A Traveller’s Six-Year Exploration of Who God Is 六年旅人神貌百感

FeaturedA Traveller’s Six-Year Exploration of Who God Is 六年旅人神貌百感

This explorative piece fulfills my public promise to be honest about my faith to God and portrays who God is in a simple way after a six-year search for answers.

I am writing this explorative piece also because I can no longer withstand the state of directionlessness in which I am here and now. Only by clearing all the clouds blurring my vision can I continue my journey as a forward-heading traveller in the world.

When I have to name the ultimate foundation on which my life-till-now has been grounded and should have been grounding, my identity as a Christian is always my answer. Without question. To some it is already too old-fashioned to resort to religion but not to the trending and supposedly agreed philosophy or cultural norm when it comes to ultimate values, but I refuse to give in to their (perhaps) reasonably biased views against religious or faithful establishments like churches, doctrines and dogmas and Scripture(s). Indeed, more accurately, I tend to always dislike what is popular in academia and in mainstream society in favour of a view that is to my best knowledge true and right, for theirs and mine often seem incompatible, or at least with great tension. This attitude might be what we call counter-cultural. Plus, following my fellow human beings, I cannot but by nature search for truth and righteousness even when and due to the fact that I embody none [1], so I cannot but by nature be non-relativistic and consciously or sub-consciously demand the absolution of an understanding of reality. When I discern what this means, I see that this is not actually the objectivity of reality that I am focusing on, but it is the sense of certainty which can be my frame of reference of every activities or happenings in my life that I am craving for. Christianity, or the Christian worldview, as the only easy, helpful frame of reference given to me, became my only choice. The cognitive consonance arose from this ideational infrastructure about faith thus safeguarded me from all of my psychological insecurities in my early years. And since I have not developed a conscious need for a deeper faith (or a faith at all) beyond the cognitive level, such condition of belief was stable and sufficient for the moment. So it did not come to my reflection or consciousness that the Christian worldview did not relate to me in practice until my undergraduate period. However, still, my faithful or theological reflection was minimal, for I was thinking simplistically, not cognitively complex enough to generate a sense of trouble in the face of all the unnamable imperfections in the world. Simply put, I would not recognize such a need. I very often just treated Christianity as a resource bank of convenient reference and also of last resort, sometimes leading the direction for my easy answering to an otherwise cognitively challenging question, other times as Christianity-of-the-gaps being subsumed under and complementing my creative thoughts and ideas new to me or new permutations and combinations of my old, learnt, ones. For example, I unconsciously started to follow the path of pre-Socratic philosophers seeking after elements of the comos and derived the ten Elements of Life six years ago for categorizing the nature of the activities of my life, unaware that the Christian God should have reigned over those pragmatic life aspects.

As for whether this separation of faith and life is normal, speaking of its developmental psychology, although children of such ages have predispositions for later faith, they generally could not faith and be accordingly saved, unless given by the environment, the faith is the only viable or the obviously best option, and as such they are said to be baptized by the culture (i.e. the culture embodied by the agents able to interact with the environment such as their parents who can interact with the family environment to introduce the children to sense the presence of God etc.) by being the extensions of their parents before their bio-social maturity and independence. It is therefore commonsensical for me to have the capability of complex thinking developed only in later stages. But well, it does not mean it is fine. Just that I have no solution towards my (and our) (once) unfaithfulness.

My first clearer attempts to re-establish what faith and God, supposedly the target of faith, mean to us (or just me) were not here but scattered among my memories. To recollect these fragments from the multitudinous layers of stormy clouds in front of me, here I am to begin the reminiscence of my senses of God and find out who God is. In the four years of my undergraduate philosophical education, one skill I have acquired for my philosophical toolbox is how to do conceptual analysis, by which now I am approaching God as conceptualized. If something or some being is recognized as God, what condition has it fulfilled, and what characteristic does it necessarily or sufficiently possess in order to have been recognized as so? Please note that the sensation, feeling and experience of God in action and interaction with God is always prior to and giving the foundation for the cognition, reflection and conceptualization of God, so any ungrounded conceptualization, such as God of the philosophers, who is always posited to be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent before any sensational experience of such a God, is out of my concern here.

