Thursday, March 10, 2005

Heidegger and St. Thomas: Language, being, and transcendence

Heidegger and St. Thomas:
Language, Being, and Transcendence
Christopher Ryan Maboloc

Language, according to Martin Heidegger, is the house of Being (BW, 193). It is the place where Being presents itself to Dasein (There-Being); Dasein is the place whereby Being makes itself accessible to man. Language, in this sense, is constitutive of man’s being-in-the-world (RH, 357). Dasein, as a mode of being-in-the-world, has the fundamental character of thrownness. By being thrown into the world, Dasein is the very place whereby the Being of beings becomes manifest. Metaphysics, says Heidegger, is the basic occurrence of Dasein (BW, 112). For Heidegger, Dasein dwells on the disclosure of Being through the nothing (the unsaid in speech), which stands as its groundless ground and source of meaning. The nothing, Heidegger, says, makes possible the openness of beings (BW, 105). This openness comes to us through language, for Being “is perpetually under way to language (BW, 239).”

St. Thomas, on the other hand, views language differently. Language, for him, is the means whereby the reality of being as the ultimate cause of all beings is made known to the human intellect. According to John Caputo, St. Thomas understands language as an activity of men, to be mastered and perfected like any other craft and not as a response to the address of Being (OM, 165). For St. Thomas, the reality of Being does not unfold in language; instead, through language, the reality of being is affirmed through causal participation. The unity in one source through causality is an alien concept to Heidegger. The latter recognized the immanent unity of Being in beings, but to leave this unity as a mere fact without a ground is unfinished business (KF, 54).
Heidegger’s understanding of language does not account for the ultimate root of the intrinsic act of existence.

Martin Heidegger: Language and Being

Heidegger’s analysis of the problem of Being is out of his fascination with the word “is.” The question of Being, Heidegger says, is something we keep within the understanding of the “is,” though we are unable to fix conceptually what that “is” signifies (BT, 6). The word “is,” therefore, expresses and opens up the issue in his metaphysics of language – the issue is Being. Magda King says that if the “is” were missing from our language, there would be no other word and no language at all (HP, 28). Language is an event that has Being as its ultimate origin, a house that is arranged according to a pattern inscribed and prescribed by it (PT, 535). This means that Being makes manifest the presence of beings through language. Being therefore reveals the truth of beings through language. Now, without the “is” in language, language would be meaningless for it wouldn’t express any truth, for there would be nothing in language that will reveal that being is and not nothing. The “is” in language presents the reality of beings, that they are beings and not nothing.

It is recorded that Heidegger’s quest for the meaning of Being was inspired by Franz Brentano’s On the Manifold Meanings of Beings for Aristotle. Aristotle understands Being as ousia, which refers to the active concrete and changing substance, actualized by form. Aristotle rejects the abstract world of forms of Plato and considered the particular entities in the world as the really real. To be real therefore means to be substance or to be an attribute of a substance (CH, 45). For Aristotle, substances form the structure of the world. They are objective and independent existing entities. But Aristotle’s explication of substance as the real deals with beings, not Being. In the sense, Aristotle bypasses Being. But Heidegger says that we sense more in things than mere substance and accidents for things are closer to us than the sensations that announce them (PT, 440). Aristotle has examined beings in his metaphysics but was oblivious to the fact that they are the manifestations of Being. Aristotle, therefore, is oblivious to Being.

Furthermore, Aristotle defines language as a sound that signifies something (RH, 363), and this means that he is not aware of the role language in the disclosure of Being. Aristotle is ignorant of the radical role that language plays in the disclosure of beings. According to Heidegger, Being comes to man’s awareness because man belongs to language. Thus, he says, it is the home where man dwells (BW, 193). This belongingness means that of all existing beings only man can question Being. And the reason for this, according to Heidegger, is that human existence means standing in the lighting of Being (BW, 204). For Heidegger, human existence thoughtfully dwells in the house of Being (BW, 239). Dasein, by being thrown into the world, lives in this house. Dwelling in the house of Being enables man to speak of a world. Henceforth, it is language that makes the world a world for man, a world where his possibilities are realized. To speak of the world, then, means to speak of Being. Man, by being-in-the-world, stands in front of Being. Thus, man as Dasein bears witness to Being, gives voice to Being (KF, 53).

What is the difference between St.Thomas’ and Heidegger’s conception of Being?

Being for St. Thomas is not the lighting up process but the ipsum esse subsistens that renders beings their being by way of causal participation. Language for St. Thomas addresses Being in a different way. For St. Thomas, every being (ens) is a being insofar as it participates in esse. Being for St. Thomas is the cause of the act of existence in beings. This distinction between Being as ipsum esse subsistens and beings as ens is closely related to Heidegger’s distinction between Being and beings. The reason for this, according to Caputo, is that ens derives its meaning from esse. A being is a being insofar as it is referred to the act of existing which in its unparticipated state is pure act. St. Thomas, then, Caputo says, cannot be accused of oblivion of the ontological difference between Being and beings.

Caputo accuses St. Thomas of conceiving language as something that is in no way related to the problem of being. The point that we wish to consider here is that St. Thomas’s concern on language was not alethiological but analogical. This will be the contention that we shall try to develop. The significance of the explication of this stand opens up an inadequacy in Heidegger’s conception of language and points to a basic difference between his thought and that of St. Thomas: that, for St. Thomas, Being is the ultimate source of all reality; whereas, for Heidegger, Being simply means the lighting up of what is there.

For Heidegger, it is through the nothing that the openness of the meaning of beings is revealed. But, as we will point out later on, nothingness reveals the reality of human finitude but never enters into the deeper context of answering the ultimate source of the meaning of human existence. Nothingness opens up the possibilities of human finitude but never addresses man’s hunger for the ultimate reason of his existence. Nothingness only tells man that he is a being and not nothing. But it never answers why. Language, in this regard, reveals the reality that Dasein is, but only that.

The Nothing in Language

What is in language that allows the possibility of saying? If language is the place where Being comes into light, then there must be something in language that allows this coming-into-presence and self-concealing as its source or ground. For Heidegger, in the very instance of whatever is said, a hidden plenitude is left unsaid (TT, 172). This plenitude enables the possibility of saying. This plenitude refers to the nothing, the unsaid in speech, which “presuppose the possibility of saying, of disclosing (RH, 358),” Heidegger says,

The nothing comes to be the name for the source not only of all that is dark and riddlesome in existence which seems to rise from nowhere to return to it but also of the openness of Being as such and the brilliance surrounding whatever comes to light (BW, 93).

This nothing is the veil of Being (HP, 11). Ancient metaphysics, according to Heidegger, conceives the nothing in the sense of non-being, that is, unformed matter, matter that cannot take form as an informed being (BW, 109). Thus, for a long time, metaphysics exposes the nothing to only one meaning: ex nihilo nihil fit – from the nothing, nothing comes to be (BW, 109). But Being and nothingness belong together, for Heidegger says, “the Nothing functions as Being” (WM, 353). What does this mean?

For Heidegger, the Nothing is an abyss, the groundless source of meaning where the reality of beings is made manifest. He says, “ if man is to find himself again into the nearness of Being, he must first learn to exist in the nameless” (BW, 199). The nameless is the silence in speech. Silence presupposes the fact that one has something to say. But science and mathematics, according to Heidegger, have dismissed the nothing as meaningless. Science gives up the nothing as a nullity. Thus, he states that, for these two fields what should be examined are beings and, besides that, nothing; beings alone, and further nothing; solely beings and beyond that, nothing (BW, 97). Science rejects the nothing precisely because scientific language requires methodical objectivity. The scientist sees the nothing as empty, as something that is devoid of any objective sense. Thus, for the scientific discipline, the silence of the nothing does not say anything.

But silence is not all silence. Silence says something. What silence reveals is the possibility of saying something about what still remains hidden. Being, says Heidegger, is encountered in this silence. But where can we find this silence? Heidegger says that:

If the nothing itself is to be questioned as we have been questioning it, then it must be given beforehand. We must be able to encounter it (BW, 100).

The nothing, according to Heidegger, reveals itself in anxiety (BW, 103). Anxiety makes us silent, so that because of anxiety all we have to say falls silent, making the reality of beings slip away. But what is anxiety? Anxiety, Heidegger says, is not a kind of grasping of the nothing (BW, 104). Anxiety refers to the state of mind that brings man to the indeterminate possibilities of his existence. In speech, this state of mind points to the indeterminate possibilities of saying. What anxiety reveals to us is that through the nothing the reality of beings comes into light, that they are beings and not nothing. Anxiety, then, opens up the meaningfulness of beings. Henceforth, the dismissal by science of the nothing implies its annihilation of the Being of beings. The rejection of the unsaid in language means the dismissal of the meanings still concealed in such silence.

An instance of being held out into the nothing in speech occurs when one travels to a far place and bids goodbye to a beloved. During this anxious moment, one say goodbye and the girl says nothing, remains silent. But this silence makes the openness of Being of the girl. Her silence reveals that there is something in her that she wants to say. Her silence discloses something about her. Her silence means something. Her silence captures her Being as a girl who is in love with someone who will be leaving her. Her silence opens up what the departure means to her and to their relationship. Thus, ex nihilo omne ens qua ens fit (from the nothing all beings as being come to be) (BW, 110).

St. Thomas Aquinas: Being and Analogy

Language for St. Thomas addresses the question of Being in a manner different from that of Heidegger. St. Thomas’s metaphysical inquiry on language begins with the question “Can we use any words to refer to God?” (ST, q. 13, art. 1). Language, for St. Thomas, acts as a bridge that enables man to discover a metaphorical insight into Being. What is grasped is only metaphorical because man does not have a direct knowledge of Being. As we will show later on, all of our knowledge of Being is only by way of negation (AR, 139). We know through God’s effects that God is, and that God is the cause of other beings, that God is super-eminent over other things and set apart from all (SCG, I, 30, no.4). Thus, when we say, “God is good” what we mean is that “God is good, but not in the way we are.” St. Thomas’s concern, then, knows how, for instance, goodness can be predicted literally of God. To say “God is good” means that goodness as a perfection is present in man but only in a finite way; God as the ultimate source of this perfection is infinitely good. Any knowledge of God can be based only on metaphorical resemblance with beings as His effects.

But first, what does God as being mean for St. Thomas? We have seen in Heidegger that Being is the Being of beings that makes them manifest. The metaphysics of St. Thomas, on the other hand, is a metaphysics of causality which takes into account the causal relationship between Beings and beings. This is something alien to Heidegger. For St. Thomas, Being is the ipsum esse subsistens that renders beings their esse or existence. Thus, his metaphysics is a metaphysics of creation, which makes esse the most fundamental act that gives beings their principle of existence. It is esse that makes beings be. In this sense, Being is the ultimate source of all beings. Henceforth, beings are beings by virtue of their participation in esse. And Being, as the unlimited source of existence, is present in all beings, not as part of the essence or nature of beings, but as an agent is present to that upon which it acts (AR, 62).

