of changes. Transformation is a common event in the human reality.

Aristotle was Plato´s most outstanding student. He developed the most comprehensive system of philosophy in the ancient western civilization. Aristotle broke with his teacher Plato, contending that the world of changing particulars was more important than Plato´s realm of permanent universals. In 335 BC, Aristotle founded his own school in Athens; he called it Lyceum. Aristotle was more concentrated on the study of natural sciences and the majority of his writings were on scientific subject subjects, mostly on biology. Aristotle was convinced that changes and development in this world could be explained by a thorough study of states of affairs as they are experienced, without having to deny their reality and seek explanation by an appeal to a higher type of reality. For him all objects in the natural world were composed of form and matter, and the changes that we observe in matter are the emergence of one form in place of another; these changes Aristotle called substitution.

[From: Ibid., Pepa, p.143 . . . http://issuu.com/ruel56/docs/intro_to_philo ]

But the much fiercer clash on the issue of change versus permanence long before the time of Plato and Aristotle was between the camps of Parmenides of Elea (early 5th Century BCE) and Heraclitus of Ephesus (ca. 535 – ca. 475 BCE).

In the case of Heraclitus and Parmenides, the issue was whether the most basic character of the world or reality was change or permanence. Heraclitus said it was change; Parmenides insisted it was permanence. In defense of his belief, Heraclitus even said that no one could possibly step into the same river twice.

[From: Ibid., Pepa, p.141 . . . http://issuu.com/ruel56/docs/intro_to_philo ]

For Parmenides, what is real is permanent and change as we perceive it in the world is an illusion. To truly understand reality, we must rely on what is eternal and hence changeless. We can only capture the meaningfulness of being by its permanent characters.  Unceasing changes that continually occur in space and time are impossible to seize and become the stable basis of how we should better understand reality. Of course there are changes here and there in this world of experiences but these are supposed to be synthesized in more universal terms that defy time and space. Reality is therefore genuinely understood and preserved in the permanence of the conceptual sphere and not in the elusiveness of an ever-changing world of sense perception. And only philosophers are mentally equipped and hence able to fully grasp this incontrovertible fact.

However, Heraclitus vehemently disagrees. For him the most basic stuff of reality is Fire which is symbolic of unceasing change. Fire consumes everything on its path. Nothing is permanent in reality. If it is real, it must be constantly changing. Things visible and invisible through the naked eyes are incessantly changing at various degrees of velocity. Except for the metaphysical presupposition, the Heraclitan conception of reality sounds appealing to the way modern science has progressed through time. In this context, it makes real sense to agree with Heraclitus´ illustrative statement pertinent to his theory of eternal flux (or change) that ¨No one can step into the same river twice.¨ The water in a river is supposed to be flowing and there is no way that the second time one steps into the water, s/he is stepping into the same water again.

But at this point, we should have already noticed a logical flaw in this Heraclitan formulation. There is no question about the flowing water that continuously changes in motion. There is real perceivable change in the event. However, the logical issue focuses on the conceptual aspect of what a river is. It has been previously determined that the water in the river must be flowing otherwise it is not a river. The flowing water is therefore a definitional aspect of the nature of a river and this factor we cannot change. In other words, despite the fact that we have perceived change in the flowing water of a river, what is definitely considered as permanent in the same instance is the fact that we cannot change the reality that a river is a river. We find changes in the river but the ¨river-principle¨ doesn´t and can´t ever change. The same is true with the water; the water flows but its ¨water-ness¨, i.e., the ¨water-principle¨ doesn´t and can´t change. The very propositionalized assertion of Heraclitus itself that ¨No one can step into the same river twice¨ as well as the corollary statement that ¨The world is in constant flux¨ are absolutized principles that cannot be subject to change.

A similar point is found in Aristotle´s metaphysical conception of the ¨Unmoved Mover¨. There are motions—changes—in the cosmos but behind all these that we observe through sense perception is an unchanging principle which is the foundational ground of being; an axiomatic presupposition that stabilizes and puts order to reality. Even Hegel reckons history as a succession of monumental changes in the socio-political arena. But the ¨universal guiding principle¨ that steers history—the Absolute—is the unchanging foundation of a totalized reality that marches on in a dialectical fashion. Marx´s principles of dialectical and historical materialism whose basic methodological presupposition is derived from Hegel are also an affirmation of changes in history. But the very principles themselves are deemed to be absolute and thus unchanging. We can go on and on and mention more of these so-called axiomatic philosophical foundations that approximate the mechanics and dynamics of changes in human reality and get to the conclusion that these foundational principles are conceived to be absolute, permanent and eternal. Nietzsche´s principle of eternal recurrence is classified under the same category as well as its more realistic expression in Vifredo Pareto´s cyclic principle of social reality.

In the same vein, we can track the changes in the life of an individual person as we read her/his biography from infancy to adulthood. And these changes are even backed up by existing photographs archived in albums. The life-events of a particular human being is certainly characterized by changes and this matter could lead us to automatically conclude that there is really nothing permanent in this world. Everything is in unceasing flux. But on second thought, we get to the realization that the person who has changed through time is the same person all the while. Nicole Kidman in infancy is the same Nicole Kidman in adulthood. In this case we could say that the baby is now a lady but the truth of the matter is she is one and same person. Nothing as far as the personal essence of her identity has changed at all. Her being as such does not and will never change.

Conclusively, we should agree to the fact that reality is after all characterized by two aspects: permanence and flux. And we should be able to meaningfully exercise the wisdom to discern both in every experiential instance that comes our way. In doing so, we render due respect to matters scientific on the one hand and matters philosophical on the other as we appropriately distinguish them. For the God believers, the late celebrated 20th century Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebur has the following prayer to share:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 2 July 2013