I WOULD never have thought it worthy of a supposedly award-winning journalist to resort to shaming and slurring, because I expect a journalist of such vaunted caliber to contribute to intelligent discourse rather than to enjoy slugging in the slime. But the Philippine Daily Inquirer has seen better days.
Thrice now, he has targeted me for his diatribes — because I do not share his biases and his bigotry. In a sense, I am flattered. Given the multifarious raging issues of national concern, Nery bothers himself with what I think and what I tweet!
It all started with a very elementary proposition of contemporary philosophy. All human understanding works with constructs, and that is all the more true when we are dealing with historical knowledge. The three-volume work of Ricoeur — Time and Narrative — and his voluminous Memory, History, Forgetting deal with the issue of historical knowledge and historical truth and the inevitability of constructs. But that is true not only of historical knowledge but of all understanding. We organize data of sense according to patterns, according to models. We understand within frameworks and from perspectives. The position that the human mind is completely passive in regard to facts and just receives them as imprints on a blank slate in order that the truth of one is the truth of all – universal, unchanging and invariable – has been debunked for some time now, but Nery does not seem to have caught up with his readings!
Although in my posts, I called attention to Derrida and his deconstructionist maneuver, together with Lyotard, the fact is that many thinkers have realized this. Stephen Hawking’s magnificent The Grand Design starts by chastising naive realism — the position Nery seems to maintain that the propositions he advances are true and must be true for all and unchangingly and unqualifiedly so. Hawking advocates what he calls “model-dependent realism.” Whether we do so consciously or not, we construct models, and it is through these models that we know reality. There is no denying that we know things, but things, as Husserl already pointed out a long time ago, are “noematic,”as they present themselves to us, from the standpoint of the perceiving, knowing, understanding subject. In respect to science, Kuhn refers to paradigms, and to the normal science that prevails as long as a paradigm prevails, and the revolutionary science that follows when a paradigm is overthrown.
It follows then that everything we understand, we do so as mediated by models, paradigms, constructs. A construct is not false. There are no true and false constructs. Constructs though, like paradigms as Kuhn describes them, differ as to adequacy, and a paradigm is substituted with a better one, overthrown when it breaks down because it can no longer encompass with coherence the data available. From this, it should not be too difficult, painful — or offensive — to conclude that whether it be the narrative of Marcos’ supporters or that of his detractors, it will be a construct of Marcos both are dealing with, with the difference that some, who were contemporaneous with Marcos, have constructs built from personal or direct experience, and in the case of others who came decades or generations later, with the challenges of historical knowledge.
Now, what is so controversial about that? It is controversial only if one maintains that myth that our grasp of reality and of things is direct and unmediated — the position rightly called “naive realism.” When one is ready to accept that one deals with constructs, then one should at least entertain the suspicion that there are rival constructs that have been suppressed by the dominant construct. That is the salutariness of the deconstructive maneuver: It allows for the articulation of narratives thus far suppressed, because they were “petit” in comparison to the “grand” narratives that have controlled and guided discourse.
Contrary to Nery’s posturing as champion of justice, it is the advocate of deconstruction who champions justice, because he insists that the “petit narratives,” the alternate readings, be listened to as well. The mere reaction of Nery and people like him amply demonstrates just how some narratives can be suppressed, marginalized and silenced. How many can freely express their admiration of Marcos, or their support for Duterte without being shamed, slurred, tarred and feathered by bigots who think that their story is the only story? It has never been my position that one construct is to be preferred over others in respect to Mr. Marcos. But what I have campaigned for is the recognition of alternate narratives that may have been suppressed by forgetfulness or forcibly silenced by the bullying of bigots. Then there is the challenge of historical knowledge — because it consists in knowing in the present what happened in the past and that transition is never an easy one. Although it is part of our hermeneutic capability, it is not as easy as Nery’s naive version of philosophy makes of it.
As for the ad hominems and insults, I will let them reflect on their authors and purveyors rather than honoring them with a riposte.