Explaining this point is very important in understanding how language brings us to an indirect knowledge of Being. How does any word describing Being become meaningful? The Thomistic tradition contends that any language dealing with Being is used to signify something transcending all things, but we make such language meaningful by demonstrating from effects that Being exists, for as we shall observe, any language about Being is derived from these effects (TA, 259-261). By this, St.Thomas means that any language that deals with God is finite, and since the finite being is a creature of God, there must be a way in which the finite language of beings could describe God. In the Summa Theologica, St.Thomas asks, “Are words used univocally or equivocally of God and creatures?” (ST, q.13, art.5) St. Thomas says that the univocal predication of God and creatures is impossible, for every effect falls short of what is typical of the power of its cause (ST, q.13, art.5). Any language that deals with God cannot have a univocal meaning for this will mean that God is totally distinct from His creatures. This will make God totally unknowable. On the one hand, any language that deals with God cannot be equivocal, for “we never use words in exactly the same sense of creatures and God” (ST, q.13, art.5). Hence, the solution according to St.Thomas, is that:

In this way some words are used neither univocally nor purely equivocally of God and creatures, but analogically, for we cannot speak of God at all except an the language we use of creatures, so whatever is said both of God and creatures is said in virtues of the order that creatures have to God as their source and cause (ST, q.13, art.5).

God as Being gives perfection to all beings and, therefore, is both like them and unlike them (AR, 135). Thus, when we speak of Being as the ultimate source of existence we use analogical language by virtue of this resemblance. Our being like and unlike Being comes from our participation in esse. Any word then that we use in order to describe God results from our being created in God’s image and likeness. St.Thomas is concerned to maintain that we can use words to mean more than what they mean to us: that we can use them to understand what God is like, that we can reach out to God with our words even though they do not circumscribe what He is (TA, 293). Thus, to say “God is good” does not mean we go beyond the meaning of the word good. Rather, it is entering into the deeper meaning of the word in order to find there a trace of God’s presence in His creatures. To go deeper into the meaning of the word means to transcend the finitude of this word. To transcend this finite means to trace the presence of God in His creation.

John Caputo and W. Norris Clarke on St. Thomas and Heidegger

Caputo does a critical analysis of St. Thomas’ conception of language in his essay Heidegger and Aquinas: An Essay on Overcoming Metaphysics. Caputo says that St.Thomas remains oblivious to the radical role played by language vis-à-vis Being (OM, 158). According to Caputo,

The idea never entered St.Thomas’s mind that language opens up the field of presence in which we dwell, that language shapes the whole understanding of Being (OM, 164)

Caputo accuses St.Thomas of using language only in a technical sense. His argument is that St. Thomas merely used language as a means of communicating the meaning of Being. Language simply had no role in the formation of meaning, and its value is reduced to being a sign of communication that human beings utilize. In Heidegger, Caputo argues, “language is Being’s own way of coming to words into human speech,” and this means that, “it is not man who speaks but language itself” (OM, 159). Language, according to Caputo, bids the coming-into-presence of things in the world. Thus, language does not only express the world, it is the light that makes the world a world for man. Language is not just a representation of meaning but it is that which gives meaning. Language cannot be reduced to a mere means of communication. It is not just a sign that signifies something. It is the very way in which the meaning of something comes into the open. St.Thomas neglects such an idea, Caputo asserts. Language for St. Thomas does not posses this radical role because St. Thomas, says Caputo, “is innocent of the encompassing importance of language in bringing beings to appearance, in letting them be in their Being” (OM, 158).

But Caputo’s critique of Thomistic language simply proves that Heidegger’s metaphysical understanding of language is different from that of St. Thomas’s understanding. Analogical language is never alethiological, and alethiological language is never analogical. According to Fr. Norris Clarke, Heidegger, as a phenomenologist, “can only describe how Being actually appears in consciousness” (KF, 55). Therefore, he has not gone “to the necessary ontological conditions of possibility or intelligibility of what appears, not even to the intrinsic act of existence within beings” (KF, 55). In this regard, Heidegger simply imprisons man to his finite existence. Why? It is because Being, in Heidegger’s sense, is only immanent, not transcendent (KF, 52). This claim has an important implication for Heidegger’s conception of language. Heidegger merely confines language to man’s finite existence. Therefore, language, in the Heideggerian sense, does nothing in addressing the problem of unity of beings to a transcendent Being as the ultimate source of their being. In view of this, Heidegger may very well be accused of ignoring the importance of the analogical character of language that allows the possibility of transcending the finitude of language.

Heidegger has not gone deeper into the power of language to signify the causal relationship between Being and beings (between God and the human person). Heidegger’s conception of language does not allow man to find a deeper context for his finite condition. Thus, when man is placed within the limiting horizon of finite existence, he will be unable to raise the question of a transcendent Being upon which his existence is rooted (EM, 138). Heidegger is forgetful of the capacity of language to trace the unity between Being and beings in the intrinsic act of being. Knowledge by analogy helps man point out a deeper context of his existence – transcendence. The truth is that Heidegger neglects the insight that analogy presupposes the reality of an ultimate source of intelligibility for the existence of creatures.

Language and Transcendence

Heidegger’s conception of language limits man to his finite possibilities. It does not answer man’s quest for the ultimate root of the meaning of his existence. The problem is that Dasein merely waits for Being to manifest itself. Dasein cannot reach to any meaning beyond his finite condition because he has to wait for Being to reveal this meaning to him through language. In this sense, language owns man, and man is forever at the mercy of Being’s revelation in history. This has an immense implication for humanity. For instance, Heidegger cannot accuse the Nazis of immorality, for the emergence of that part of history is nothing but one of Being’s manifestations in human history.

St. Thomas’ conception of language, on the other hand, enables man to transcend his finite condition and enter into his final unity with the Source. Language signifies the relationship between man and the ultimate source of his existence, Being. This transcendence is impossible in the Heideggerian notion of language. Transcendence is not brought about by anxiety. Anxiety is a purely finite condition and, as such, can only reveal the reality of man’s finitude. The meaningful context of transcendence is revealed to us, according to St.Thomas, only by our desire to know Being. This desire or love of truth reveals itself. St. Thomas conception of language enables man to transcend his finitude and find the presence of Being in his own existence as its ultimate ground and source. The inadequacy, then, of Heidegger’s conception of language lies in its inability to trace the ultimate ground of the intrinsic art of existence among beings.

Heidegger’s problem then is that does not answer the most important question raised by St. Thomas for metaphysics: “why is there something rather than nothing?” To answer such question is to account for the reason why beings exist. If raising the question of Being is important for metaphysics to retrieve it from the dust of tradition and scientific reasoning, then it is also valuable for Dasein or man to answer this question in order to quench his thirst for the ultimate meaning of his existence. Saying that Dasein is not enough. There is a horizon beyond the finite character of Dasein. Such horizon is the response to the question why being is and not nothing. This is the horizon of the transcendent Being, the ultimate source of all creation, the very reason indeed why beings are really real.

Finally, it can be stated that Heidegger’s understanding of Being is kind of historical domination. For him Being determines the meaning of the world for Dasein, but the problem is that even the Transcendent will have to submit to this historical unfolding. But God does not dwell in man’s historical consciousness the way finite beings do. Man must extend beyond his finite consciousness in order to raise the question of transcendence. For Heidegger, this only happens if God presents Himself to our own historical consciousness. Even God must submit to Heidegger’s Being for man to know that He exists. But such notion essentially erases the radical orientation of the human mind to the truth of Being. This is an orientation not only to the presence of things, but more importantly it is a deep drive that transcends our mere consciousness of a world. Limiting ourselves to the horizon of the world does not end our infinite hunger for the ultimate meaning of human existence. Henceforth, man must cross the bridge that brings him to the ultimate meaning of his being. This is a bridge that St. Thomas offers us, a bridge that unites us with one transcendent Being as the ultimate ground and source of all reality.

