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Archive for September, 2013

On Blaming

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¨What can everyone do? Praise and blame. This is human virtue, this is human madness.¨
–Friedrich Nietzsche

“If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness. ” (Monseigneur Bienvenu in Les Miserables)
― Victor Hugo

The tendency of people to blame others in the occurrence of untoward incidents seems to be a spontaneous reaction. As such, we take the matter as something normal and in many cases, blaming gets the approval of the majority in a society wherein a general consensus has been reached. The highest point attained in the act of blaming is at the level of condemnation. An event whose harmful—even destructive—effect on the people is of tremendous magnitude ¨naturally¨ results to a level of condemnation wherein it is not only the act that is slammed but more so the perpetrator(s) of the act. The act of blaming is grounded on a moral foundation. By and large, nobody blames one who has done something considered moral in a particular socio-cultural context. However, in another context where the ¨cultural operators¨ (as in a gang or a criminal syndicate) value more the opposite of what normal and decent people consider to be good and acceptable, the finger of blame is pointed to someone who has failed to toe the line. Thus, we may say that blaming in general is an act of disapproval, a kind of censure to the failure of someone to achieve a desired result.

In actual instances, though, the act of blaming has a certain degree of complexity especially if we focus more on the subjective perspective because experience has made us get used to the common tendency of individual persons to lay the blame on others when there has been a failure to achieve what the former originally desired. In this sense, we may say that at least blaming is rather utilized as a defence mechanism and at most, an escape route, so to speak. Blaming others therefore becomes an automatic way out to save one´s ass. In the process, it involves a ¨narrative,¨ a story or a interpretation—even a reinterpretation—of the issue at hand to generate sympathetic agreement from the majority of interested observers through which the latter are expected to be convinced. In a lot of cases, such narratives are distorted accounts of what really happened particularly in circumstances where the blaming party holds more power by virtue of the space of prominence it occupies over and above the other side that heaps the blame.

Socrates´ tragic experience is a case in point. He was blamed and accused by his adversaries, the Sophists, of poisoning the minds of the young people of Athens. On that basis, he was indicted in court and was given the death sentence. We all know through Plato´s accounts that the event was characterized by a distortion of facts. The real reason why Socrates was condemned is because the Sophists´ traditional reputation and unchallenged prominence in the splendid society of ancient Athens were at the brink of ignominy. As we reflect on this event, we see that the blamed is the victim.

However, it is not always the case because there are states of affairs wherein the ¨blamers¨ are the victims and the act of blaming is prompted more truthfully and is hence morally legitimate. In such cases, we find people who have been entrusted with serious responsibilities along with the appropriate resources for them to act judiciously and with integrity to accomplish such responsibilities. But along the way they have shown an attitude of appalling carelessness, even excessive negligence and idiotic recklessness in the performance of the duties solemnly delegated to them. In fact, worse than carelessness, negligence and recklessness are the conscious and aggressive efforts on the part of these ¨trustees¨ to impudently ruin the trust bestowed on them and to even squander the very resources handed over to their care for conscientious disposal.

Related to this are states of affairs in government wherein the accountability of an elected official is deemed a public trust. The cost of failure is lofty and the wayward infringement of an official´s ¨contractual obligation¨ to the electorates is a mortal transgression. To be stoned, therefore, with a truckload of blames is the logical consequence more than merely expected but rather actively called for. Stealing public funds budgeted for national development programs in hundreds of millions of euros or dollars  not only once but regularly annually within the span of a government official´s term of office is an absolutely heinous crime of sheer plunder and high-level economic sabotage of grand scale.