Whoever is God, sensed from my experience and then understood by my intuition, will always be transcendent. There always accompanies a sense of givenness when I sense whoever that is God and whatever that is from God. That is, whenever I feel the presence of God, I will feel that something is given to me from what is external to my current self. To properly name this sense, it is good that we call it grace. Grace to a person is by nature the quality of something given to this person from his or her externality even though he or she does not have it in the first place, and God is always understood by me as someone embodying this quality, who is therefore transcendent. During my exchange period in the third undergraduate year of mine, one day in Billund, Denmark, I was walking alone on an extensive road near the airport on my way to Legoland. I looked up from the greens along the road to the clear blue sky, and I felt the presence of God. Everything seemed to be slow and gentle, and it was good. Although this sense of God present there and then cannot be reduced to the sense of givenness, but one vocal point of this sense to focus on for contemplation, reflection and analysis is the grace that is given to me and surrounds me. The key that unlocks who God is in this case is that I felt that God is given to me as He surrounds and infiltrates me from within and without. The giver, the gift and the givenness are all together, holistically and simultaneously, present to me as reality, and they cannot be separated by sense but only by cognitive distinction, so I discern to have the origin of these senses ascribed to God, and let these be the demonstration of God giving and being transcendent to me, and hopefully also to us.

Also, whoever is God experienced by me was saturating every point of time and space in the whole experience. Beyond there and then as I move along the road, my self was felt to be connected to and growing to the size of the whole environment until its spatial and temporal limits. As God was giving me this supernatural experience of nature, He was sensed to be at the same time in and out of this timed and spaced reality, because the origin of this whole experience was felt to have come from beyond the happening of this experience itself, yet the occurrence of the whole sensation was internal to the experience, without which there would be no possibility of the sense of givenness and the reception of grace. God is hence omnipresent in a sense that He embodies and is both in and out of the space and time where I am and of which I can possibly take notice in the moment.

He was felt to be in control of the whole sensational experience during my walk. I saw that from our human point of view He is wholly independent from us in a sense that although He can interact with and be affected by my will, His mental activities totally transcend my best understanding of Him. So God was thought to be absolutely free and sovereign, reigning over the whole walk as I proceeded with His presence, and for He was sensed to be powerful over and keeping track of my journey (and all of my other experiences of God), it is natural to see how He was conceived as omnipotent and (thus) omniscient.

If something is to be identified with God by me, it will be immanently related to me. In the trekking experience, God was sensed to be with me there and then. If He is not related to me in any way, wholly unknowable to my knowledge, it can never be recognized as existent and Godly to me. So a deistic conception of God is no God of lived experience at all. That said, immanence is only a necessary but not a sufficient condition of being God. To be God is most importantly to be felt as loving and salvific. In that sensational encounter with God, through the long saunter, I gradually had my tiredness and other burdens worn off from me. A sense of restoration filled the whole of my body up to my psyche. And it was saving me. The love I felt from God was emerging from every step I took forward. The word, love, here is to signify the sole and inclusive way (i.e. the way incorporating or common to all ways) of goodness and righteousness by which I treated the earth I stepped on as a good, friendly support of my weight. There and then the pavement was my friend, the other of mine who embraced and shaped my existence in the whole experience which in turn was given, developed and sustained by God. This way of goodness and, finally, righteousness, is to treat the other as I would treat myself or would have it treating myself. This Golden Rule generalizes the normative underpinnings of ethics and morality we humans live by. This attitude in the face of the other persons, peoples or objects of mine gives way not only to their beings (i.e. their being those other persons, peoples or objects) but also to my being (i.e. my being my-self). Thus, this way of letting others be also let myself be my-self at the end of and in the process of giving, which first initiated by God’s giving me this experience which is first and foremost of existence or existential. Such gift from God presented through and by me to the other and the self is what I felt as love. As I walked on the road, I participated both in the salvation of mine and the road’s, because the being of the road was presented in its use by the pedestrian, and the erect existence of the traveller was buttressed by the road, both sensed to be held in sustenance in God’s hands. God is hence not just giving but also loving and salvific. He is who we can see as the Absolute Other on which we can rely internally to complete our-selves and our beings. Such intrinsic reliance for taking the next step, also namable as faith, is contrary to external authority over us just because it becomes part of our own authority as we allow our-selves to connect to it as the necessary link to fulfill our existences. With this Absolute Other, we can be hopeful for the future in the midst of suffering, such as the weariness of the backpacker on his never-ending lonely journey, because there and then God had him. And by this hope, he, there and then, and I, here and now, have cast away the gloomy clouds, greeting the sunshine and the breeze of the new day.

