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Archive for September, 2014

On Heroism

hero

“Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
― Alfred Tennyson,
Idylls of the King and a Selection of Poems

“Heroes didn’t leap tall buildings or stop bullets with an outstretched hand; they didn’t wear boots and capes. They bled, and they bruised, and their superpowers were as simple as listening, or loving. Heroes were ordinary people who knew that even if their own lives were impossibly knotted, they could untangle someone else’s. And maybe that one act could lead someone to rescue you right back.”

― Jodi Picoult, Second Glance 

“The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.”
― Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality

We were introduced to so-called national heroes in school at an early age as the government’s way to promote and instill in our minds the spirit of patriotism. We were programmed to toe the line that connects heroism and patriotism. In a lot of cases, these national heroes were warriors who fought in battles to win freedom and independence for the country. In the US, we have the likes of George Washington and Patrick Henry; in South America, Simon Bolivar; in Cuba, Jose Marti; in France, Napoleon Bonaparte and Charles de Gaulle; in the Philippines, Andres Bonifacio and Macario Sakay; in China, Mao Zedung;  in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh; in East Timor, Xanana Gusmao. Nevertheless, there are also non-warlike/pacifist heroes like Mahatma Gandhi of India, Jose Rizal of the Philippines, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, Poland’s Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic. Their biographies are not simple life-stories but glossed-over and embellished accounts of larger-than-life exploits of legendary magnitude whose faithfulness to facts is never questioned and thus viewed as an issue beside the point. Their heroism bestows immortality to their names and grants them a permanent niche in the history of their respective nations.

But there is another type of heroes whose heroic exploits are not of the patriotic kind. They don’t even plan or intend to be in the category of heroes. Their heroism is more of the spur-of-the moment event at the most unexpected time and place where imminent action is of the essence. Their heroism is characterized by a salvific or redemptive act not of the religious type but of a down-to-earth kind of compassion to other fellow human beings in desperate need of succour. Their most needed actions are performed with calculated precision right at the middle of life-and-death situations. S/he is a hero who fearlessly jumped to the water to save a drowning boy who to her/him was even a total stranger. . . . S/he is a hero who successfully prevented a heavily problematic guy from committing suicide by way of both physical and psychological interventions. . . . S/he is a hero who, unmindful of a clear and present hazard, was able to pull an unconscious individual out of and away from a burning car about to explode any moment after a massive road accident. . . . S/he is a hero who triumphantly effected a negotiation with a band of rebel militiamen to release their hapless captive(s) without resorting to violent alternatives and ransom payment. . . .

We can go on and on as we think of so many instances where acts of heroism are performed, exalted and even rewarded in a lot of ways. However, most of those considered to belong to this type commonly end up to be unsung heroes known only to and are hence remembered only by a handful of witnesses to their heroism which include the family and friends of “the saved”. For me, though, these are the more authentic heroes of the existential, here-and-now relevance. Unlike the patriotic type of heroes, the existential heroes, so to speak, are not endowed with the trappings of exclusive greatness. They shy away from the limelight of adulation generally accorded to the superficial popularity of idolized celebrities. After their acts of heroism, normal life goes on with their feet still planted on the ground.When the hype subsides, they just simply slip back into the mass of people where they believe they really belong sans false pretensions.

Another type of heroes are nominated, advertised, sponsored and voted through media exposure like the CNN Hero of the Year which was awarded in 2009 to a Filipino teacher and social worker, Efren Peñaflorida. He was chosen from a group of 9,000 nominees from 100 countries. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efren_Peñaflorida). Very much incongruous to the first two types, nominated heroes may not technically be called counterfeit but they are certainly fabricated. Heroism is not a matter of nomination as in the case of candidacy. It is the height of one’s presumptuousness to put her/himself forward and promote her/his own “heroism”. Heroes are made by and in extraordinary circumstances where genuine recognition is automatically spelled out not by media outfits but by the appreciative witnesses at the very point in time when a heroic act is in progress. The making of a hero is not an event planned and organized but an exigency in the here and now. In this sense, acts of authentic heroism, both big and small, are basically unscripted as they happen spontaneously and serendipitously.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 30 September 2014