Ricoeur and narrative theory

Ricoeur and Narrative Theory
By Ryan B. Maboloc

Language and Structuralism
Human existence finds at the very core of its being that it is perpetually underway to language. According to the French Philosopher Paul Ricoeur, it through language that the responsible human subject is revealed, a subject who speaks and acts in a world that is immersed in constant conflict, a subject who continuously suffers in life but still desires to live. The human person is this never-ending desire to be.
The human subject is always a mystery, and thus, he is to be understood indirectly. Human existence demands a detour through language. By this, Ricoeur suggests the utilization of the overflowing creativity of language in highlighting the meaning of the self. The self, according to him, is like a text. This means that the self as an actor is like the unfolding of the text into a meaningful story. To understand oneself is to interpret oneself before this story. Thus, "the narrative story also shapes us in our existence prior to our intentional consciousness. If existence is dramatic, it is the story above all that brings its drama to language”. (Hengel 1982)
The thesis above does not come forth without a challenge. French structuralism proposes a different view on language, a paradigm that essentially cuts off the connection between language and the human world. The French structuralist Ferdinand de Saussure emphasizes that language is an autonomous object for empirical science. He distinguishes between language as code (langue) and language as speech (discour). In langue, there are only differences. (Garcia 2000) Langue is a closed system of signs differing from each other. The language of the story in this sense says nothing about reality. Human existence is rendered mute because in langue, all of language's referential function is cut off. Language as code does not express a world because "the code is the real meaning of the story. The surface features are only the dressing, the envelope for the underlying structures." (Hengel 1982) For Saussure, to understand a story is to decode it.
But the assertion above seems to be problematic. Understanding language as a system of signs differing from each other does not reveal anything about the speaking subject. Thus, "in langue, one can say that no one speaks."(Garcia 2000) In this regard, it will be the duty of hermeneutics "to link language anew to the speaking subject, the concrete living person insofar as the sciences of language give privilege to systems, structures, and codes cut off from the speaking subject."(Ibid.)
Language is not an objective reality. Language is that medium by which we express reality and have a world. (Ibid.) In language as discour, "speaking is the act by which language surpasses itself as sign towards the world, towards the other, and towards oneself."(Ibid) Discourse, in this regard, can be referred to as the intention of saying something, on something, to someone. (Ibid.) Discourse brings us to our actual being in the world. Language is primordially reference, not difference. It is in this sense that we speak of a detour in the beginning because language is primordially mediation. It brings us to our actual existence in time because the story of the narrative is a way of understanding ourselves as actors.
The claim that language consists of signs is not an absolute truth. Language is essentially linked to a speaker who says something, the other to whom something is said, and to a community upon which people come into an agreement on things through linguistic mediation. Language, therefore, opens up the social dimension of the human subject. It is his way of expressing himself to the world. Thus, it is a mode of proclaiming our being in a situation. The narrative story then is a story of a life lived expressed in and through language.
Narrative and Mimesis
Now that we have restored the relation between language and reality, our next task will be the elucidation of how language contributes in healing the existential malady of being human. The human person acts and suffers. Action demands decisions, and decisions sometimes fail to consider the ramifications of our actions. Thus, we fall and reflect on our failures. The human subject listens to himself and tries to understand himself by interpreting his actions. There is no better way of interpreting what we do in life except through the creative power of the narrative.
Ricoeur's narrative theory presents a way of understanding the self through the activity of emplotment or mimesis. Mimesis refers to “the active process of imitating or representing”. (Garcia 2000) The person gathers the scattered events, actions, goals, causes, and desires of his life into one meaningful story. The configuration of this story is the activity of emplotment. It is a way of imitating our actions with the hope of grasping them as a meaningful whole. Understanding these seemingly disconnected events is by means of the plot. The plot, says Ricoeur, is an imitation of action. (Ricoeur 1992)
For Ricoeur, the narrative has the same referential function of the metaphor. The metaphor brings us to a world, a world that is not known through a direct description. Narration brings us to the temporal dimensions of our existence by means of the poetic power of the narrative, a detour through the text of one's life story. Narration then illuminates human action and makes manifest its temporality. Thus, "human action is shaped by mimetic activity which unfolds in the plot” (Garcia 2000) Emplotment shows forth person.
Emplotment, according to Ricoeur, has a threefold structure. The composition of the plot is grounded on a pre-understanding of the world (Mimesis1). First, there is a competence for the structural aspects of human action. Every human action has a conceptual network of motives, intentions, consequences, and goals. These features help us read human action. Every action presupposes motives, intentions and goals.
Secondly, human action can be narrated because it is articulated through signs, rules, and norms. (Ricoeur 1992) There is a meaningful cultural context for every action. We act according to the dictates of these cultural norms. Thirdly, the pre-understanding of human action leads us to the temporal dimensions of human action. Human action has a historical dimension. The past is not simply past. The past is always in relation to the present and the present is always in relation to what I hope for in the future.
The actual activity of configuration is the occasion of the grasping together of the heterogenous (Mimesis 2). Factors such as agents, goals, means, interactions, and circumstances are taken together to form a meaningful whole. It becomes the story of a life lived. This configuration allows the reader to follow the life story in the text. It gives the point, the thought or theme of the narrative by giving it a sense of followability which leads to a conclusion. The conclusion, in this regard, is the resolution of the problem unfolded in the plot.
Finally, it is the reader who completes the text in Mimesis 3. It refers to the intersection of the world of the text and that of the reader, or as put simply by H.G. Gadamer, a "fusion of horizons". The configurating act is only completed when the horizon of the text and the reader are fused. Reading the text brings a change of character in the reader. Reading results to a cathartic effect, that is, it changes the reader by making him understand the ethical content of his actions through the narrative. As Ricoeur says, one must understand that every well told story teaches something. (Ricoeur 1991) Making a change in the reader is the purpose of any good story told.
Mimesis and Time
The human experience of time is inextricably but mostly bound up with narrativity. (Hengel 1982) Every story must be understood as a story that occurs in time. Here, we must distinguish between the linear and configurative understanding of time. Linear time is seeing the series of events in a story in episodic succession. According to Hengel, "linear time is linked to the observable; it is the time that is datable". (Ibid.) But life is not a series of datable events. History is not the mere recording of successive occurrences. History or human life is rather, a happening. It is only in this sense that we can speak of a being in time. Being in time means that human existence is a “being-in-the-world”. Time is that possibility for the unfolding of human existence. Dasein, or there-being, in this sense must be interpreted as man's temporal existence.
Storytelling and following a story throw us in time. (Ibid.) Narrativity manifests the development of the plot in a dimension of time emerges that is hardly linear. The central point of Ricoeur's narrative theory is that time becomes human time when it is narrated. Here, Ricoeur makes an analysis of St. Augustine and Aristotle. What Ricoeur does is to fuse St. Augustine's analysis of time and Aristotle's analysis of emplotment because the former does an analysis of time without emplotment and the latter does an analysis of emplotment without taking into account the temporal aspects of action.
St. Augustine's analysis of time as a triple present establishes a discordance between the present as past [memory], the present of the present [attention], and the present of the future [expectation]. (Reagan 1995) St. Augustine sees time as a distention of the soul (distentio anime), a slippage that goes back again and again to the threefold present, thus establishing discordance. To erase this discordance, Ricoeur appeals to Aristotle's idea of emplotment, an idea that brings concordance to what is discordant. Concordance mends discordance in the activity of constructing a plot. (Ibid.) The plot then is the means of giving a unity to the distention of the soul by giving it a temporal order.
The reflection above leads the way to a temporal understanding of human action. Through emplotment human action is given its temporal unity. The scattered events of human life become one meaningful story through the activity of emplotment. It is through this that we understand the self as the unity of the discordant elements of human life.
The Subject as same and the Subject as self
The narrative reveals the meaning of human existence. Let us see how this happens by reading the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who also stripped and wounded him... And it so happened that a Priest went down the same way...In like manner a Levite also passed by...But a certain Samaritan being on his journey came near him and seeing him, was moved with compassion...which of these three men, in thy opinion, was a neighbor to him that fell among the thieves? (Luke 10:30-37)
For Ricoeur, the parable is a unique narrative. What is surprising in the parable is that Jesus answered the question of the visitor with a question, "but a question that has become inverted by means of the corrective power of the narrative". (Ibid.) In the parable, the visitor was making a sociological inquiry concerning a certain social object, a possible sociological category susceptible to definition, observation, and explanation. (Ibid.) The neighbor, however, is not a social category with defined roles. Thus, the act of making oneself available is beyond any sociological abstraction. This is because "being a neighbor lies in making oneself a neighbor". (Ibid.) The question here becomes a demand for action. The question is thrown back to the questioner, presenting him with possibilities for being or existing.
Being a neighbor or making oneself available, defies one's permanence in time. This permanence in time, according to Ricoeur, refers to the subject as being the same (idem). He calls this character. Character refers to a set of distinctive marks that permit the re-identification of the human individual as being the same. (Ricoeur 1992) A Samaritan is considered as an outcast. He is conceived as someone who has no role to portray in the society. He has no social function. But this set of characteristics enabled the Samaritan to respond positively to the surprise of the event of the encounter. Thus, the Samaritan rose above his being a non-category. And so it is in this regard that we can ascribe to the Samaritan the subject as self (ipse). The Samaritan cannot be reduced to a what. The subject who acts and is responsible for his actions is a who. The Samaritan as self is a person for others, an actor who rises above social functions. He assumes a narrative identity.
Narrative identity is the integration of the subject as same and the subject as self. It is through narrative identity that we can ascribe actions to its agents. The story of the Good Samaritan is a story of a life that has an actor. Through the narrative, the Samaritan as subject is the human person who possesses the dynamism of self by being able to respond to the surprise of the encounter. The narrative is his story.
Teleology and Deontology
Narrativity brings forth the ethical content of human action. Ricoeur elaborates a discussion on Kant’s deontology and Aristotle’s teleology, noting in the end his affinity to Aristotle’s ethics of the desire to be.
Kant in his Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals makes a proposal for an ethics based on duty. An action is done because it is an obligation on the part of the individual as a rational human being. The human being acts morally because he is commanded so by human rationality. For Kant, all ethical actions proceeds from a good will. All actions, to be ethical, must have the pure intention of the will. The will is autonomous because it is not governed by any other motive except doing what is good.
On the one hand, Aristotelean teleology, proposes an ethics of one’s desire to be. To be is to act in order to attain the virtuous life. The virtuous life is the good life, the realization of the individual's self-fulfillment. To be ethical means to exert one's effort to exist and to exercise one's freedom to be. For Aristotle, virtue is exercised through practical action or phronesis. A good act is like a habit. Man must do good things habitually in order to be good. Every individual has this desire to be good, and he does good things in order to attain the good life. The good life for Aristotle is the happy life. Virtue and happiness then are intimately linked.
For Ricoeur, there is primacy to teleology than deontology. This is because there is first an urgency of the desire to be before one is called to act in the name of duty. In every human action, freedom comes first before necessity. Man, first and foremost, desires the realization of his very self, the actualization of a meaningful life. To be man is to make real my potentialities for existence, the possibilities of my being. To be man is to nurture my freedom, the ultimate expression of the self that I am.
The narrative of life is an archive of stories that articulate the human condition, the human condition being the ground of man’s conscious effort to desire more from himself and the world. Man’s desire to be takes its ultimate form in the field of history. History manifests the finality of human action. This finality or end, it seems to me, is a search for meaning.
Narrative, History, and Meaning
Being human is primarily set within the background of a historical condition. Let us consider the relevance of the narrative to human historical existence. According to Charles Reagan,
History is a kind of writing, and in this sense, it is a kind of narration. To explain for a historian means to show the unfolding of the plot, to make it understood. Events receive their intelligibility from their place in the plot, and historical events do not differ radically from the events framed by the plot. (Reagan 1995)
There is an intimate link between the narrative, history and meaning. Victor Frankl’s account of his experiences in the concentration camp, for instance, sets us up to one of the most potent source of the narrative meaning of human historical existence. Frankl writes,
A man's character became involved to the point that he was caught in a mental turmoil which threatened all the values he held and threw them into doubt. Under the influence of a world which no longer recognized the value of human life and human dignity, which had made him an object to be exterminated - under this influence the personal ego finally suffered a loss of values. (Frankl 1962)
By understanding the accounts from history, we come to an understanding of the importance of human values and their significance to our desire to be fully human. History has a plot, and finding the meaning of human existence in it is the ultimate goal of any emplotment. This meaning may be concealed from us, but this only shows that life is an on-going story. The human being as an actor suffers, but in his desire to live well, the search for meaning provides the impetus for him to continually desire to be. Again we quote Frankl, who says,
One should not seek for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. (Ibid.)
To desire is to desire one’s self-realization. To live is to seek fulfillment. The value of human life comes from the fact that each individual is unique, hence, irreplaceable. This uniqueness also corresponds to the uniqueness of each person’s account of himself, of his story. Every person’s desire to be, therefore, is also unique to himself. The meaning of the human subject’s desire to be, however, would not be realized in the absence of social justice. The institution supports the actualization of any human undertaking, for individuality would not find its expression without the presence of others. This presence is always a historical presence.
Justice and the Institution
The human subject’s desire to be is embedded in the social dimension of human existence. The fulfillment of our desire to be ultimately resides in our social relationships. The attainment of a good life, which is the desire of every man, does not find its fullest expression on the level of personal intimacy. The beauty and preservation of private life rests on public order, hence, the birth of the institution.
The proposal of Ricoeur for a narrative ethics then takes its most defining moment in its importance in the constitution of a happy life in a just society. It is the presence of the institution that makes possible the emergence of a just society. John Rawls stresses this when he said that justice is the first virtue of the institution, as truth is of systems of thoughts. (Rawls 1971) In a just society, “what matters is that everyone is provided with the basic conditions for the realization of his own aims, regardless of the absolute level of achievement that may represent”. (Daniels 1975) The reason for this is that the fundamental attitude towards persons on which justice as fairness depends is a respect for their autonomy or freedom. (Ibid) Society exists for man’s greater self-realization.
Ultimately, human reason demands that justice simply means making freedom a possibility for all. Reasonable human action can only be moved by charity under the form of justice. (Ricoeur 1965) What becomes clear here is that justice governs the purpose and the existence of the institution. The institution, in this sense, exists in order to bring forth equality among individuals who belong to it. As a structure of an organized whole, it sees to it that there is an equal opportunity for the individuals who belong to it. This means giving equal chances of living a good life, equal chances of realizing our desire to be. The institution exists “for the service it renders” (Ricoeur 1965). The promotion of human welfare is the only guarantee that a happy life becomes a possibility for all and the institution only finds its true worth by safeguarding the basic freedom and desire to be of the human being.

Heidegger and St. Thomas: Language, being, and transcendence

Paul Ricoeur's Phenomenology of the will

Paul Ricoeur’s Phenomenology of the Will
Christopher Ryan B. Maboloc
The question of the subject

The question of the subject is central in the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. His intellectual journey essentially responds to the mystery of being human, and this is done "through the prolonged study of the wounded subject in an effort to heal and recuperate the subject in our time." (Hengel 1982) As individuals, we are conscious human beings who struggle through life because there seems to be a disjointing between human consciousness and our incarnate existence making our effort to live well difficult and sometimes seemingly hopeless. In our being immersed into the difficult instances of human existence, we find it important to understand the meaning of active involvement in the different dimensions of life, political or social, through a phenomenological investigation of the conscious act of willing and its purpose, a purpose fully realized in human action.