Finished writing at 23:59 on 31 August 2017.

[1] For if I have truth and righteousness (which some alone is sufficient for happiness or other states of existential adequacy), why do I have to search for more?


講多錯多?沉默之於宗教及日常語言之用 The Art of Silence in Everyday and Religious Discourses

Featured講多錯多?沉默之於宗教及日常語言之用 The Art of Silence in Everyday and Religious Discourses


Language Ambiguity最近,我總是在思索,宗教語言如何導致人與人之間的隔閡。宗教語言意義含混,往往成為信徒與非信徒,甚或是信徒之間溝通的障礙,儘管含混是想像及創意的必要條件。舉個例子,每當信徒提到「神」時,他們都在想些什麼呢?「神」的能指多義,含糊未解,那他們在指涉同一位神嗎?他們有疑慮時,如何可安心相信或肯定他們口中的字詞能成功指涉這「神」?就是這些語言哲學的老問題近來不斷困擾着我,我才會重新審視沉默不語,留神感通的重要。

有時我會假想,沒有獨一虛體人格神之概念的文明,或許只是對「神」這樣的超然現象避而不談,噤而不語,而非全然不去想像,因為他們可能只是比我們更明白語言的限制,而不去妄語,形容那不能形容之實相而已。然而,對於超然現象,「講多錯多」是真的嗎?神真的不能形容嗎?我認為如果神在人看來是「神」,能冠以一名,於人來說必定具有某種意義。無神論者提出某宗教的神不存在或沒有臨在於世,其實只是在批判某宗教的神對他們來說只屬概念,只因為他們對那神毫無經驗。但對於抱有真實不虛之信仰者而言,能稱某象為「神」,不論是否自覺如此,他們必然覺得這神般的現象,與他們所感知的各種其他世界萬象的差異之大,使兩者不能相提並論,有必要用一個獨立字詞把兩者分開;於是,有神和非神之別。人類可用這種能力分開世界萬象中各人各物,並視這些人物為獨立存在的個體。有時哲學家會把這種能力稱為存有直觀(existential intuition)。這種人類甚至生物本有的能力,讓我們可接着用理性(包括認知能力和意志),外輔語言,指出有甚麼東西存在,而若然我們未有經歷別人所言的存在之物,便不能用存有直觀想像它,一籌莫展;如有需要,便唯有在我們經歷到這物、這現象之前打發它,斥退別人視這現象為存有的經歷。我認為我們應帶警惕分別之心,開放自己的經驗,先虛心聆聽別人的生命經歷,理解他們為何如此描述他們所經歷的現象,又為何為其冠以此名(是因為語言的文化傳統?還是因為這是內省而得的最佳命名選擇?),才能免卻自說自話,迷信己意的陷阱。




宸開四志(五/外篇)恆指令我無朋友 5th Solar Eclipse on the Outside: Hang Seng Index: I am My Only Friend

Featured宸開四志(五/外篇)恆指令我無朋友 5th Solar Eclipse on the Outside: Hang Seng Index: I am My Only Friend





Paris, France.



Dining with friends in Paris, France.



Kristianstad, Sweden.








進階聆聽材料:Alan Walker. (2015). Faded.


  1. 宸開四志(一/後篇)海德格的孤等 1st Solar Eclipse at the Back: Heideggerian Wait
  2. 宸開四志(二/左篇)格林喝摩登咖啡 2nd Solar Eclipse on the Left: Greenfeld Drinks Modern Coffee
  3. 宸開四志(三/右篇)百年孤寂閒軼事 3rd Solar Eclipse on the Right: Some Hundred Ordinary Years of Solitude
  4. 宸開四志(四/前篇)沉默不是金色的再見 4th Solar Eclipse at the Front: Silence is not a Golden Farewell

宸開四志(四/前篇)沉默不是金色的再見 4th Solar Eclipse at the Front: Silence is not a Golden Farewell

Featured宸開四志(四/前篇)沉默不是金色的再見 4th Solar Eclipse at the Front: Silence is not a Golden Farewell


寫了三年同志文學,我還是找不到受保護的感覺,只好計劃到北歐散散心。從前對異性的絶望,如今竟又在他身上窺察到片影。每次在遠離校園的大街,拖着那個正在我身旁駕着車的他,也不由自主地反問自己︰我真的要牽着他發冷的右手,繼續走往後的窄路嗎?我不期望向他取暖,只是不知為何,與兩季前情竇初開之時相比, 今天的我愈來愈介意他手心的溫度。




Temppeliaukion Kirkko, Helsinki, Finland.