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eternal

“If I die, and come again…in another lifetime…in a new body…soul…spirit, then…that is not me.”
― Michael Bassey Johnson

“Men who have nothing to lose never give a thought for eternal life.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

“If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration, but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein

“Christianity set itself the goal of fulfilling man’s unattainable desires, but for that very reason ignored his attainable desires. By promising man eternal life, it deprived him of temporal life, by teaching him to trust in God’s help it took away his trust in his own powers; by giving him faith in a better life in heaven, it destroyed his faith in a better life on earth and his striving to attain such a life. Christianity gave man what his imagination desires, but for that very reason failed to give him what he really and truly desires.”
― Ludwig Feuerbach, Lectures on the Essence of Religion

The question “Is it possible to live forever?” may be taken literally or figuratively. Literally, it is something that interests both science and religion. Figuratively, it may be interpreted in a lot of ways and the focal point is on what the term “to live” connotes which generally depends on the speaker’s context.

In the literal sense, the scientific location of the issue is of course the physico-material realm where empirical investigation by way of experimentation or observation is supposed to be performed to find out if there is such possibility. On the basis of known human experience on planet Earth, there is not an iota of evidence which could lead us to theorize on the probability (i.e., having a strong sense of likelihood) of one living entity to live forever, though, it doesn’t dismiss the possibility (i.e., the minimal likelihood) of such condition.

However, the literal take of religion on this issue posits a dualistic conception of reality wherein the lower realm of physico-material existence is limited and terminable while the higher realm of non-physico-material, i.e., spiritual, existence is eternal, timeless, deathless. In fact, in the religious sense, living forever is not only a possibility but a guaranteed reality as life that ends on earth (the lower realm) is extended and continued in eternity (the higher realm). Even if we sidestep into the oriental varieties of religion, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism, the doctrine of samsara or rebirth (reincarnation) is a cycle of existence that merges the earthly and the spiritual and establishes the notion of life’s perpetuity.

As a figurative matter, “life” or “to be alive” or “to live” could mean a lot of things to different people so that even in the passing away of a person, that person could still be described as “alive” in the memories of her/his loved ones. In other words, as long as the good or bad reputation of a person lingers in the memories of people from one generation to another, that person remains “alive” to them. Such metaphorical “life” which that person possesses even after the literal decay of her/his physical composition could even be perpetually remembered in society as in the case of national heroes. Life in the figurative sense could also be an attribution of some material objects associated to a particular person as in the books s/he wrote, the gadgets or instruments s/he invented, the songs s/he composed and/or sang and so on and so forth. In this figurative or metaphorical sense, we could even say at this point that memory is a facilitator of immortality. Memory “breathes life” even if a person has long been deceased and it likewise writes history in the process. History as we understand it to be a corpus of written records of past significant events in the life of a nation is a potent vehicle that  immortalizes heroes.

Now, looking at the present problematization as a philosophical issue, questions assigned into the realm of  experience (or matters of empirical consideration) are always deemed to be possible as long as they do not violate human rationality tested through the instrumentality of logical analysis. What is therefore mentally conceivable without getting into a logical contradiction is always regarded to be possible. In other words, something of this category may happen and be witnessed in the empirical realm. An imagination of a state of affairs where a certain entity is described as one possessing eternal life may be perfectly accommodated in one’s “mental space” without committing a logical contradiction and is hence rendered possible. The same may also be said about the possibility of a unicorn to exist since an image of a unicorn may likewise be accommodated in one’s “mental space” without getting into a logical contradiction. However, a “square circle” or a “round square” is absolutely inconceivable because of the term’s inherent logical contradiction which precludes its spatio-temporal location in the empirical realm the fact that even one’s “mental space” cannot actually imagine such an object. We therefore appeal to logical consistency to determine whether eternal life is possible or not.