Martin Heidegger's exposition of the being of man as Dasein or there-being reveals the basic question that man has - the meaning of existence. For Heidegger, man is always already thrown into the world where he realizes his potentialities and existential possibilities. Thus, man has the power-to-be in the world where he realizes his projects. Ricoeur expounds this project by discerning into the essential structures of human existence through an exposition of a philosophy of the will. Our task in this paper is to examine the woundedness of human consciousness, restoring the unity of the cogito and human incarnate existence through human action.

Historically speaking, such woundedness came with the advent of modernity. Science seems to claim an authoritative position about the nature of things, so that before anything is judged as true, it needs to be tested by the instruments of scientific research. Thus, with the emergence of the scientific era, method acted as the source of knowledge, even about man. This paved the way for the dichotomization of the subject from the object, man from the world, and the soul from the body. Here, we trace this dualism in Descartes' Meditations.
The second meditation of Descartes

For Descartes, the senses act as instruments of deception. (Cartesian Meditations, 13) He thinks that the world is hypothetical in nature. For him, before we could trust anything, it must be doubted, for the senses seem to say the opposite of what we believe. Descartes says that a person must not be misled by the judgements accorded to him by his sense faculties. And since the senses deceive, the real criterion for truth should be that which is indubitable. For Descartes, what can't be doubted is the fact that there is a person who doubts, for in the act of doubting, the existence of the one who doubts is always presupposed. He says,

I discover that thought is an attribute that really does belong to me. This alone cannot be detached from me. I am; I exist; this is certain. (CM, 18)

What is certain then is that the subject exists. But this is a solitary subject. The world is divorced from the Cartesian cogito. Consciousness is anchored on the subject and the subject alone - on the fact that "I am therefore, I exist". Descartes methodic doubt erases the existence of the world and of the other. Insofar as the world is out there, for Descartes, this could not be known. I am an entity separate from the world.

What is the implication of this? Such fact essentially destroys the unity of body and consciousness. Human experience loses the intentional unity of subject and the object which it intends. The subject loses his contact with the world it intends. It is an alienated Cogito. Erazim Kohak, in his introduction to Freedom and Nature, comments on this by asserting that "there is no consciousness unless it is a consciousness of an object and, conversely, an object presents itself as an object only for conciousness." (Kohak 1966) Phenomena refer to the presence of the things in the world in my consciousness. To be conscious is to be conscious of the world. What makes me actual is not only the fact that I think, but that "the reasons which motivate my decision, the body which I am, even the personal and historical conditions of my being are not simply external limitations imposed upon me, but rather an organ in and through which I am actual". (Ibid.) I am truly human insofar as I actually dwell in a world of meanings which I can apprehend because I possess an embodied existence. Human action always presupposes certain meanings. The cogito only becomes real by being-in-the-world. I can only move my body in relation to whatever possibilities the world presents me. I am an incarnate being. Thus, Kohak asserts that, "movement always emerges as the organ of cogito's practical incarnation". (Ibid., 20)

Man as being-in-the-world

According to Heidegger, man's being is a being-in-the-world. As such, the world exists as man's horizon and potentiality for Being. Descartes, on the one hand, sees the fundamental ontological determination of the world as extension. (Being and Time) This means that the world is only an extension of my body - it is other than me, separate from me. Being makes no sense for Descartes. For him Being itself does not accept us, therefore, it cannot be perceived. (BT, 87) But Heidegger says that in understanding the world, Being is also understood. Being is the disclosedness, the concealment of things in the world. Every disclosing is also a concealing. Man's primordial experience of being is that he is always already within the world. Man is not an object separate from the world. By being in the world, man's potentiality for Being is disclosed. Man is a thrown being, thus, man always already finds himself in a situation.

This implies that man is not only conscious of a self but is conscious of a situation. Thus, we must "pass beyond self-consciousness and see consciousness as adhering to its body, to all its involuntary life and through them, to a world of action." (Freedom and Nature, 8) The world always presents itself to us as something we need to change and transform through our conscious willing. The project that Heidegger talks about in Being and Time is concretized in Ricoeur as the project of human action. There is a link therefore in Heidegger's explication of the meaning of Dasein to Ricoeur's own elucidation of the meaning of the subject. The subject is posited as the being for whom the question regarding being gives itself; this subject is posited as Dasein. (Jervolino 1966) Thus, against Descartes, the hermeneutics of the "I am" transforms and renews the philosophy of the Cogito, doing away with the illusions of the idealistic, subjectivistic, and solipsistic Cogito. (Ibid.)

The subject in Husserl's phenomenology

We must trace Ricoeur's affinity to Edmund Husserl if we are to do a phenomenology of the subject. In Husserl, the ego is always rooted in the subject. This ego is always originary and transcendental. Here, we quote Van Den Hengel,

The ego is the final justification of all objectivity. The ego is the quest for the ultimate foundation of human knowledge and activity. Thus, for

Husserl, according to Ricoeur, the height of intuition, the place where intuition is most complete, is subjectivity." (Hengel 1982)

First, a few remarks. The subject without the world is an empty truth. The Cogito as it appears in Husserlian phenomenology is at once a reprise of the Cartesian cogito. (Blamey 1995) Husserl does a reworking of the Cartesian project, "conceiving the cogito as a field of experience". (Ibid.) Consciousness is always consciousness of something other than the self. Subjectivity as the foundation of all human understanding presupposes that man is immediately conscious of himself as subject. This makes the Cogito the apodictic ground of all knowing. The world, which has become a world-for-me, "appears as meaning, as meaning for the pure ego."(Ibid.) But in Ricoeur's hermeneutical project, the foundation in the Cogito, however, does not hold ground. The criterion of an apodictic truth is broken into pieces with the emergence of language. Language as a phenomenon in man refers man not only to himself as a speaking subject but also to a world where he is related. It is "through language that we apprehend what lies before language."(Ibid.)

According to Ricoeur, for Husserl, "structural phenomenology reflects the subject by means of what may now be called the object world; in Husserl's phenomenology, the object world is primarily a perceptual one." (The Symbolism of Evil, 10) For Husserl, experience is our immediacy of a lived world where we encounter things. But Ricoeur's aim in applying structural phenomenology to the question of the subject is essentially to understand the essential possibilities in man, and "in this context it is the experience of the fault." (Ihde 1986) What Ricoeur does is an epoche or a phenomenological reduction of human willing where all naturalistic facts or biases on the human will are suspended. What is sought in the eidetics of the will is its a priori meaning. In uncovering man's essential possibilities, the meaning of human existence is shed light and given expression. But this must be done through expression where the meaning of human action is made manifest. According to Hengel,

In order to understand the meaning of willing, phenomenology seeks the essences of the lived or the structures of the experience of willing. Phenomenology seeks to uncover, therefore, the meaning of the lived. (Hengel 1982)

Human will in this sense is analyzed through its objects or intentions. These objects are "identified as the world, my body, and others." (Ibid.) The will intends an act that I am responsible for. As an "act-to-be-done-by-me" (Ibid.), it opens an aspect of my existence, and that is, I possess a character whose project depends upon my own decisions. My capacity to act and realize this project means that I have the power to be in the world. The exposition of the subject as character brings in the aspect of self-imputation, thus, it must be viewed from the level of praxis, or human action. Husserl's phenomenology dwells on the level of perception, "but there is a prior recovery of the self in the level of doing."(Ibid.) The meaning of human existence does not reside fully on the level of seeing, and so we must contemplate on the level of action where the contexts of human action are illuminated and given their ethical content. Human action exposes the meaning of human freedom. Thus, "praxis is the realm of the emergence of freedom or of the subject as free and responsible." (Ibid.)

We can recall in Gabriel Marcel the rejection of the Cartesian Cogito which he regards as a mere abstraction of the human subject. For him, human existence is a being-in-a-situation. (Gallagher 1982) The self is only real insofar as it experiences the situatedness it has in the world as an incarnate existence. My existence finds itself as being-with-others, and not as mere abstract thought. Thus, pure subjectivity is content-less subjectivity; as existing subjectivity I am not pure

subjectivity, but a being-by-participation. (Ibid.) As subject man participates in the world of beings. This participation in Ricoeur is a participation-in-action. Being-in-a-situation means being able to respond to the demands of an event through my conscious act of willing which characterizes my being human. Ricoeur expounds this theme in his phenomenological description of human subjectivity.
Ricoeur: willing, acting, consenting

In Dr. Leo Garcia's creative repetition of the Philosophy of the Will, it can be noted that the reciprocity of the body and consciousness can be summed up in the movement of the will towards deciding, acting, and consenting. We quote,

The intentional object of decision is the project. The project then is the correlate of decision, the first moment of willing. However, the project only becomes real through effective action brought about by voluntary movement. This effective action or pragma is the correlate of action, the second moment of willing. But the will still has to acquiesce to necessity which it cannot change. The detour into the voluntary makes us aware of this necessity which is the correlate of consent, the third moment of willing." (Garcia 1997)

To decide means being able to attend to the things I have to do. The project, pragma, refers to what I intend to accomplish that which needs my conscious act of doing something for the sake of something. Within the possibility of this accomplishment lies the horizon of the world, my being situated in it. Man acts in view of the possibilities that the world offers him, including the capacity to commit mistakes. Thus, "decision culminates in the determination of self by oneself: I make up my own mind, it is I who determine myself and myself whom I determine."(Stewart 1978, 5) This means that it is me who acts and that it is me who is responsible for my actions. Decision specifies in outline a future action as my own action, as an action lying within my power. (Ibid.) The act-to-be-done-by-me is realized in human action, which "realizes it in full".(Ibid.) Action is self-determination. To possess a political will simply means acting in view of what is demanded from me as a public servant. Acting for the service of others in a political institution determines the self that I am, the subject who is responsible for my constituents.

Human action essentially reveals the being of man as a situated consciousness. Man's being is concretized in human action, and man acts in view of the situation he is struggling with. The situation defines the whole horizon of human activity. Human action, in return, characterizes the person that we are. Some men may or may not be men for others, for some people only desire what their ego so demands, but what human action reflects are the qualities that we possess as persons. Ricoeur says, "in doing something, I make myself be. I am my own capacity for being". (FN, 55) Human action is always related to the project it intends to do. And this project is realized in the world, for the world exists as a playing field for the unfolding of my actions. The world is a witness to the unfolding of the subject that is me. If I sin, I sin in the world. If I feel guilty about what I do, the world looms as the background of this guilt. The body acts as my perspective where all understanding and acting begin. I am an incarnate being, an embodied soul. The body, according to Ricoeur, "is not the object of action but its organ." (FN, 212) It is through my body that I am able to transform the situations I am immersed into. The world is not a raw data of nature; it is an event for me that I am constantly involved with so that my being as man can manifest a meaningful sense. Acting then is my means of doing something for myself and for others. In social charity for instance, we don’t just give something, we share our humanity. It is

the humane way of dealing with others. It is the will's desire for the other. Charity is characterized as such by its good intentions. Human action is always defined by its motives.

Our discussions simply point out that "consciousness is not the disembodied consciousness revealed by introspection." (Garcia 1997) This puts into rest the illusions of the Cartesian Cogito. The subject is not an abstract mental entity. To be a subject does not only mean that I am a thinking individual, but that I think simply because I have to act. Thus, we must go beyond the objectification of the body and recover the massive experience of being my body as a source of motives, as a focus of abilities, or as a background of necessity. (FN, 16)

But what is this background of necessity? Ricoeur beautifully illustrates the answer to our inquiry in his analysis of consent. To consent is to make necessity my own. (Garcia 1997) To consent means to understand my finite horizons and be able to joyfully accept whatever possibilities it accords me. My body gives me my capacity for being. It is that which allows me to act. As long as man has his body, he possesses an existential capability for acting. No one is disabled. One can only be differently-abled.