Helsinki, Finland.



Aarhus, Denmark.









Dublin, Republic of Ireland.




曾以〈前後左右︰當我們望著不同的方向〉為題,刊載於《靈心 • 當我們望著不同的方向》(嶺南大學基督徒團契靈心文字事工小組二零一五至一六年度於一六年三月三十一日出版)。


宸開四志(三/右篇)百年孤寂閒軼事 3rd Solar Eclipse on the Right: Some Hundred Ordinary Years of Solitude

Featured宸開四志(三/右篇)百年孤寂閒軼事 3rd Solar Eclipse on the Right: Some Hundred Ordinary Years of Solitude




Monaco Ville, Monaco.





Gullfoss, Iceland.



Monaco Ville, Monaco.





Aarhus, Denmark.




宸開四志(二/左篇)格林喝摩登咖啡 2nd Solar Eclipse on the Left: Greenfeld Drinks Modern Coffee

Featured宸開四志(二/左篇)格林喝摩登咖啡 2nd Solar Eclipse on the Left: Greenfeld Drinks Modern Coffee



Bergen, Norway.








Café A Brasileira, Lisbon, Portugal.



Zürich, Switzerland.






Þingvellir, Iceland.




宸開四志(一/後篇)海德格的孤等 1st Solar Eclipse at the Back: Heideggerian Wait

Featured宸開四志(一/後篇)海德格的孤等 1st Solar Eclipse at the Back: Heideggerian Wait























進階閱讀材料:Horan, Cathal. (2008). Bored with Time. In Rick Lewis. (Eds.) Philosophy Now. London.

跳躍記 Jump

Featured跳躍記 Jump








Is It Friendship or Romance? A Modern Ambiguity in Identifying Relationship and a Solution Based on Personhood 能成為密友,大概總帶著愛?

FeaturedIs It Friendship or Romance? A Modern Ambiguity in Identifying Relationship and a Solution Based on Personhood 能成為密友,大概總帶著愛?

A lot of my friends based primarily on experience their knowledge of what category the relationship they are experiencing belongs to. I do too, but perhaps I do a bit more generalization of experience and put it into words no abstracter than action. I have not been approaching knowledge from wider experience for a long time since childhood, but in these recent years something has changed me to respect experience more than I did, but I will do the sharing some time later. A point to make now is that some friends are mistaken in still believing that I am as “off-grounded” or idealistic as some months before. And maybe because they don’t reflect in the same way I do. But, well, on experience I reflect. I have reflected on what love ideally, typically and basically is, and a blog entry has been published. I have reflected on some other things as well. Particularly, for now, on the ultimate differences between romantic relationship and friendship. And perhaps it is high time I shared this view of mine.