Conclusively, we could say that on the one hand,  the proposition, “It is possible to live forever” is logically sustainable. However, empirical constancy, on the other hand, cannot concretely validate the probability of living forever.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 23 September 2014

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On Destiny

Destiny

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” 

— William Shakespeare

“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” 

— William Jennings Bryan

“Control your own destiny or someone else will.” 

— Jack Welch

The most fundamental interconnected questions of ontology are destiny-related: (1) Why am I here now? (2) What must I do? and (3) What can I hope for? In view of the issue of destiny, these questions trigger another set of questions as: (1) Is my being here now a matter of my destiny? (2) Are the acts that I did before as well as those that I do now and those that I will do in the future geared towards what I’ve been destined to achieve? and (3) Do I have the free-will to figure out, plan and design what I hope to happen to me within the time of my life here on earth or an unseen supernatural power has already planned everything for me and hence precludes any of my effort to change my pre-arranged destiny?

It’s not only an ontological concern but an epistemological certainty that I am heading towards a “destiny”. But to exactly know where is that is not within the limited scope of my knowledge. Perhaps I could have an imaginary glimpse of it but neither is it certain that that’s precisely where the trajectory of my life leads. It could just even be an aspect of my wishful thinking and hence a subjective musing so distant from the facts of reality. It is still and perhaps will always be a doubtful matter for me to know where I’m heading to in this world. I could consciously say that I am in control of my own life but to likewise have the assurance that I am also in control of the events yet to happen involving myself is not only preposterous but presumptuous. However, I can more or less approximate the course of my life  and in the process figure out probable scenarios of what could most likely come about within a short range of time span considering my own strengths and weaknesses and having a reasonable assessment of the opportunities and threats that are presently obtaining and may be anticipated to occur in the passing of time.

In this light, whatever my destiny will be is all dependent on my abilities and limitations as well as on how I deal and cope successfully or unsuccessfully with the  events that happen in the world, or perhaps it’s more reasonable to say, in my world. My destiny in this context is therefore not something that has been predetermined before my time on earth began. Destiny as I signify it is something that is in my hands. In other words, I am  consciously empowered to conceive what I want to happen in my life and to actually make it happen, but again, on the basis of and thus dependent on a realistic assessment of my limitations and the opportunities I would be able to grab in perfect timing. This view of destiny has been prevalent since the inception of the Age of Reason and the Era of Scientific Revolution when modern humanity decided once and for all to sever its link with the simpleminded superstitions, irrational and unscrupulous  dogmas and unscientific cosmology of the preceding Age of Irrational Dogmatism that overwhelmingly flourished during the Dark Ages of western civilization dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, its Magisterium and of course, the infamous Inquisition.

The American integral philosopher Ken Wilber partitions the evolution of worldviews from the most primitive which is the archaic period to the magical and the mythical periods until the time of modern and postmodern humanity which is the rational as well as the existential eras (cf. Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything, http://www.shambhala.com/a-brief-history-of-everything.html ). Appropriating the same Wilberian paradigm for our present purpose, the notion of  supernaturally foreordained destiny came about during the magical and the mythical periods. In the magical period, the role of foreordaining destiny was attributed to some supernatural powers whose mystery no mortal could ever fathom. Without yet the instruments of science in an immeasurable world whose myriads of phenomena needed to be explained to appease the troubled consciousness, humanity conceived a reality animated by nature-spirits whose fantastic display of power was very obviously perceivable by the senses with all its magical depth.

In the mythical period, humanity was fully convinced of how this magical depth constitutes a systemic reality characterized by certain regularities and a constant arrangement of orderly events governed by the laws of higher powers located in heavenly places where planets, galaxies and costellations exerted enormous forces to control human states of affairs on earth. And the institutionalization of religion was inaugurated. Human circumstances had been dominated by a worldview that bestowed tremendous power to pantheons of gods and goddesses who were not there only to manage the daily grind of life but more meaningfully the future destiny of humanity. They were bearers of  immense power of judgment that could grant and sustain life as well as snatch back and destroy the same life at the point of disobedience and utter rebellion. These were the gods and goddesses in control of human destiny.