But a new level of complexity gets in the way as we reach this particular point of consideration because in some less politically mature societies where there is only a simulacrum of democracy superficially seen in certain practices and instrumentalities as the election of candidates to government offices, the blame should not solely be flung on the elected public officials but likewise on the electorates themselves. It may be reasonable to blame the corrupt and incompetent public officials who have pulled the country to extreme poverty as they enrich themselves with the people´s money they steal from the national treasury. But it may likewise be equally reasonable to blame the people themselves who have put thieves and incompetent people in public offices to victimize them and make their lives miserable. What we see here is a condition wherein, on the one hand, the victims get to a point where they relentlessly blame and ruthlessly condemn the victimizers, while on the other hand, the more critical segment of the ¨victim class¨ which constitutes the minority likewise gets to a similar point where they woefully blame their gullible colleagues and lamentably accuse them of utter stupidity.

While veering away from a theoretical discussion of the act of blaming, it is perhaps more practicable at this point in time to problematize the trajectory of the act itself. Along the way we ask the questions: What then is the pragmatic end-point of the act of blaming that one does? Is our act of blaming an issue or a perpetrator of a blamable deed heading towards transformation? In a more succinct way of asking it, Is our act of blaming creative/constructive?

The tragic end of reasonable, judicious and prudent act of blaming is for it to fall on deaf ears and aimlessly fly like dust in the wind. . . . a fruitless endeavour . . . an exercise in futility.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 24 September 2013

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¨Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.¨

–Katherine Mansfield

 

“We took risks. We knew we took them. Things have come out against us. We have no cause for complaint.”

–Robert Frost

 

“Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won’t suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow. But when the person looks back-she will hear her heart”

–Paulo Coelho

 

As an initial clarificatory remark, the focal point of the present discussion is on philosophy as a discipline and not in the sense where the concept is used as the raison d´etre or the mission-vision of a corporate entity. Neither is the term understood as an expressed conviction or principle of an individual or a group. Philosophy as a discipline is thus viewed in the present context as basically a cognitive tool to clarify meanings to linguistically facilitate understanding.

The contemporary focal point of philosophy is linguistic because many problems, controversies and hostilities, big and small, in everyday life arise from misunderstanding and confusion due to language. Two people get into bitter discussion and hard bickering because each of them is using words or statements whose meanings are not clear to either of them. One uses a word or statement whose meaning to her/him is very much different from the latter’s meaning because they have differing contexts. In other words, there is misunderstanding and confusion of meanings because of contextual vagueness or undefined context. A word, a statement, may have different meanings in different contexts. A context is a defining locus where words or statements are used according to the understanding of their user. So that, for someone to be philosophical, s/he should first ask for the meaning of the word–or statement–as it is used. Hence, it is genuinely philosophical in the contemporary linguistic analytic sense to ask the question, “What do you mean by the word or statement you have said?” or “In what definite sense are you using that word in that statement?”

[From: Ruel F. Pepa´s ¨THE RELEVANCE OF LINGUISTIC ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY IN THE POST-INDUSTRIAL ERA¨ in https://www.facebook.com/notes/ruel-pepa/the-relevance-of-linguistic-analytic-philosophy-in-the-post-industrial-era/185846801450834%5D

In this context, philosophy utilizes the analytic and synthetic procedures of criticism and appreciation through reflection and discourse in the major philosophical areas of metaphysics (cosmology and ontology), axiology (ethics and aesthetics) and methodology (logic and epistemology) [Cf. William Pepperell Montague´s The Way of Knowing or The Methods of Philosophy  . . . http://www.amazon.com/Ways-Knowing-Methods-Philosophy/dp/1417903503/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378723451&sr=1-1]

Philosophy may no longer have the overarching ascendancy it used to enjoy in the pre-Socratic ambience of ancient Greece but it has remained to be a hovering panopticon over a wide range of disciplinal spheres both academic and non-academic, whether scientific, religious, political, social, economic, or what have you. Philosophy may have passed the age of being a super-discipline dominating the sciences and the humanities but it has never lost its relevance in vigorously engaging them in sensible discourses and dialogues not only to challenge to prove and/or appreciate the worth of their claims and conjectures but also to propound constructive insights pertinent to the concerns of ethical valuation, epistemological signification and ontological expediency.