There is, for long, an ambiguity between friendship and romantic relationship or in transitions between the two. (Watch two Cantonese videos from Stakk for street interviews for a sense of this ambiguity. [1] [2]) They cannot simply be different in degree and are not the two poles within a continuum, because the interconnections of power relations or meaning-making directions within a relationship structure entails its irreducible structural, systemic and functional complexity. [3] Basically, for now I think C.S. Lewis (C.S. 路易斯) is right in understanding relationship in terms of whether it is an inclusive one or an exclusive one [4], since even during and after years of search, I could not see any alternatives with the same ultimacy (on the socio-culturo-psychological level) in describing the ontological difference of the two relationships at hand. (If you can think of any, please, you must inform me.) On the one hand, friends often appear in our minds as a group, or two or a few more people opening their arms to others so that more of them can join hands together. The Chinese phrase of “friends”, “朋友”, involves two word characters, the first (“朋”) meaning those with the same (or similar) virtues and the second (“友”) meaning those with the same (or similar) orientation of the will (i.e. to where to head in life). So, theoretically speaking, the number of friends with similar virtues and orientation of the will can form a group of friends. It is in this sense how friendship is, or can be, inclusive. On the other hand, people who are in romantic love with each other always appear as two persons, but they are too onto each other (e.g. building their own little living spaces at home which outsiders cannot enter publicly) so that no more persons can join their exclusive love towards each other, at least as TVB soap dramas often depict. (But I believe this mutual signification of targets of exclusive love is malign, unless it is grounded on the unconditional love linked to the community and eventually reality, in forms such as donating monthly to a charitable organization for the poor because both the husband and the wife had been in poverty and are empathetic to people in similar situations, and they both would like to oriented their will to the monthly donation.) So, it is in the first place reasonable to see that romantic relationship is generally exclusive. But it is a bit too neat for me to assign the inclusive relationship to friendship and the exclusive relationship to modern romantic relationship (some of which will ideally and eventually lead to marriage, presumably the personal (or whole-person) union of two complementary genders (or even sexes)). 

An example for a (more-or-less) benign form of friendship that is exclusive: Two friends share the same virtues and orientation of the will, but the way they share them (e.g. the way they communicate involving jargons or words that are not familiar to outsiders) are excluding others from joining the relationship, because their way of sharing the virtues and orientation of the will makes themselves more cohesive and consistent (in terms of beliefs and values) with each other and at the same time makes themselves less approachable by others. So, there can be friendship that is not at all times inclusive but sometimes exclusive. An example of a (more-or-less) benign form of romantic relationship that is inclusive: Two people in romantic love mutually see themselves in each other and see the other in themselves best in modern times (i.e. to be precisely, after 16th-century English nationalism), but the way they mutually see themselves in each other and see the other in themselves can also more-or-less be the way they relate to a third party (and maybe also a fourth party and so on). Thousands and thousands of extramarital affairs often start like this, I believe. So, there can be romantic relationship that is not all at times exclusive but sometimes inclusive.

People have been giving explanations to help us understand more about the ambiguity problem of identifying relationship or the non-correspondance problem of inclusiveness or exclusiveness mapping to friendship or romantic relationship. Some theo-religious explanations would be that it is the human non-optimal condition (e.g. in their terms, original and/or actual sin) that defies these God-given stable relationship structure, but they often dismiss the God-responsible reality of the structural mobility within these relationships. And some poststructuralist (or poststructuralist-friendly) explanations would be that they are the worldwide movements since 1960s that have liberated people from authoritarian male-dominated (social) structures, of which relationship structure is one kind, giving more social freedom to people such that they can now choose their own friends and own love with less normative bound imposed on them by traditional social forces, or that they can at least choose another structural frame of reference according to which their lives can orient, but they often disregard that dynamics and freedom can still actually be present within structures in a God-centered premodern social order or a Nation-centered modern social order only if those social orders base their structural focal point on exemplified personhood (i.e. personhood embodied by an individual or a concrete social unit). Those explanations are, at least to me, inadequate in helping us understand our lived experience of encountering the ambiguity abovementioned.

How can we understand relationship so that relationships can no longer be categorically ambiguous when we will it to be? There are some points to note: We probably do not want relationship to be static, dead and without mobility, but we do want a dynamically stable relationship that incorporates freedom, passion and sense of excitement in its formation, development and healthy degeneration, if any, and at the same time is situated and grounded so that its stability can engender senses of security in love and willing commitment. Then, with this dynamic transition, we doubtlessly want relationship to be sufficiently ambiguous and unpredictable such that we can be constantly guided to a state of personal welfare of whole-person betterment out of our experiential expectation so that the passivity of a healthy relationship can bring us self-knowledge that we previously do not possess, but still not too ambiguous in a sense that as longer as we want to make sense of this relationship in terms of categories or concepts, we have the tools to make this relationship structure conceivable. So what is a solution of mine? As I believe that personhood is central to our existential experience of all times, we have to dig deeper into what relationship means to personhood.