At the inception of the rational era or the Age of Reason in what is commonly dubbed as modern civilization in the history of the western world, humanity has since been guided by logical rationality and the scientific method to confront a new reality. Nevertheless,  this new reality in some significant ways has further evolved through time to the point of even having adversarial partisans challenging the sharp edges and the inflexible metanarratives of institutionalized positivistic science and the unyielding technicalities of formal logic to inaugurate the existential humanity whose destiny is what s/he makes it.  What we have here is a continuously evolving human reality whose trajectory is one s/he  has shaped and laid out and constantly rearrange and revise in a space-time continuum for this very trajectory itself is an aspect of her/his evolving humanity that leads to a destiny freed from the delusion of mysterious foreordination.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 16 September 2014

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On Entitlement

entitlement

“People who are given whatever they want soon develop a sense of entitlement and rapidly lose their sense of proportion.”
— Sarah Churchwell

“People who take more than their share usually feel an inflated sense of entitlement.”
— Jeanne Phillips

“Entitlement is the opposite of enchantment.”
— Guy Kawasaki

What am I entitled to? It’s good to start with myself asking the question as a matter of self-reflection. Simplifying this way doesn’t make the issue simplistic. It fact, getting subjective  doesn’t stop at the surface. In most instances, it inspires a way to deepen one’s thought and make the process even “archeological,” so to speak. In this case, we could dub it “self-archeology”. Then I am face to face with myself, figuratively. I find myself in a variety of circumstances which provide the necessary backgrounds to determine the contexts where I could see my entitlements, i.e., the things that I deserve.

Without being exhaustive, let me take the roles first that I have assumed in my reality here and now. On a more personal plane, I am a husband to my wife and a father to my children. I am also a friend to people whom I likewise call friends. Moving a little bit farther from the personal and getting public in a way, I am an employe with certain responsibilities not only to the job that I do but to the outfit that has employed me, i.e., my employer. And since I am working in an academy, I am a teacher to my students and a colleague to my fellow teachers. Stepping farther away and locating myself in the larger context of my country of origin, I am a Filipino in terms of nationality and of course, citizenship, though not presently in the Philippines being a resident of a country thousands of miles away.

I could go on and on and enumerate more and more contexts pertaining to myself but one factor significantly characterizes my so-called presence in these contexts and that is the factor of relationship. Having this in mind brings me to a clearer viewpoint to make sense with the issue of entitlement which is thus relational. Every context defines my entitlement as I relate with the major components within such a context being myself a major component of which. At this point, I get to the realization that this whole issue of entitlement is not exclusively personal and subjective at all but cultural as I am led to the question, “Why am I entitled to x in the context of A?” And then a related question crops up: “Is this entitlement an inherent aspect in such a context or something established by convention as a constant habit through time?” Perhaps, it could be dependent on the context, so that in one context it is inherent while in another, it is conventional.

As a father, socio-cultural convention has set for me certain entitlements I deserve from my children. As an employee, the entitlements I deserve from my employer is based on existing legal and institutional policy provisions. As a citizen of my country, another set of entitlements are supposed to be granted to me on the basis of my constitutional rights. But being relational, the issue of entitlement likewise becomes my responsibility to grant what is entitled to the others with whom I am related. In this connection, entitlement is not a one-way traffic. Convention likewise defines the entitlements that my children deserve from me as legality and institutional policy are the basis of what my employer is entitled to get from me. As a citizen, it is never contested to think that constitutionally, my country is entitled to receive some services or commitments from me.