My body is my openness to the world. It brings me to whatever is possible so that I can truly act as a human being. Thus, it is my freedom of movement. The possibility of evil then is there because of the freedom of human action. But the necessity of my bodily existence does not mean I am essentially bound to be sinful. Necessity implies that I am finite and so my possibilities are finite. To consent to human finitude is to accept the beauty and meaning of being truly human. The human being who suffers, grows old, and dies must not consider life a lonely journey because "freedom remains the possibility of not accepting myself, of saying no to what is negating." (Stewart 1978) To be finite is to take pride in whatever possibilities human finitude offers. To be finite does not mean we are always bound to be broken, for essentially as man we are whole. This unity means that "the world of objects is for the subject, the involuntary is for the voluntary, motives are for choice, capacities for effort, necessity for consent." (FN, 471-472; in Garcia 1997, 63) This horizon of my subjectivity finds its realization in responsible human action. It is only in responsible action that we find ourselves complete. It is in fulfillment that we find the meaning of being a person. My incarnate existence, my being with and for others, is experienced in a personal manner.

Reciprocity and the human person

As a human person, I am irreducible to any scientific explanation. B.F. Skinner's behaviorism essentially degrades the essence of what it means to be human by defining man as a being who responds to the stimuli he finds in his nearest environment. But behaving in some way, acting or respecting someone, is not a mere naturalistic reaction to a certain stimulus. A lifetime commitment to a loved one is irreducible to behavioral reflexes. Thus, "to rediscover the personal body, the naturalistic viewpoint must give way to a phenomenological viewpoint."(Ibid.) Human incarnate existence is essentially lived. My body is not an object. Thus, my body demands respect. It should not be subjected to any exploitation because it bears the mark of my being human. Respect for the human body is therefore respect for life.

The reciprocity of body and consciousness makes me truly human. This means that I have a character bearing "the very decision I make, the way I exert effort, and the way I perceive and desire." (FN, 367; Garcia, 139) My character shows me that my freedom is not an abstract but concrete freedom which is real in a particular, determinate way. (Ibid.) Thus, character makes me someone. (FN, 447) Through my character, "I am a fundamental openness to the whole range of possibilities of being human". (Garcia 1997) This explains the fact that the Cogito is not devoid of its worldly possibilities. The Cogito finds itself as incarnate in its many possibilities of

desiring, acting, and intending. The Cogito is not separated from the human experience of being-in-the-world. Jervolino summarizes our points in these words:

The link between the voluntary and the involuntary means that the will, as a capacity to decide upon and to enact a project, to take action, to consent to one's being in a situation, corresponds to the body as source of motivations, concentrate of powers and also as necessary nature, that nature which I am. In short, the body as subject. (Jervolino 1966)
Language as the subject's horizon of meaning

In his Intellectual Autobiography, Ricoeur says that he was questioning the presuppositions of Descartes and Husseri, namely "the immediateness, the transparence, and the apodicticity of the Cogito." (Hahn 1995) Human existence as subject cannot be understood if it is not expressed. Any knowledge or human value is useless if it is not communicated. The willing Cogito must find its way into self-expression. As Ricoeur says, "without the help of language experience would remain mute, obscure, and shut up in its implicit contradictions."(SE, 161) Again, we cite Jervolino:

Word has the power to change our understanding of ourselves. Word reaches us on the level of the symbolic structures of our existence, the dynamic schemes that express the way in which we understand our situation and the way in which we project ourselves into this situation. (Jervolino 1966)

Ricoeur considers the Word as his kingdom. Speech [he refers to his teaching profession], according to him, is his means of livelihood. Thus, in the context of a hermeneutic phenomenology, the object world is exchanged for a language world. The world of expression is now the object correlate which is used to reflect the subject. (Ihde 1986) All actions in this sense are to be understood linguistically. This is because there is no direct understanding of the self. "The final act, and not the first, is thus to understand oneself before the text, before the work. Discourse, text, work are the mediation by which we understand ourselves." (Garcia 1999) To know the subject is to narrate its life-story. The story constitutes the story of a life lived, the subject's life in time and its concretion in human action.

In conclusion, what we have seen is that the subject in Paul Ricoeur's philosophy is an embodied consciousness who realizes his possibilities in the world through responsible human action. Human consciousness is not an abstract reality; it also feels pain and joy. The subject is rooted in the world where he discovers relationships that concretize his being as man. It also allows him to experience the real meaning of human existence, being with and for others. The Cogito is not an alienated entity. It also expresses itself through its self-expressions. Descartes has taken for granted the fact that language is essentially social. It presupposes a community of beings sharing with each other their views about life. Human commitment to the other is expressed linguistically. Even love must be expressed in the act of saying I love you. The self can only be interpreted linguistically. There is no self-understanding without language.

Childhood in the margins: Levinas and the mortality of the face

Childhood in the Margins:
Levinas and the Mortality of the Face
Christopher Ryan B. Maboloc

There is an unpleasant feeling in each time I am about to enter the gates of the institution where I teach. But I suppose not everybody sees what I see, and because of that not everybody feels what I feel. For instance, the main building of our school is a structure to behold, but it is not what catches my attention too often. What bothers me every time I step on its marble floor is the image in my mind of young innocent children, some as young as five, begging under the searing heat of daylight, the exact opposite of the church’s proclamation that they are God’s most loved beings. It saddens me the most when I realize that many of us, mortals who have been blessed, remain indifferent and blind of humanity’s greatest anomaly of all – our disregard of the children in the margins.

The child out there that I don’t care about has a face. The face of that child is my moral obligation. The face of that child presents itself as an ultimate demand - Do not kill. (Levinas 1969) The face of that child, however, our present human condition suggests, is a dying one. It is the face of a poor child neglected and is dying from starvation because society does not see the rationale in sharing a piece of bread to those who have nothing to eat, or more philosophically perhaps, because society finds indifference a better option than feeding the hungry.

More often than not, the face of that innocent child who has to suffer from society’s inadvertence is an expression of humanity’s extreme fragility. This paper, following the trails of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, intends to uncover the meaning of that fragility, bringing us to a closer encounter of the mortality of the face.1 It does not, however, propose a concrete course of action. What it does, and in a manner that is radical, is elevate our awareness, and in the process elicit our sensitivity to the hapless plight of the other.

The meaning of otherness

Human thought’s ultimate quest for the truth, for whatever is just, should deal with the most essential aspect of human existence, and by this I mean the ethical – ethics exists for the sake of the suffering other, and nothing more. Ethics is first philosophy and the reason for this is the fact that we are moral subjects. What makes man truly different from animals is essentially his being a moral subject. As a moral subject, he possesses a sense of right and wrong – he is morally obliged to do the good. Primordially, however, he exists for the good of the other. But who is this person I call other? The other as other, according to Levinas, is the face that I see. In many instances, however, I do not see a face; I see an object. I don’t really see those urchins out there; I see dirty clothes. To many of us who are immersed in our daily routines, there seems to be a refusal to see the other in its most allergic form of otherness. The children in the margins of the streets, felt as a mere disturbance, suffer from this allergy.

It is the task of phenomenological reflection to re-examine the meaning of the other for me. What does the otherness of the face tell me then? If in all seriousness and sincerity I begin to see the face of a street child, I will soon realize that the other is not an object at my disposal. The other as human, as one who supercedes me the other being the basis of all my ethical judgments, cannot be used as a mere means to an end. But reality says otherwise. The suffering other, that anonymous being that I encounter in the margins, is oftentimes manipulated in order to satisfy the desires of my ego. I am not the only one guilty of this. It is also an atrocity perpetuated by individuals who are supposed to take good care of these abandoned children. These individuals have done nothing except build an image for themselves. Child advocacy, with no real philosophical content, has become mere propaganda. It has been the way things are, for politicians need to win again, and organizations need the funding. These people are the ultimate expression of that egoistic self, a self that only desires what is good for its survival. And in the process of preserving itself, the other is destroyed, its validity thwarted, and simply dismissed as somebody who is not a real concern.

Misery is the companion of these abandoned children. Not unless a philosopher encounters the stare of a starving child, he has not philosophized.

The desire of humankind for self-preservation makes the other a nemesis, a threat to my existence. Because of my concern for a self-image, there follows a failure to recognize the “otherness of the other”. Philosophical reflection, patterned from a primal form of egocentricity, is always guilty of such. Thus, in reflecting about the question of the self, I may find a profound understanding of my human nature, but such essentially neglects the question of the other. There is a forgetfulness of the other, not a forgetfulness of Being.

Moral philosophy, more than an examination of the intrinsic nature of human action or the human person’s desire to be, should be a way of seeing the other as a face, a way of caring2 for the other as a suffering face. Morality should be a morality that cares, period. Morality should act for the sake of those who are suffering from the abuses of the human will. The moral realm exists as a reminder of my responsibility for the other.

The margins and human attention

In order to realize my responsibility for the other, there is a need to recover the primordial meaning of human attention. What is human attention? First, let me examine the meaning of human attention on the level of objects. When the self attends to something, it opens itself to a field of human possibilities. Attention goes beyond merely knowing what a thing is in its practical state or its functional appearance. Attention is a kind of dealing that dwells and partakes in the essential nature of the thing. When the self attends to something, it brings life into it. The self puts meaning into the object. The thing becomes valuable; it acquires importance. The object becomes a human property.

But I also attend to persons. Attention also implies co-existence. When I attend a class, I co-exist with others. The room becomes the playing field. It is in this playing field where listening takes place. I experience a certain kind of presence, a presence that is not merely physical. For instance, if I am not listening to my teacher, I am not really attending a class. When there is lack of attention, the self ceases to be a participant in the playing field.

Attention therefore is a kind of being-with. The “I” becomes a part of the “other”. Attention implies a giving of oneself. Attention is, unarguably, involvement. It means being caught up in the experience of being-with. In this kind of sharing the ego begins to care. In caring for the other, the ego forgets itself, and begins to dwell in the other. In this dwelling the ego becomes, like its opposite pole, the other.

Life in the metropolis is the simplest example I can think of. Allow me to attend to the margins of metropolitan life, and again, the streets. If one is truly observant of his surroundings, one should not fail to see the heart shattering presence of very young street children begging in the streets. At one time I saw a child, probably aged three, running the streets to beg. A mother, with almost no sign of present society’s scheme of things, carries her one year old and approaches each vehicle that stops. Later, a little baby cries of hunger, his brother unable to find a way of helping him out of his miserable existence.

If I look at all the giant edifices all over the metropolis, the gadgets that I use and discard in order to be updated of what is trendy, and the way I spend the days of my life in cinemas, malls, and parties, the sight of these innocent children would be no more than a statement of my irresponsibility. It seems that I have not been reasonable enough. And so there they are, in the margins of the streets, existing but not known, living but not loved.

Their miserable condition is a result of that modern day plague the intellectuals call marginalization. They are the unlikely victims of egocentricity. They occupy the silence and emptiness of the streets, for I have refused to see them. There they are, existing merely as statistical data and wandering in the brutality of modern civilization, waiting for their ultimate test of torture, serving as specimens of present day Himmlers3. My encounter with them is no more than a fleeting moment for a little kindness, if not hypocrisy.

Society’s lack of attention, its disregard for those lives in the margins, has resulted to man’s greatest problem - the presence of unending violence in our modern day existence. This violence speaks of the absence of our sense of responsibility. On the personal level, the self that I am neglects the presence of the face. The self that I am moves as if everything else revolves around it. The self that I am acts as if the world belongs to it.

