Philosophy, as an exemplar of a chief discipline, is a dynamic human endeavor. It continues to grow as time moves on and yet philosophers freely accept other philosophies and integrate them as a part of him. Great philosophies up to this day are the products of a long history, for the present philosophers have more of the past to reflect upon and follow more philosophies to be transformed. Also, the stand of philosophy in the future will be different from today because future philosophers will have more of the past philosophies to think about. Whatever great philosophical achievement today is derivative from the past. No matter how good is our philosophy today, there will be a discontent arises and an embarrassment occurred. The future is an open field of new philosophies to surpass the philosophy today. Great philosophical achievement today will be surpassed in the next year to come. Thus, any postmodern philosophers cannot make a criticism, cannot borrow some selected ideas, and cannot reject the ideas that had no existence in the modern period of philosophy.
For instance, Abulad, a Filipino Kantian scholar, will not be able to have such scholarship if the philosopher whom he is going to study did not live before him. Also, it is impossible to call him Kantian without having any Kantian thoughts. This reflection gives way to my philosophical inquiry. Following this example, I have the certainty with a credible basis to prove that philosophy is a dynamic process of human endeavor.
One point of justifying this proposition is to evaluate it through language and literature. The active potency of ideas to change or the continuing evolution of ideas, as I shall coin the term, will be made possible. In what way would this event take effect? Many of the present thinkers, scholars, and philosophers forget the truth that there is no pure philosophy as it continually changes and grow. The publication of some literatures that have a strong philosophical bent and the use of language are the mediums of this change and growth.
No philosophy is completely pure, nor is there any that is totally independent that it is not influenced, if not brought about, by other philosophies. Every great philosophy always carries footnotes that speak of past philosophies. Alfred North Whitehead said: “European philosophical traditions… consist of a series of footnotes to Plato.” What we know of philosophy in this day was indebted from the past. The early Greek thinkers had been influenced by their neighboring civilizations like Babylonia, Egypt, and some parts of Eastern society, and deciphered them according to their own intelligible culture.
The aggressiveness of these early thinkers, especially in the search to have an explanation to what was the basic stuff, Urstoff, that constituted the world made them great today. They enjoyed the refutation of considering them as the early natural scientists of Western culture not because of the conclusion they reached and formulated but because of their initiative pioneering method of philosophizing that inspired the latter scientists to break the chains that bound them. The flourishing Greek culture shaped the highest peak of the great triune philosophers: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The act of philosophizing gave more focus on the idealistic view, most especially that of Plato and with a dualistic aesthetic and epistemology by which there is an object-subject dichotomy. The object is being differentiated from the subject as a knower. Plato himself had been influenced by Parmenides in his metaphysics of unchangeable world. Plato also borrowed from Socrates’ idea and baptized it in the context within itself.
We can also notice, however, that there is a considerable rejection and transformation of point of view. Socrates, a student of the Sophist, disregarded its teaching of relativistic morality of “might is right”. Aristotle himself a brilliant student of Plato, endeavored a departure from his teacher’s tenets on idealism by forwarding more practical philosophies.
Moreover, at the time of Greece’ diminishing political power due to invasion and war, the Greeks’ view of philosophy changed. History gave birth to the emergence of Epicureanism, Stoicism, Skepticism, and neo-Platonism, fresh philosophies that would ignite human thought, and the focus of such undertakings was more on the practical side. Therefore, such way of philosophizing restricted with the present context of the time yet advancing them to a more vivid enigma. No one would dare to talk about Plato’s theory of Form when they saw themselves devoid of a social order and facing some wars.
Epicureanism borrowed its tenets from the materialistic-atomistic theory of Democritus, suggesting that the existence of the world was a result of the collision of infinite, indestructible atoms. The bigger the atoms formed during collision would account for the formation of bigger bodies in the universe. This implies that the world, including man and God, is the product of accidental collision of atoms. This realization helped man to have an intellectual peace and the absence from the fear of afterlife and punishment. However, Epicurus and his followers did not only borrow this without any alteration from their individual ideas. There was a specification, and the evidence was that Epicurus, despite his materialistic point of view, employed a moralistic principle of happiness based on pleasure.
The same happened to Stoicism where Heraclitus’ tenets governing principle, the Logos, were borrowed. Only a minimal change of ideas and it became another school of thought. Skepticism neglected the metaphysical view of Plato and only accepted Socrates’ dialectical method of doubting. Similarly, Plotinus added his own theory of religious mysticism to the tenets of Plato, giving birth to neo-Platonism, a philosophy that would also serve as a right bridge to medieval philosophy.
Many postmodern ideas are just borrowed, with certain alterations, from their predecessors and other foreign essential ideas. Only those ideas that are intelligible for one’s own understanding are selected and related within the philosophy. To a reader, the language and ideas presented in the literature will no longer be the same ideas when they are objectified by his understanding and interpreted in his own language as a point of expressing what he understood. If this would be true, the conclusion that I am going to land upon will not be considered as conjectural and a childish method of philosophizing. Philosophy, in a real sense, is the act of rethinking other philosophies and metamorphosing them into the context of the new breed of thinker. What has been borrowed from the other becomes part of the philosopher himself.
14 August 2009
by Glenn Rey Anino