Conventional, legal, constitutional. But are there instances wherein entitlement is inherent? If an entitlement is inherent then it is deemed necessary. Now, if there is such a necessary entitlement, could it likewise be construed as universal? If it is a universal entitlement, then it must be located in a most fundamental context. And being an aspect of human consciousness, could a universal, necessary and hence inherent entitlement be located right in the essence of that humanity? If such is the case, then we get to the more general terrain of human entitlement. As human beings we are entitled to certain conditions that necessarily make us human. In the absence of such conditions, some aspects of our humanity are lost. At this point of the discussion, the issue of entitlement is spontaneously magnetized and drawn towards the subject of human rights so that the many basic entitlements of a human being naturally connects with these rights. We as humans therefore deserve to be treated as such and this major thought strengthens the relational factor that we have earlier established.

I as a human being am entitled to be respected as such. This is the most fundamental entitlement upon which my other human entitlements rest. I can enumerate the different human rights I am entitled to but all these redound to the foundational respect that is due me as a human being. In recognition of this, I get beyond myself and realize that my humanity requires from me the responsibility to render the same respect fellow humans are likewise entitled to. To name the most basic of these rights considered as inherent, necessary and universal entitlements are life, justice and freedom. Deprivation of these basic rights is tantamount to dehumanization and we have witnessed how in certain societies these rights are being violated in varied ways, means and degrees of inflicted difficulties.

But respect may be taken beyond its reasonable context in relation to entitlement and aporopriated arbitrarily for selfish, even egotistical, objectives. We have witnessed how individuals demand for favors they claim they deserve. In almost all instances, they appeal to conventional practices and legalities to advance such claims. On the one hand, it could initially appear that they have the right for such claims but on the other, a more deeply rational evaluation of the situations would take us to a realization that there is something wrong with the whole system where the entitlement claims are being made. In the final analysis, we are conclusively led to a point where all of these claims are nothing but schemes to achieve opportunistic gains.

A case in point is an academic demanding the university administration for his entitlement to a promotion in rank on the basis of a less defined  and hence hazy policy provision that a professor who has published books is entitled to a promotion in rank with a corresponding salary raise. It is actually the failure of the system that such policy provision has not been properly defined. A closer look at the situation revealed that the academic has really published a lot but these publications are textbooks and workbooks which do not actually reflect his scholarly achievements. In consideration of the latter, he in reality has never published a single scholarly treatise in a respected journal refereed by distinguished luminaries in the particular field where this academic is supposed to be professionally associated. In all  highly esteemed universities, such policy provision contains in it the well-defined statement that rank promotion is a valid issue if and when an academic has already published in well-respected refereed journals honest-to-goodness treatises of scholarly value and not just textbooks and workbooks.

More instances of demanded entitlement may be enumerated and in fact categorized as either necessary or just plain egotistical with no solid reasonable foundation. The former is grounded on the basis of our human reality while the latter in most, if not all, cases is something taken advantaged of because of the faulty dynamics of a flawed system.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 11 September 2014

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personal

“We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the things our significant others want to see in us. Even after we outgrow some of these others—our parents, for instance—and they disappear from our lives, the conversation with them continues within us as long as we live.”
Charles Taylor, Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition

“Sitting there on the heather, on our planetary grain, I shrank from the abysses that opened up on every side, and in the future. The silent darkness, the featureless unknown, were more dread than all the terrors that imagination had mustered. Peering, the mind could see nothing sure, nothing in all human experience to be grasped as certain, except uncertainty itself; nothing but obscurity gendered by a thick haze of theories. Man’s science was a mere mist of numbers; his philosophy but a fog of words. His very perception of this rocky grain and all its wonders was but a shifting and a lying apparition. Even oneself, that seeming-central fact, was a mere phantom, so deceptive, that the most honest of men must question his own honesty, so insubstantial that he must even doubt his very existence.”
Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker

 