The different scientific fields may no longer be reckoned as philosophy (as they used to be prior to the advent of Aristotle) but there will always be—as there has always been—philosophical inquiry in every theoretical assertion and inferential hypothesis articulated and put forth by any of these scientific fields. Religion or politics or whatever field one has in mind may no longer be subjected within the general category of philosophy as in the ancient western intellectual conventions but there is and will always be philosophical discussions—even debates—on religious and political issues among others. In other words, philosophy (as doing philosophy or philosophizing if you will) remains meaningful in its reflective and discursive engagement with the world equipped with the tools of analysis and synthesis for both critical and appreciative purposes. At this point begins the risks of philosophizing.

Philosophizing is at risk in the face of dogmatism, either political or religious. In political and/or religious circumstances where freedom of expression is curtailed, the risk of critical and discursive philosophizing (pursued both analytically and synthetically) is extremely far above the ground. As a case in point, getting into a balanced critical and appreciative philosophical deliberation (reflection and discourse) on the Israeli-Palestinian political conflicts and controversies right inside Israel with politically fired-up Israelis both intellectual and non-intellectual alike is a risky engagement. What is specifically tolerable in such a particular context is ¨imbalanced philosophizing¨ (which is an oxymoron) wherein one is only allowed to DISCURSIVELY APPRECIATE the merits of just one side of the political divide over the other and never to be critical of the downsides discovered on the same side. Of course, the other philosophical operation of REFLECTIVE CRITICISM doesn´t get apparent, much less obvious, in such condition as it is forbidden to see the light of day. The risk lies in an open defiance of the restriction and could even be a matter of life and death. Similar to this was the situation in the erstwhile Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites during the so-called Cold War era. Discursive criticism even within the strict purview of philosophical analysis and synthesis of certain political principles and theories operative within the system was a proscribed exercise whose violation could put involved individuals in a gulag, a mental asylum or at worst before a firing squad.

In such kind of atmosphere, the only brand of ¨legitimate philosophizing¨ approved of by the powers that be is one that applauds and pays tribute to the coercive system. Though no superficial risk of external origin is implicated in this type of pseudo-philosophizing, more serious INTERNAL RISKS emanating right from within the core of honest-to-goodness philosophizing painfully persist for the very discipline of philosophy is itself exposed to jeopardy. A ¨philosophizing¨ subservient to the whims and wishes of the political and/or religious power-wielders is a grievous desecration and a severe violation of what is supremely held to be venerable and reputable and illustrious in the discipline of philosophy. In this particular category, what we have are not authentic philosophers but ¨intellectual prostitutes,¨ ¨cerebral sluts¨ and ¨thunder-stealing sycophants¨ of the first order.

In Socrates we find a genuine philosopher who faced the external risks of philosophizing and never compromised the reputation of his treasured discipline before the threat of internal risks. Never had Socrates capitulated and bowed down before the arrogance and conceit of his nemeses, the power-seeking Sophists of his time. His was an exemplary life of a philosopher who epitomized the courage of facing the external risks of doing philosophy in a social environment hostile to the achievement of truth, virtue and splendour in earthly life without putting philosophy at the internal risks of self- stultification,  self- desecration and hence self-destruction.

Philosophy always faces and will continue to face modica of risks whenever and wherever it operates on a critical scale over certain controversial issues and concerns before close-minded and dogmatic adversaries who have never learned to appreciate open-minded discussion and to listen and understand in reasonable terms the views of others, much less get to a better formulation and consideration of sensible arguments woven in logical arrangements. This type of external risks makes philosophy an exhilarating endeavour, a stimulating venture in the limitless breadth of the ¨life of the mind¨ experiencing and exploring the wonders of being and the significance of existence and giving them expressions in comprehensible terms. In this case, one´s exposure and commitment to balanced philosophical inquiry is worth the external risks of doing philosophy.