The world is blinded by its own ego; not unless it opens its eyes to love and caring, it shall remain imprisoned by its illusion of totality.

Totality and violence

Conflict is the inevitable fruit of this totality. In the process of totalization4, the “I” dwells in the center and becomes the master of the fate of the other. The “I” becomes the center of the world, the source of meaning of the world. It is the “I” that determines what the “other” should be. The other, and his very freedom, is subjugated, thwarted.

Violence governs the world, and peace is a lost soul. Is peace within the realm of human possibilities? Difficult, indeed, especially when I realize that my sense of joy cannot be total for a child somewhere out there sleeps without anything in his stomach. There is a need, I think, to re-examine what is wrong. The fine lines of our socio-cultural margins may lead us to its essence. Peace is a “letting be”. In the acceptance of diversity, there comes a “unity in difference” – a unity in diversity. Not unless society allows those in the margins to have their own way of life, to profess their own faith and to experience the radical authenticity of their culture, peace will remain no more than an empty concept. The streets belong to the “nobody”, and thus, the young children who live there have become a “nobody”, a nameless face. They have been forced out from their homes because of military conflict, but many of them are stripped of their humanity because of injustice, because their parents do not have a share of society’s wealth, and so in the streets they dwell, forlorn, forgotten, and dying.

Violence ends as soon as I recognize the other as my responsibility. Violence is a product of irresponsibility. The other demands that I become responsible. The face of the other speaks of my task. The other is my superior (Levinas 1967), not my co-equal. I exist for the other. It is in being responsible for the other that my being is determined. What I am if I have done nothing for my brothers? What is a father if he has not loved his children?

Violence ends when there is a cessation of the self’s effort to annihilate the other. The self as a dictator defines how the other must exist. By dictating on how the other is supposed to live, the self devalues the other. Society remains under the domination of the will of the powerful. Modern civilization leads us nowhere

Master and servant dialectic

The question above provides us with a perspective in examining one of Western society’s most important socio-political framework – the master-servant dialectic. (Hegel 1967)This framework presents the theoretical background for the emergence of power and its preservation. The master dominates the servant; the master defines the limits of the servant. The servant cannot will his master’s desires; the servant exists only in order to please the master. The servant then is the object of the “I”. All relations are to be grounded on such presupposition. All existence revolves around such egocentricity.

Human reason is justified only when it does not contradict such dialectic. Any dialectic, Plato taught us, designates what truth is. (Plato 1974)Here, truth becomes the product of egocentricity, and everything else becomes its opposite. Thus, truth comes from the power of the master. It is the will of the master that has a rightful claim to objectivity. The servant and his claim to truth are annihilated. It is the self that knows, and human reason is simply the principle of the will of this ego. The subject that defines the limits of what is true and what is just is a subject that does not know what is other than itself. A self that wills, a self that sets its own norms is blind as to the reality of what is other than itself.

This explains why most laws serve only a few and disregard the many, the masses in particular. The masses are in the margins – they are dispensable mortals. They are unimportant; as other, they do not possess reason – they are subservient to it. They are the object of the will of the intellectuals, the nameless faces in garbage dumpsites, factories, and mines.

The other then is a victim of the gods of the ego. The insignificant other is the child who dies from tuberculosis because his parents cannot afford its cure, the child who has to die in an ambush after being caught in the crossfire, the child who has to become a victim of bombings and salvaging, and all because of the reason that that child is an other, a face that has been abandoned.

Violence in the State

It seems then that the other is the most fragile of all existent beings. The other is a victim. The other is dying. The other is facing its impending death. There is no greater violence than seeing a young child suffer.

In a capitalist society, that child becomes the face of a helpless worker, who as victim of oppressive working conditions, suffers and is reduced to the level of things, reaching the point of almost starving to death. In a tyrannical regime, that child is the face of an unwilling victim of political oppression, sacrificed for the sake of justice. In the social sphere, that child is the face of an alien entity, whose voice is unheard, whose significance is equal to nil, for he is the illiterate, the uneducated, the dirty man in the street. In the cultural dimension, that child is the face of a dying voice in the wilderness, whose survival and very way of life is partnered with extinction.

And whom should we blame? It is the state, and the very condition for its existence, that causes the miseries of the suffering face. Politicians are making our society worst. The state, which exists in order to be the guardian of the interests of the majority, demands that the minority is non-significant, that any crime committed against the minority is justifiable. Only because they are the minority, and that what matters is that the majority is served well, as if the minority feels nothing, are nothing, means nothing. Such is also found in the world’s most powerful nation. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in the American declaration of independence that all men are created equal, and who, as one of the founding fathers of that great nation, is supposed to be a pillar in the cause of human freedom, cannot but be labeled as inconsistent, for he owned slaves. The slaves cannot have their freedom, for if they did, it would undermine the very existence of the union, for much of its life depended on slavery.

The state, many thinkers agree, is the greatest and most powerful perpetrator of violence. This violence seems justified, for the state exists for the sake of its subjects, hence, the necessity of protecting them, even if that means going to war. But this violence is the same violence that causes death to the other. Violence is the ego hiding in the guise of reason. The state, in principle, is grounded on the premise that it exists to promote the welfare of its subjects. Sometimes, however, these subjects are the ones sacrificed for the sake of the state. The idea that some men must die so that others may live is the voice of a dictator who claims to uphold the principles of humanity but has put humanity secondary to his selfish interests. It is this: to stay in power, I must kill. The predator must have a prey for it to realize its very being, for it to actualize its nature. There is violence because of man’s concern for self-preservation. The state, in order to exist, kills.

The other as mortal

There is death because we care less. Death looms in the horizon of the face5. The face, as mortal, suffers. The face of the children in the margins is the most deplorable expression of mortality. The face of the other is a blatant manifestation of coercion, the ultimate embodiment of expendability. Thus, the other lives in alienation. The other as face subsists in misery. The other, as nobody, as face, is forgotten. The other, as nobody, is a nameless face. Death accompanies the other as face, as nobody, for society does not provide him a place of decent living, of dignified existence. The other, as mortal, is that dispensable face, whose existence, in the first place, to many of us, and irresponsibly, meant nothing.

In death, my existence ends. Death is thought of as an event where I am no longer possible, a point where all my potentialities shall have been completed6. Death is an own-most possibility, and it is the fulfillment of my being, the completion of my life. The other, however, experiences death differently. For the other, there is no fulfillment, no sense of completion, when death comes to it. There can only be completion when I realize the purpose of my being. There is fulfillment when I have become what I have always dreamt of being. But the death of a child out of hunger or murder, the sacrifice of individuals for the sake of freedom, and the loss of millions of lives because of tyranny are but left to the pages of civil registry as mere data.

But the dead face shouldn’t remain silent. As traces of history they are reminders of past mistakes, of human inattention, of the absence of equality, justice, love, and reasonableness. The dead are not resting in peace, just as we do not live in peace. Death presents itself as a challenge for me to change, that I must be steadfast in the quest for human responsibility. Death reminds us of an infinite responsibility7.

Infinite responsibility

The original encounter with the face is that of an infinite responsibility. There is an obligation, a demand to act. In my refusal to see, what is presupposed is that I have already recognized the other, but the initial effect is that of rejection, of allergy.

The other is thought of as unimportant, as someone not part of me, as someone I do not share a being-with. The only feeling that I have is that of antagonism, that of violence. This I can plainly see. Every time a young girl, poor and untidy, approaches a teenage student who is about to enter the halls of the school, the initial reaction is that of disgust and abomination. Such an act is a visible display of the violence against the other. Is it not that education exists to make us better humans?

The face, which appears instantly as antithetical, implies the radical demand to recognize the otherness of the other. The response is grounded on the ethical. It is a moral responsibility. The example above suggests that the initial reaction of abomination is due to the refusal to see the face of the other. What is seen is the dirty clothing, not the child who is wearing such. If only one makes the effort to see the eyes of that innocent young being, then one would certainly feel what is to be done. This is not a request. It is a call to action. The other demands our responsibility.

In seeing the face of the other, the shame in me is revealed. My ego is shattered. My freedom is felt as mere stupidity. I am questioned. I am the accused. (Levinas 1966) And in the end, the question that reverberates to the deepest part of me my selfish ego, is simply this – what have I done to you? There is no escape. I am responsible. I have to face that moment. And the self that I am remembers the injustice it does against the other, against the face of that child. This is not about what I am supposed to give (charity) or what I will retain in my self (egoism). It is all about answering a moral obligation. It is all about responding to what the other demands from me.

There are only two options. Either I reject the other, or make my very being present to the other. It can only be rejection or responsibility. It is either I refuse to see that face, or accept responsibility8 to whatever has happened to that face, to that dying face. Through the other then I realize who I am. I am mortal, just as the other is. I have a face, just as the other has a face. I am responsible for the other. I can never be responsible for the kind of being that I am if I neglect the otherness of the other. The self, when it goes back to itself, finds that the self is but empty. My moral existence, the person that I am, only finds its sense in its being for the other.

This responsibility can only be concrete because the other, the face, is a concrete existing reality. It is not about the fulfillment of the desires of the spirit. The face, that dying child, is hungry. The word of God is important, but the word of God might remain a meaningless sound if the child knows nothing except the pain in his stomach. Priests have made their churches their greatest accomplishments, but God does not live there. God is ashamed that a house has been built for him but a simple home can’t be built for the child in the margins.

1 The face, Levinas notes, is a concrete expression of mortality. See Emmanuel Levinas, “Beyond Intentionality,” in Philosophy in France Today, edited by Alan Montefiore (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 109.
2 For a perspective of an ethics of care, see Carol Gilligan, In A Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982).
3 Adolf Himmler was Hitler’s most trusted lieutenant. As head of the state’s secret police, he was in charge of the execution of Hitler’s order of annihilating the Jews. The Holocaust remains to be the most glaring example of human evil.
4 Totalization, Dr. Leovino Garcia writes, is not in itself bad. He adds that the problem occurs when this fundamental perspective is applied to people. Totalization, when applied to other people, becomes tyranny. See Leovino Garcia, “Infinite Responsibility for the Other: The ethical basis of a human society according to Emmanuel Levinas”, in Unitas, volume 65, no. 2 (Manila: University of Sto. Thomas Press, 1992).
5 For a background on the philosopher’s view on death, see Emmanuel Levinas, Time and the Other, trans. by Richard Cohen (Pittsburg: Duquesne University Press, 1987).
6 For a Heideggerian perspective on death, see Manuel Dy Jr., Philosophy of the Human Person (Quezon City: Goodwill Bookstore, 1986).
7 Infinity needs to be distinguished from totality. Dr. Garcia notes that for Levinas, totality is a kind of thinking that starts from The Same and returns to The Same. Infinity is a kind of thinking that starts from The Same and moves to The Other. See Leovino Garcia, “Infinite Responsibility for the Other: The ethical basis of a human society according to Emmanuel Levinas”, in Unitas, volume 65, no. 2 (Manila: University of Sto. Thomas Press, 1992).
8 Responsibility, according to Dr. Garcia, comes through the other. The other, in addressing me, makes me absolutely inalienably responsible. See Leovino Garcia, “Infinite Responsibility for the Other: The ethical basis of a human society according to Emmanuel Levinas”, in Unitas, volume 65, no. 2 (Manila: University of Sto. Thomas Press, 1992).