“I think therefore I exist,” said Descartes. My problematization at this point, however, is not on the existence of the “I” but on the essence of the “I” itself, given that it really exists. “What is the ‘I’ ?” is an impersonal question–an objective one, if you will. Objectively problematizing the “I” would seem to drag me farther away from it and would just get me to a very superficial “knowledge” about the “I” if ever I would really get there or if it could truly be called a “knowledge” of the “I” at all. Once, it was already done by Wittgenstein (in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) and he has gotten to nowhere, i.e., to a “mystical” point where nothing could be further said on the basis of the limits which he has established in the said treatise: “Anything that can be said at all can be said clearly. What we cannot talk about, we must consign in silence.” Hence, objectifying the “I” leads us to the mystical–to silence.

Perhaps, the better initial query is: “Who am I?” It sounds grammatically well and it doesn’t seem to lead me farther away from myself who is asking the question right at this very point in time. Does responding to this question lead me to a true “knowledge” of myself? Well, at least, it is clear right at the start that I am not going elsewhere. I am not after an objective knowledge of myself for I am now at the point of accepting the truth that I cannot actually get to such a knowledge. At least, at this moment, what may only be ascertained to be objective is the fact that if ever I get to a knowledge of who am I, such knowledge is a subjective one. “Who am I?” is  a precise question not directed to anybody else but to myself. In a sense, it is geared to establish my personal identity. My personal identity could be initially understood as my own knowledge of myself–of who am I.  But who needs my personal identity? Is it an issue that has to be thematized for myself? Isn’t this matter something spontaneous and doesn’t have to be asked? Do I really need to have a “thematic” knowledge of myself? Well, if we refresh our memory and be reminded of Socrates’ philosophical challenge, then we should know ourselves,  I should know myself.

Human beings are endowed with the power of self-consciousness or self-awareness, if you will. This makes us homo sapiens sapiens, i.e., beings that are not only conscious but conscious that we are conscious. it doesn’t however mean that such self-consciousness connotes self-knowledge. It only tells us that we are conscious not only of things around us but also of the consciousness that is able to perceive the things around us. We are not therefore endowed with the full knowledge of ourselves at a single instance of time. In this sense, what I can say at the moment is I am aware of the things around me and I am aware that I am aware of this reality. My knowledge at this very moment is that of myself and of the things that I know I am perceiving right now. Well, of course, my memory doesn’t fail me yet and if necessity requires me to recall things of the past that I need to remember for a present purpose, technically I’d say that these matters are within the scope of what I know.

Self-knowledge is a different issue. I am not a complete, permanent, and hence unchanging, being. I am in a process of change. I am process. I am change. I am in a flux. I am flux itself. In fact, it is reasonable to concur with Heraclitus’ ontology as I contemplate on this matter. What I know about myself is just my circumstances at this point in time on top of what I can yet remember as I squeeze my memory. I am an etre-pour-soi, a “being-for-itself” (with apologies to Sartre) and if ever I wish to make sense of what I mean by my “self-knowledge,” it is nothing but a knowledge of my present limitations. It is myself here and now which I myself cannot get hold of for it is not an object that may be grasped sensibly. If “self-knowledge” is literally transposed and thus understood as a knowledge of my self, that’s where the difficulty is. What is that “self” of which I have a knowledge?

Knowledge reifies, i.e., converts into or regards as something concrete what is said to be known. In the process of knowing, something is conceived as complete and unchanging–an etre-en-soi,  a “being-in-itself”. In this connection, knowledge of the self seems non-feasible besides the fact that the self is so abstract and there is no way to capture it. The self is so fluid and elusive and such descriptions do not lead us to its true knowledge but only to the periphery. Perhaps there is really no true knowledge of the self because in the first place, the self in its subjectivity is as unknowable as its objective illusion.

