Continuing the legacy of Dr. Ramon C. Reyes

February 08, 2019

Dr. Ramon C. Reyes transformed the way philosophy was taught. Doc Reyes, as students fondly called him, returned to the Ateneo de Manila University in 1965 after completing his doctoral degree at the Belgian Universite Catholique de Louvain.

Together with Fr. Roque Ferriols, SJ and Fr. Jose A. Cruz, SJ, Doc Reyes introduced existential phenomenological thought in Philippine philosophy. This approach, which allows students to develop an embodied understanding of human existence,  revamped the philosophy curriculum in Ateneo. Five years after his death, Doc Reyes’ intellectual contributions on ethics and modern philosophy continue to inspire thinkers faced with a crowded, hyper-connected world.

Three of them — Dr. Leovino Garcia, Dr. Ronald Mendoza, and Mr. John Nery — spoke on January 30, 2019 as part of the 20118 Ramon Reyes Memorial Lectures.

The theme was “Remembering in a Time of Forgetting: The Importance of a Historical Consciousness.”

Garcia, the former dean of the School of Humanities and first dean of what was then the College of Arts and Sciences, expounded on the teachings of Paul Ricoeur during the lecture held at the auditorium of the Ateneo Professional Schools in Makati City,.

The French intellectual, Garcia, said, sought to answer the question: What is the meaning of being human?
 

Dr. Leovino Garcia is the former dean of the School of Humanities and first dean of what was then the College of Arts and Sciences.

According to Ricoeur, being human is a convergence of 2 movements.The first movement, Garcia said, refers to responsibility and the second movement [pertains to] hope.  “Linking these 2 movements, I affirm that the meaning of being human is the creative interplay between responsibility and hope.”

Ricoeur is the philosopher of dialogues, Garcia said. Thus, it is important to remember the power of the word.

“We in Philosophy are not only tasked to understand ourselves but also to help other people understand themselves and their situation. We are not confined to a particular field; our strength lies in our capacity to rationally speak of everything in the context of the whole.”

Words, Garcia stressed, can encourage, hurt, praise or humiliate others.  As such, it is essential to understand one’s self. To do this, one must be able to “interpret the expression of the self.”

“We must stress the connection of (the) political with the moral. If the ethical aim is to live the good life with and for others in just institutions, then (the) political extends the aim of good life with and for others if we succeed in showing that human beings become fully humans through politics.”

When one’s capacities thrive in a political system, one becomes fundamentally human,” Garcia said. This means that human beings become human through the state.

The second speaker, Dr. Mendoza, tackled the challenge of losing facts, evidence and science.

Dr. Ronald Mendoza, dean of the Ateneo School of Government, gives an overview of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant situation.

“It has to do with people and interest deliberately destroying or trying to erode some of these facts,” he said. Mendoza, the dean of the Ateneo School of Government, illustrated his point by providing facts about the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).  Built in the 1980s, BNPP was mired in controversies and did not achieve its goal of generating electricity. It was riddled with corruption, Mendoza said.

Herminio Disini, a crony of then President Ferdinand Marcos, brokered the BNPP deal. The overpriced BNPP plan soon fizzled out. In 2012, Disini was ordered by the court to return the commissions he received because of the BNPP deal. Disini, however, died in 2014.

“I think there is much to be said about facts, evidence and science. It is important to underpin memories on these things in today’s world. It is always important to look back to the past, document it properly and hopefully, this will prevent our country from making those mistakes again,” Mendoza said.

The last speaker, Nery, former editor-in-chief and opinion writer of Inquirer.net, talked about the disruptions brought on by digitalization.

“The Snapchat syndrome of constant ephemerality is one significant aspect of the digitalization that continues to reshape the media landscape. The logic of disinformation created a hostile environment for the reporting of facts and the pursuit of what journalist Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, calls ‘the best obtainable version of the truth,’” he said.
 

John Nery stresses the need to create a "community of moral thinkers."

In a time of fake news and counter-history, Nery emphasized the need to “advance Doc Reyes’ idea of a vanguard of the ‘reflexive consciousness of reason,’ to a community of consciences.” The moral thinker, Nery said, plays a pivotal part in creating  a “community of moral thinkers.”

“The goal,” he said, is to “create a community of persons who will recognize the startling, earnest, vital question—“What kind of human are you?”—and respond morally.”