What should strictly be avoided in doing philosophy are the internal risks that damage the philosophical equilibrium in terms of approach, attitude and method. Approach imbalance is seen if there is unwarranted reflection at the expense of discourse and vice versa. Attitude imbalance is caused by excessive criticism that blinds one´s appreciative faculty and vice versa. Methodological imbalance is perpetrated by too much analysis that almost totally disregards synthesis and again, vice versa.

These are the risks—external and internal—of philosophy.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 13 September 2013

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“Love is responsibility of an I for a You:  in this consists what cannot consist in any feeling – the equality of all lovers. . . .”

Martin Buber, I and Thou

¨There may be an attraction that is initially sexual between two humans. If they start living together, this cannot endure for that long and be the fulfillment of the relationship. At some point, sexual/emotional [attraction] needs to deepen and the transcendental dimension needs to come in, to some extent, for it to deepen. Then true love shines through the personal. The important thing is that true love emanates from the timeless, non-formal dimension of who you are. Is that shining through the personal love that is to do with affinity of forms? If it is not, there is complete identification with form, and complete identification with form is ego.¨

Eckhart Tolle, ¨Personal Love¨

http://www.eckharttolle.com/newsletter/april-2011

The Biology of Sex

Sex and love are two distinct and independent ontological spheres. One stands without the other. The latter is not required in places where the former is sought. It is just a matter of being there where one gets into an agreement with another either for a fee or just for the heck of it—no strings attached. In such cases, the condition could be open, casual and fearless. However, it could also be so private and discreet, even extremely secretive and with a lot of risks involved if divulged.

Sex, being biologically instinctual, is basically amoral. In normal circumstances, experiencing sex entails diverse levels of thrill and exhilaration. In this sense, sex between two (or more) consenting individuals is fundamentally an outward expression of natural psycho-physical desire mutually felt by one towards the other. We humans like those of the so-called lower species in class Mammalia are animalia sexualem. In fact, the eminent (though highly controversial) Austrian psychiatrist (later psychoanalyst) Sigmund Freud robustly theorized that sex is the foundational and determining factor—the begin-all and the end-all of meaningfulness—that sets into motion the complexities of the human condition in the unending experiential trails of pains and pleasures that characterize the constancy of human existence. Whether we agree with Freud (and there have been a lot of more sensible and erudite scientific minds who have vehemently disagreed with him and vigorously lambasted him as well) or not is not our present concern.

The Sociology of Sex

But there is more to sex than the plainly biological. Focusing on the human realm, we enter into the socio-cultural domain with all its moral ethos and traditions, standards and conventions. Sex in this light is hence contextually seen contrasting in the distinctive loci of permission and prohibition. Instances where its practice is moral on the one hand and immoral on the other are socially decided, established and instituted in both written and unwritten principles, rules and decrees. In certain cases, the moral is eclipsed by the legal while in other occurrences, the moral just has to push the legal aside. But one thing that stands out and transcends this whole moral-legal landscape is the matter of feeling—human affection at its most passionate point prone and persistent to defy social mores and cultural norms.

Society is basically defined in terms of human association and interaction. Personal relationship is a primal consideration that makes up a society. In this connection, social relationships assign certain roles to people as relatives, neighbours, friends and colleagues among others. Beyond this issue, however, is the emotion factor involved in a relationship. One´s feeling of intimacy towards another is reckoned in terms of the degree of their closeness with each other but such closeness is set within the distinct bounds of socially defined and accepted areas of interaction. Society is hence formed in, by and for human relationships wherein social roles determine the scope and limits of the expression and measure of affective closeness one is supposed to show towards another (or others) in a particular type of relationship. This is the specific point where the subject of love enters.