Nevertheless, what is unquestionable at this stage of our almost failed “exploration” is the subjectivity of the self and nobody can actually get to it from the outside for the self is its own access. It is endowed with the dynamics of secrecy that spontaneously operate according to their natural “wirings” and whatever is projected out of it in perceivable terms as “personal identity,” so to speak, may only be approximated and never totally ascertained. My personal identity is therefore not my real self for the latter is that which nobody knows except myself. There is no facilitative channel to objectively access the subjectivity of the real self. The philosopher John Searle simplified it by commenting that A can never know the consciousness of B unless A is B. But if one’s personal identity is not the self of a person, then what is it?

Personal identity is a public image–something objectively known. Its operational locus is the society with all the elements of the latter’s expectations. Personal identity doesn’t therefore have the spontaneous nature of the subjective self for it is culturally calibrated. It is a person’s own created image of her/himself according to how he wants to appear in agreement with or in defiance of certain socio-cultural expectations. One’s personal identity is a person’s mask–a persona–of her/his own invention.

However, there is in our being “something” inaccessible to others, i.e., something in me that is accessible only to me and something in you accessible only to you. That is the core of one’s individual humanity. But there is also something in us accessible to others, our public selves, a.k.a. our personal identities . . . your personal identity that I and other people know and my personal identity that you and other people know. This public self is generally what society expects from us or what we want society to know about us. This is something that we maintain all along and as much as possible, an image we want to consistently stick in the minds of people who know us. There is however nothing wrong with this except that there is still that which I call the core of my individuality. The most that our loved ones could know about it cannot get beyond the closest approximation possible. That’s why the loved ones with whom we have intimate relations can say they “know” us and that which they know about us is not called our “personal identity”. In other words, we don’t need that personal identity for us to be known by them and they don’t require that personal identity for them to truly know us. Personal identity is very superficial. It is what a business outfit needs to engage in a business with us. It is what government agencies require from us to issue licenses or whatever. It is a “portfolio” of information to legitimize our existence in an organization. In a more intimate personal relation, no personal identity is required.

Personality or personal identity is what we actually show to get recognized. But the core of our individuality doesn’t have to be shown. It is something discovered by way of intimacy. Through our public selves, we show sympathy but empathy is possible only through the core of our individual humanity. The latter doesn’t actually show as in the objective sense. It is something that meets and embraces the other in the depth of an intimate encounter where there is no need to say even a word. This is a condition where one understands the other in silence. This is a situation where nothing has to be shown overtly but the spontaneity of discovery becomes a reality. Illustrating further the difference between personal identity and the core of individuality, the former is invented and intended to be shown while the latter is discovered and understood in the depth of intimate connectivity.

But personal identity is not devoid of depth; it requires and involves commitment and principles. In other words, one stands by her/his own invention of her/himself which consists of a constant process to convince her/himself of the “reality” of all the aspects of his personal identity as a matter not only of affirmation but also of confirmation. Personal identity is the public “I” supposed to be knowable objectively. One’s personal identity is known in definitive terms and established as the defining character of one’s person. From this conceptualization emanates the notion that “first impression lasts”. Once one has known the character of another and such knowledge has been strengthened by time, it takes a herculean effort for the former to change her/his impression of the latter even in the face of most indubitable controversies.

Personal identity is the public individual, the legal person, the one presented to us in bodily form with all her/his intellectual, emotional and mental properties. S/he is the next-door neighbor and the office colleague, a fellow member in an organization and an acquaintance in a bar which we regularly frequent. He is every Tom, Dick and Harry that we meet regularly and casually on the street whom we usually greet with an amiable “Hello” or “Hi” and tell others in passing that “That guy is nice and friendly,” without the intent or the means to verify such an impression.

With all these in mind, personal identity doesn’t seem to be an epistemological issue considering the fact that  its reality is not a big deal at all. Life goes on and we are not bothered about the truth or falsity of another person’s identity as long as no moral issue gets in the way of our relationship with them. Anyway, from their point of view as people thinking the same way we do, my personal identity is no big deal at all to them as a matter of epistemological probing. Myth or not, one’s personal identity is a way for me to deal with the other person in an ethically fair manner.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 02 September 2014

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