Notes on the Tractatus

Notes on the Tractatus:
An exposition of the picture-theory of meaning
Christopher Ryan B. Maboloc


Ludwig Wittgenstein’s (German philosopher: 1889-1951) Tractatus logico-philosophicus is a difficult book. But this should not prevent us from examining its important insights. This work is an attempt to grapple with Wittgenstein’s first book, the only one published during his lifetime. Although the goal of the Tractatus of constructing a logically perfect language is a mission impossible, it yields important philosophical points of view explaining the relationship between language, logic, and reality worthy of our philosophical scrutiny.

We have lifted several epigrams from the Tractatus numbered in the same manner Wittgenstein did. An explanation follows each epigram.

1. The world is all that is the case.

The world is the sum total of all state of affairs. Truth belongs to the world, and what is beyond it cannot be expressed. To express the meaning of the world means to express what can be said about it.

For logical atomists, reality consists of objects. “Only objects exist, and ideas are mere mental copies of objects.” (PA) Multiplicities have to be admitted since this is the actual state of affairs of things.

The statement also expresses the limitation of human knowing. Since the world is all that is the case, the object of human knowledge is limited to what can be known in the world.

Thus, what can only be meaningful is the world and everything that can be said about it. The world exists like a compendium of facts, and language, that tool that describes what the world is like, presents the world into a form that makes communication and understanding possible.
1.1 The world is the totality of facts.
This totality is revealed in language by means of atomic propositions. A proposition, says Wittgenstein, is a picture of reality. Propositions picture facts. The meaning of a proposition, then, comes from the fact it pictures. Whatever is pictured is in the picture. Language, logically speaking, is factual. Language, according to the philosophy of logical atomism, must be founded on logic and mathematics. The fact that the world has a logical order can only mean that language can only be logical, if it is to be construed as meaningful. The world, in this sense, and its logical order, can only be revealed linguistically.
1.13 The facts in logical space are the world.

Logical space here refers to the conditions for the possibility of existence or non-existence of facts. What can be said or expressed about the world is the existence or non-existence of facts situated in infinite logical possibilities. These facts constitute the sense of the world. Sense is anything that can be said about the world, and what can be said about it is determined by the facts so constituted in different states of affairs.

2. What is the case – a fact – is the existence of states of affairs.

The existence of states of affairs refers to the truth-condition of the world. What is true or factual is that only states of affairs exist. The world in this sense is made up of the different states of affairs of things. Reality is the sum total of all these states of affairs.

2.01 A state of affairs (a state of things) is a combination of objects.

States of affairs reflect the truth-conditions of objects. States of affairs refer to the way things are together with the facts that constitute them. Facts and their relations to objects characterize the over-all make up of the world.

A fact is a quality added to an object. Let us make an example. In “a small red patch”, the patch is characterized as “small” and “red”. So we ask, what kind of thing is it? “red” and “small”. That it is “red” and that it is “small” constitute the states of affairs of the patch. Thus, states of affairs show the different conditions of the various things in the world. A room, for instance, can be “overcrowded”, “dimly lit”, “spacious”, etc.
2.012 In logic nothing is accidental: if a thing can occur in a state of affairs, the possibility of the state of affairs must be written into the thing itself.

This means that it is impossible to think of a world that happens by accident. An effect is always logically connected to a previous cause. For instance, the only way for a billiard ball to move around the table is the fact that it is moved by something else. Motion is contained as a possible state of affairs of the ball. This possibility is actualized when something enables it to move. This possibility is always in the object because, as Wittgenstein says, “objects contain the possibility of all situations.”(TLP)

2.02 Objects are simple.

Objects are simple because they are the basic stuff of the world. An object is that which is not yet predicated of something. If we take a closer look at reality, the world is made up of objects. Hence, “objects make up the substance of the world.”(TLP) Simplicity for an object here means the capacity to be predicated of something. A “flower”, as an object, is a simple reality. It becomes a complex thing when we talk of “magnolias”, “cattleyas”, “tulips”, etc. because of the distinct characteristics of each of these flowers.

2.0232 In a manner of speaking, objects are colorless.

Here, Wittgenstein explains what an object is. As a basic unit of reality, it is not predicated of anything. It is independent of any factual characterization. When it is predicated of something, it is only in such time that it becomes a thing. Facts characterize an object. When a patch contains some color, it becomes a thing.

2.024 Substance is what exists independent of what is the case.

What is the case is the existence of facts. Substance exists independent of facts. A “chair” as a substance is not necessarily brown. The one we use in school is a chair, the one we have at home is a chair, the one we have in the theater is a chair, etc., and so there are many types of chairs, but there is one and only one concept we understand as “chair”. This is because a chair does have one and only one substantial definition.

Moreover, objects constitute the substance of the world, and as such objects contain the possibilities of the world. An object can possess different factual characterizations. That it can be characterized as such and such is contained in its possibility as an object.

2.0251 Space, time, and color are forms of objects.

Objects can be here or there, old or new, black or white. A car can be red, blue, or black. But although we see different colors, we see only one substance there, that of a car. We don’t see different cars, what we see are differently-colored cars. This is because a car can have many forms, and forms vary by virtue of the facts we attach to objects.

2.063 The sum total of reality is the world.

What is real? What is real is the existence of state of affairs. The world consists of facts. Facts constitute the reality of the world. What is not factual, that which is beyond the sense of logical thinking, is nonsense.

Bertrand Russell believes that language can be broken down into atomic or elementary propositions. The sum total of these atomic propositions is the world. He calls them atomic because they are the most basic (following chemistry - an atom is the smallest particle of matter). What can be said about the world can be said by means of propositions. Language is no more than the collection of all atomic propositions. Language, therefore, as a repository of what can be said about the world, is the repository of what reality is.

2.1 We picture facts to ourselves.

Thinking is like picturing something. Since the world is factual, thinking about the world means thinking of a factual world.

Thoughts are expressed linguistically. Since we picture facts to ourselves, the only way by which these facts can be pictured is by means of language. I do this when I make propositions. Picturing, in this sense, is a linguistic activity. Language is a tool. We use it to express facts to ourselves. To tell someone about what a chameleon is, I have to describe such in words. I paint a picture of such by means of words.

2.12 A picture is a model of reality.

A model is like a re-creation in our minds about the way a certain thing is. A diorama is a model of a building or of a certain structure. It is not the structure itself, but it brings us into the meaning of the structure. The meaning being the sense, the point of how a thing looks like. It is not the thing but it helps us perceive the thing. We look at reality by modeling the words we utter to the actual world. “Upuan” (chair) is such and such because of its function.

The world is expressed in words. Words are models of reality. My language is based on my world. Wittgenstein has shown that the limits of our language show the limits of our world. For instance, it is impossible for me to speak in the Russian dialect because I’ve never heard nor conversed in Russian. More than that, this implies that there are concepts in a language which I may not understand simply because I do not live in the context of that form of language. As an example, the statement “~(J v A) v [(S v K)] v ~(J v A)” may prove too much to someone who does not have any formal training in symbolic logic. This does not mean, however, that language can’t be learned. What I am trying to emphasize is the fact that I can only deal with a language where I can picture the meaning of the signs such a language have.

2.13 In a picture objects have the elements of the picture corresponding to them.

A picture displays the sense of objects. Henceforth, a picture cannot be a mere copy. It must be an authentic copy. Whatever is in the picture must be a definite description of what it models. It may not perfectly describe the thing it pictures, but there is always an enough approximation that makes identification possible. Otherwise, such can’t be the picture of something.

2.131 In a picture the elements of the picture are the representatives of objects.

The elements of the picture refer to the configuration of the properties of the picture. These elements refer to the varying conditions that objects can have. These variations are reflected in the picture so that objects are properly represented in the picture.

2.141 A picture is a fact.

Language correctly describes the world in terms of factual statements since the world is a factual one. These factual statements are pictures of state of affairs. Language, as a picture of the world, is factual. Otherwise, language would not be able to say anything about the world.

What is a fact? A fact is whatever that can be predicated of something. A thing is therefore no more than the facts that constitute it. Facts in this regard describe the kind of thing a thing is. Things always have factual content, this factual content being their state of affairs. In the proposition “There exists one and only one x such that this x is both man and mortal,” the facts man and mortal are the state of affairs of x.

A proposition with one particular fact is called a monadic fact. A proposition with two particulars is called a dyadic fact. A proposition with three particulars is called a triadic fact. (PA)

In p(x.y.z) the variables x, y, and z represent facts. This we can translate to “my notebook is small, red, and new.”

Monadic: p is small or p(x)
Dyadic: p is small and red or p(x.y)
Triadic: p is small, red, and new or p(x.y.z)

2.151 Pictorial form is the possibility that things are related to one another in the same way as the elements of the picture.

Pictorial form can be elucidated by way of the following:

That the elements in the picture measure up to the way things are situated in logical space.

The elements, being the properties that configure the things in the picture, show the similarity between the logical possibilities of the picture and that of reality.

The way things are related to each other in a particular situation, say the way fruits are arranged in a table can be observed as the same condition one sees in a picture, if such a picture were to be a true picture of such reality.

2.1512 That is how a picture is attached to reality; it reaches right out to it.

A picture is a copy of reality. A picture brings us to reality. A picture then does not lie. An ugly picture is a result of the ugly reality it has pictured. Thus, what is pictured is always seen in the picture. A picture always speaks for itself. A picture represents reality. It shows the truth condition of a thing. It shows the states of affairs of things.

2.16 If a fact is to be a picture, it must have something in common with what it depicts.

A picture is a fact (TLP). It is only in such an instance that a picture may correctly represent reality. Since reality is factual, a picture must also be factual. For instance, if I picture a stone in my mind, I am thinking of the stone’s correlation with reality. If I am thinking of a bird made of stone, I cannot be thinking of a bird in flight since a bird that is made of stone (statues, etc.) can never fly. To find something in common with reality means that a picture reveals something that is logically connected to what is real.

2.161 There must be something identical in a picture and what it depicts, to enable the one to be a picture of the other at all.

What is identical in a picture and what it depicts is factual content. What is in the picture, what is in my mind, is the actual condition of what I am looking at or perceiving. To think of something that does not exist is not thinking at all. If I picture a griffin, I am not picturing something real. It is not a real picture. But I can create it in my imagination. However, its sense cannot be established since it does not actually exist. It is not a fact. There can be no identity since it cannot be compared with something. A griffin is not something. It is but an idea where I have combined an eagle and a lion. Its ontological status cannot be established. Thus, in thinking about a griffin, I am really thinking of a lion with the head and wings of an eagle. Without the reality of these two creatures I would never create in my imagination the idea of a griffin. On the one hand, it is called a griffin since I have assigned it a name. It is no more than that.

2.181 A picture whose pictorial form is logical form is called a logical picture.

Pictorial form refers to the arrangement of the elements in the picture. It prescribes the connectedness of the different elements in the picture. This connectedness is logical. This connectedness ensures that the picture is a logical one. A picture, if it is to depict a logical world, must be faithful to the logical structure of the world.

When I think of something, my thought follows a logical order. I can only think or picture out something correctly if my thinking adheres to the terms of logic. An illogical world is unthinkable, as we have shown above.

2.182 Every picture is at the same time a logical picture.

Because I can only picture a logical world, my picture of the world is a logical one, if and only if I make the right propositions. Language, as a picture of the world, acts as a logical picture, since it is structured in such a way that it has factual content that in turn gives language its sense. Only “logical pictures can depict the world.”(TLP) This is because the world has a logical structure. Logic serves as the backbone in the way we think and express the meaning of the world. Thus, language, if it is a correct expression of the world, must be grounded on logic.