The Sociology of Love and How It Intersects with Sex

Love is expressed and qualitatively viewed in terms of the degree of intimacy in a certain type of relationship. In this consideration, we should look into the various types of relationship in society and distinguish from them the different expressions of love shown in diverse degrees of depth and breadth of intimacy. A child´s love to her/his parents; a parent´s love to her/his children; a brother´s / sister´s love to her/his sibling(s); an individual person´s expression of sisterly/brotherly love to her/his close friend; a husband´s love towards his wife and vice versa; a girl´s love towards her sweetheart. There are myriads of instances wherein love is conveyed in various degrees of feeling. In fact, the term ¨love¨ is even used to express one´s feeling towards pet animals and highly valued objects as well. But for our present purposes, we specifically use it in the context of the human condition.

Love in the landscape of human interactive relationship is a broad terrain. It doesn´t require the essence of sex to fully define and describe its substance. It is an entirely distinct sphere as sex likewise is. In reference to David Hume´s theory of causality, there is NO necessary connection between love and sex. Using the mathematical model of set theory, it is a given that sex and love are independent sets. However, it is also an empirical reality that there is an intersecting area wherein sex and love connect. In the Humean formulation, we concur to the notion that they do not actually have a necessary connection but the area of intersection reveals what Hume called a constant conjunction. The connection is therefore not analytically (or logically) but rather synthetically (or empirically) established.

Philosophizing on the Interconnectivity of Sex and Love

Within the intersecting area, sex becomes an expression of love. The intensity of love in a zealous commitment between two human beings is not only given expression in the sentimental meeting of souls intimately connected but also in the explicitness of physical engagement as a performative celebration of such commitment elevated to the level of a mutual erotic passion. Sex in this particular context makes love exhilarating, even electrifying. So that love in its erotic form achieves a completeness and sex as it is performed in erotic love is spontaneously raised to the level of aesthetic exquisiteness. Sex in this sense becomes an art.

The interconnectivity of sex and love in the present specific context is an ancient one. It is characterized by a lofty metaphysical formulation enshrined in the mythological traditions of antiquity. And there is something splendid in this interconnectivity.

Love in these mythologies — more pronounced in the Mesopotamian tradition — is viewed as a primal life-force characterized by 1) fertility (possibilizing-of-being); 2) formity (molding-into-being); and 3) formality (ordering-of-being).

In the Greek tradition, it is a primeval energy that cyclically flows from a universal timeless ocean — the Primordial EROS — to the “lakes” of gods/goddesses-in-time-and-space — Aphrodite and Eros — to the “rivers” of human passion and back to the universal timeless ocean.

Egyptian mythology dramatizes that in the “rivers” of human passion, love expresses itself as 1) physical desire (ka love); 2) sharing of the soul (ba love); and 3) commitment of the spirit (akh love).

Ontologically, the love portrayed in ancient classical mythologies cannot be boldly signified if not viewed as the spirit that “inspires” the embracing arms of creation and destruction, order and chaos, peace and violence. In Greek mythology, love (Eros) is the intensifying passion that calls into being the sting of destruction/violence (Eris).

Love is, hence, an ancient wave that vibrates, interpenetrates, and interconnects the divine and the human in an eternal cosmic dance that makes life dangerously exciting, poignantly challenging and desperately imminent in its expression of a “longing for itself”.

[From: Ruel F. Pepa, ¨The Dynamics of Love as Fertility, Formity and Formality in Ancient Mythologies: A Critico-Structural Excursion into the Classics¨in SOPHOPHILIA: Critical Readings in Philosophy, pp. 58-59. . . http://issuu.com/kspt/docs/sophophilia]

Conclusion

In conclusion, we affirm the independence of the spheres of love and sex from each other. Nevertheless, we likewise affirm the reality of a context where the two spheres intersect and a wonderful interconnectivity is hence established. There is a specific ontological location where the association of sex and love perfectly fits so well. To distinguish it from other ontological locations where different forms of love are found is thus important and will lead us to an intelligent vantage point where we will never get into the error of always associating sex and love across the board.

© Ruel F. Pepa, 3 September 2013

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