I figured I’d use the end of the semester—more specifically, the end of my first Philosophy class—as a reason to return to this blog. There’s this need to synthesize everything I learned from this class, not in an academic or scholarly sort of way, but just to make sense of the things I felt about it and the reality that it no doubt shed some light on.
My experience with philosophy this semester has been an interesting one, to say the least. As a student used to speaking straight English enrolled in a Philosophy class taught by a professor whose medium of instruction was Filipino (I found out on the first day), I was lost in almost every class. I rarely ever did any substantial research whenever I discerned among classes and professors during enlistment period, making sure to just stay away from the terrors teachers, failing to take into account that just because I was done with my Filipino subjects, I would never be done with dealing with the language in other classes. I generally understand more Filipino than I can speak, but this is philosophy, of course, and one is bound to get lost in the subject even when it’s being taught in one’s first language.
The “Meron” reading by Fr. Ferriols was something I had trouble with since the beginning of the semester. I knew that tackling this sort of reading meant taking in the spirit of the language it was written in and not just thinking in English and translating in my head, but I just couldn’t get into that state of openness, of being welcome to something that I thought was supposed to come naturally. The time we dedicated to the semester reflecting on meron was spent with me waiting for the other readings to come up. Marx, Arendt, Ricoeur—I always took those readings to be more outward-looking, analysing society at large and the types of individuals that made up its levels. Studying (or trying to study) meron dealt with uncomfortably high levels of introspection, making sense of invisible things, essence, being, the being of being, the chair-ness of the chair, I don’t know. It wasn’t just language barriers. Is it ontology? Can “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace be really used as a companion reading? Do the analogies of water and light still hold when the concept in question isn’t a concept at all?
The only conclusion I can take away from this semester is the feeling of stupidity. If that’s the effect the class intended to achieve in its students, okay, I’m dumb, the system works. I got Marx and Arendt and Ricoeur well enough for the thesis statements involving them to be the most detailed ones I prepared for each oral exam, but for meron to have come first in the syllabus probably meant that it had to be a bedrock for something, that I shouldn’t move on without it, that being unable to grasp it meant a shallower understanding of subsequent topics. Dumb. Dumb dumb dumb. Something happened this semester.