2.201 A picture depicts reality by representing a possibility of existence and non-existence of state of affairs.

A picture, or a proposition for that matter, either affirms or denies the existence or non-existence of state of affairs. What is real is to be tested by the propositions we make. What makes sense is that which is answerable by a yes or a no. The possibility of being able to say yes or no rests on the actuality or possibility of certain state of affairs. It does make sense when it can’t be answered. This is because “a picture contains the possibility of the situation that it represents.”(TLP)

2.21 A picture agrees with reality or fails to agree; it is correct or incorrect, true or false.

Sense, logically speaking, is reducible to a true or false question. A picture then is true if it pictures what is real, false if it does not. Thus, says Wittgenstein, “what a picture represents is its sense.”(TLP) In language, a proposition is true if it agrees with reality, false if it does not. Wittgenstein affirms this by saying that “the agreement or disagreement of its sense (the proposition) with reality constitutes its truth or falsity”. (TLP)

2.223 In order to tell whether a picture is true or false we must compare it with reality.

Following Russell’s theory of descriptions, acquaintance is the only way to know if an assertion is valid or not. It is not valid if we are not acquainted with its constituent parts. If there is no acquaintance, there is no sense. Here, we affirm the empiricism of the Tractatus. If a statement does not contain any truth, it is no more than a sentence whose words mean nothing. If a statement confirms something about the world, then it is saying something. It makes sense. The importance of verification is due to the fact that “it is impossible to tell from the picture alone whether it is true or false.”(TLP)

3. A logical picture of facts is a thought.

It might be important to analyze the meaning of thought here. Thought is the product of the process of thinking. When we think of something, we have a thought about something. What we are concerned of is the content of our thoughts. For Wittgenstein, we can only think about facts. The reason for this is the fact that the world is all that is the case. Hence, we can only think of a factual world, a world that is there. Thinking is thinking about whatever is “in” the world. True thinking is factual thinking. The process of thinking begins with perception since it is only through the senses where we gather the raw data that our minds assemble to form a thought.

3.001 ‘A state of affairs is thinkable’: what this means is that we can picture it to ourselves.

What we think of are the state of affairs of things. Thinking is picturing. I am thinking in terms of the pictures that I can make in my mind. To think of a chair then is to picture a chair, say its shape, color, weight, etc. If I think of a happy life, happiness is not as simple as thinking about a chair. But still, I can picture it in my mind, since I have observed how people behave when they are happy.

3.01 The totality of true thoughts is a picture of the world.

My thoughts are no more than a picture of the world. If for instance, I think of a tikbalang, a creature that is half-man and half-horse, the possibility of my being able to think about it is the fact that I have seen a man and a horse and that I know the concept of half. A tikbalang in this sense cannot be true, and I can come up with such a thought only because I can think of a man and a horse as conjoined objects. I can’t think of something beyond. I can only think in terms of the world I inhabit.

3.03 Thought can never be anything illogical, since, if it were, we should have to think illogically.

We can never imagine an illogical world since our minds are conditioned in such a way that it can only think in terms of the logical order of the world. It is impossible to draw an illogical world. If we think illogically, it does not mean that the world is illogical. It only means that there is something wrong in the process of thinking. What becomes illogical then is not the world, but the way we think.

3.031 It is impossible to represent in language anything that contradicts logic…

Logic serves as the backbone of language. It acts as its skeleton. The structure of language follows the structure of logic. Language, in this sense, is only meaningful when it has a logical order. This is because language reflects the world. For language to properly picture the world, it must be grounded on the true condition of the world.

3.1 In a proposition a thought finds an expression that can be perceived by the senses.

“A proposition is a statement in which anything whatsoever is affirmed or denied.”(IL) Let us examine this definition. First, a proposition is a statement. But a proposition cannot just be any statement. Let us consider the following:

1. My God!
2. Who am I?
3. I am 21 years old.

Statement number one does not state a fact. A proposition cannot just be a mere expression of an emotion. Rather, it must affirm or deny something. What it affirms or denies is a fact. A proposition, therefore, is always a factual statement. Consider statement number two. The second statement is not a proposition because it does not declare anything. It simply asks. There is nothing whatsoever in it. If, however, we consider statement number three, common sense tells us that it does say something. It declares a fact. It states a truth-condition. If a proposition says something true, then it affirms something about reality. If it states something false, then it denies something about reality.

Knowledge is nothing but the sum total of all factual statements. If we are to judge the value of our assertions, it is good to note that science as a discipline dwells on the facts of human experience and not on speculation. In looking for the cure of certain diseases, the scientist relies on hard data and never on mere speculation. In law, for instance, the only way to establish the guilt or innocence of an accused is through the evidences presented in court. The judge cannot simply make a guess on the merits of the case. He has to rely on facts.

3.11 We use the perceptible sign of a proposition as a projection of a possible situation. The method of projection is to think the sense of the proposition.

Projection here refers to the capability of perceiving the sense of something. When we project a certain meaning, we refer to the sign of a proposition in order to know what it tries to project. Projection here means picturing. A painting, for instance, projects a certain situation. A painting is compared with reality. The painter projects what is real in a painting. What is projected is the meaning or the sense of the proposition. The word directs my attention to the sense of an object. For instance, to understand what the color red means, the sign/word “red” directs me to a color sample, a thing that is red. Only then can I get the sense of the sign.

3.12 I call the sign with which we express a thought a propositional sign.

Let us examine the proposition “This is poison.” What is the meaning of the proposition? We refer to the sign “this” and “poison”. By “this”, we mean a definite object, though such an object is not described significantly. But there is a sign and it refers to something. And so I know where it is. Next, we think of the sign “poison”. By poison, we know that it is a dangerous and a fatal substance. The thought in the proposition “This is poison” therefore is that “This thing is dangerous and fatal”. If we translate the proposition into variables, say let x be the representation for “This” and “y” the representation for poison, we can have the propositional sign “X is Y.” Here, the proposition being a sign is made clearer. X stands for something and Y represents something. Language then is a mere representation. It represents our thoughts.

3.14 A propositional sign is fact.

Propositions are statements of state of affairs. For it to be a true expression of such, propositions too must be factual. This means that its contents must be based on facts. The following must be considered regarding the proposition as a fact (PL):

most everyday facts are ultimately atomic.
a sentence, being the physical structure of a proposition, is a physical fact.

Since a sentence is an internally structured fact, it is said to picture the world. Let us consider replacing words with objects. In the proposition, “Rodolfo Dumlao read Alice in Wonderland,” we can make this representation:

Rodolfo Dumlao = plate
Read = paper
Alice in Wonderland = stone

Picturing “Rodolfo Dumlao read Alice in Wonderland” is like putting the stone on top of the paper and the paper on top of the plate. Thus,

Rodolfo Dumlao read Alice in Wonderland.
Plate Paper Stone

Words in this regard correspond to individual objects. As Fr. Thomas Green has stated above, since most everyday facts are atomic, they can be replaced by individual words that we consider as atomic propositions representing atomic facts.

3.142 Only facts can express a sense, a set of names cannot.

Let us examine the word “dog”. The word “dog” does not mean anything if there is no actual dog. The sense of the word comes from the fact it represents. The name then is insignificant to the existence of a state of affairs. A dog can be called “zift” instead of “dog”. The word “dog” has some meaning because of the real dog. Thus, “a name means an object. The object is its meaning.”(TLP)

3.22 In a proposition a name is the representative of an object.

The word “dog” represents the actual dog in the statement “My dog is barking.” What is its importance? This is what Wittgenstein calls the ostensive meaning of words. Words point out or direct us to the objects they represent. If I say “yellow”, what I mean is that I am talking about a color sample, yellow. If I need to tell someone what kind of color yellow is, I have to direct his attention to something that is yellow. Without the word yellow I may not be able to direct him to such color.

3.221 Objects can only be named. Signs are their representatives. I can only speak about them: I cannot put them into words. Propositions can only say how things are, not what they are.

Propositions do not tell us the ontological status of things. Propositions only reveal the truth-condition of things, their state of affairs. Only factual conditions are revealed by propositions. Their being, or the reality that they are such and such in essence, is beyond the task of logic.

3.25 A proposition has one and only one complete analysis.

Language can be reduced ultimately into atomic propositions. Let us examine the statement “Rodolfo Dumlao crossed the Atlantic”. To analyze the statement, we have to determine the entities present in the proposition, which, in this case, are “Rodolfo Dumlao” and “crossed the Atlantic.” Its formal translation into an analytic statement should be: That there is one and only one Rodolfo Dumlao which we can represent as A and that A crossed the one and only one ocean called the Atlantic which we can represent as B. The relationship can be stated as “There is one and only one A which crossed the one and only one B” or ArB, “r” representing the way A is related to B. This example above is the one and only one complete analysis of the statement “Rodolfo Dumlao crossed the Atlantic”.

Following Russell’s theory of descriptions, for us to understand the statement ArB, the constituents A and B must be understood. Understanding them means we are acquainted with such realities.

In Russell’s point of view, all propositions in language must be reduced to atomic propositions. In a logically perfect language, there is a corresponding atomic proposition to each fact. This correspondence is one to one.

3.328 If a sign is useless, it is meaningless.

A word as a sign is meaningful because of its use. Since the word “zift” is not in use, it does not mean anything. Meaning comes from use. It is not the word, but what the word signifies. If a word does not refer us to something, it becomes a worthless sign. A sign functions as if it directs us to the object.
3.5 A propositional sign, applied and thought out, is a thought.
The picture-theory of meaning, in summary, explains that language ultimately is all about the propositions we make, and these propositions constitute our true thoughts of the world. In the Tractatus, logic serves as the backbone of our way of speaking. To make sense means to be logical. A.J. Ayer once said that an illogical world is unimaginable. Since the world fits the criterion of logic, our thought must also possess such a criterion to be meaningful. Language must be a reflection of a true thought. The collection of all atomic propositions, statements that pass the criterion set by atomists, would compose what can properly be called our true thoughts of the world.
4.001 The totality of propositions is language.

Language, in Russell’s point of view, is nothing but the sum of all atomic propositions. Language reveals the world, or more appropriately, picture the world. This language must be a logical one, for it is a necessary requirement for language to be logical so that it can picture a world that is logical. The implication of this is the rejection of any language that does not pass the criterion of logic. Such a language will have to be dismissed as nonsensical. We can cite an example. Let us examine the statement: “God is love.” For a statement to be meaningful, we must be able to derive several observation-statements for it to be logically valid. In the statement “God is love”, we may say that “God is good”, “God is just”, etc. But these statements can never be validated. So in this case, the statement “God is love” is not within the limits of logic.

4.01 A proposition is a picture of reality.

A proposition states something about the state of affairs of things. Since the world is a collection of facts, a proposition about the world is a picture of the world. Reality is factual since the world is factual. The purpose of a proposition is to reveal reality. A proposition is attached to reality. It shows the sense of reality. It tells us what is and what is not.

4.023 A proposition must restrict reality to two alternatives: yes or no.

As we have stated above, a proposition is true if it affirms something, false if it does not. If we examine the statement “God is love”, there is no empirical data that would affirm or deny the statement. The statement, in this regard, is a mere statement. It is not a proposition. It offers no knowledge about the world, and the state of affairs of things. Meaningfulness is based on factual content. Without it, a statement is absurd. This is because, according to Wittgenstein, “reality is compared with propositions.”(TLP)

4.25 If an elementary proposition is true, the state of affairs exists: if an elementary proposition is false, the state of affairs does not exist.

A proposition is true if it is a picture of a fact. It is false when it does not picture a fact. Its sense then comes from the fact that it pictures. Meaning then is always factual. Meaning is derived from the state of affairs of things. My language contains the sense of my world.