A relationship is healthy if and only if it, as a causal result of nurture by the members in that relationship, coheres with reality, or in this case best characteristic of guided nature on the broadest level on which the relationship ecosystem lies, which is in turn respectfully read or interpreted by the subjects in that relationship. (For example, a family relationship is healthy if and only if the family members ABC involving in advancing the relationship nourishes the relationship in whatever ways that is in accordance with what reality treated as one sovereign subject or one thing of its own kind we can relate to is respectfully interpretatively perceived to be (i.e. what realistically (and idealistically [5]) makes a family a family according to the reality one perceive). On this basis, say, people who endorse deontological Kantian ethics who think it is most realistic and idealistic to treat others as one wants to be treated and in this way adhere to the golden rule of ethics and morality will naturally endorse that it is best and healthiest for a family ABC to work on, in general, what a family member would expect another family member to do and, in particular, what the other family members B and C would expect this family member A to do which would respect A’s autonomy as a person such that when this family member A expects the other family members B and C to fulfil certain duties, he or she would reciprocally respect their autonomies as different persons.) Given this intuitive and uncontroversial description of a healthy relationship, it is best a relationship directs towards where reality treated as one sovereign subject or one thing of its own kind we can relate to lies. Some established religions usually have simpler formulations of the one sovereign reality, because religious people of those religions can possibly respectfully read or interpret reality as a personal God. Other religions and total or primary worldviews (i.e. views about reality or the world that can explain all phenomena experienced by humanity actually and/or potentially in the future) would have more complex formulations, which exclude a personal God as a ontological posit, but the explanatory power of which may not be inferior to established religions.

A person’s course of life would involve his or her engaging in different relationships, be them friendship, romance or others. There would likely be one or a few of them on which the person devotes most of his or her lifetime, but which of them are or should be those? I follow Liah Greenfeld’s analysis of modern passions that our emotional repertoire (or the way we feel) determines our existential experience (or the way we experience reality as existent subjects) [6], and modernity primarily implies the primacy of romance over friendship or fellowship that is often called into attention in Western premodern times. Since the primacy of romance is still very evident in our modern (late-modern or even post-modern) times, it can be safely said that in a paradigmatic (late-)modern life, it is a (or several) romantic relationship(s) which one devotes most time in sustaining and developing. We would see romantic relationships as the most meaningful relationship in a life, but it could just be a modern phenomenon related first and foremost to the emotional repertoire we get. An example of premodern emphasis would be priestly fellowship in a religious order, where priests hold on to celibacy and value friendship and brotherhood in the union with God over marriage between the sexes. Also, independent of whether or not the most meaningful relationship in a life must be romance in modern times, these relationships would probably be, in most of the times, benignly or healthily exclusive or limitedly inclusive yet still aiming at (A1) coherence and union with reality per se (and thus automatically also social reality) and as a natural consequence, (A2) projection of this love onto reality (including social reality) as unconditional as possible (so that up till this point, both forms are possible to cohere best with reality). An example of how the projection of this love unconditionally on reality makes a couple’s life meaningful: a couple AB caring exclusively for each other’s academic career, during a double dating, care for another couple CD whose exclusiveness are similar to them as all of them rest their attention on academic career, but without presuppositions and predispositions on prohibiting their scope of care, on the dining table, they also talk about the recent economic crisis when the discussions on academic career naturally transit to this new topic the couple AB is originally feeling bored about. Precisely because the relationship structure of AB relate to the social reality in a good way, they naturally feel interested in the economic topic because it relates to CD, as they can know more of CD by talking about the economic topic they are disinterested in. And there would consider the knowledge of CD is meaningful enough to contribute to their standing as persons and a couple, as they relate to one another for their endeavour for meaning and meaningfulness of their life and lives. It shows that relationship is integral to the sustenance of personhood, as human beings are primarily social beings and beings of reality, and it is at least historically impossible that they live a meaningful personhood without being in a society and in reality.

Therefore, the distinction between romance and friendship has to relate ultimately to the need to achieve (A1) the coherence of a person’s course of life with reality (and the social reality thereof) to lead a good life consisting of healthy relationships. And hence, it is by the nature of relationship itself insufficient to be determined as rightful, healthy and benign without considering the context, scope of operation or environment in which the relationship situates. Therefore, my solution is twofold. The first part of my solution is a dissolution: The need of the distinction is dissolved by replacing this need with another more urgent and important need the satisfaction of which will automatically mean the settlement of this need of distinction. In fact, the need of the distinction between romantic relationship and friendship is dissolved by replacing this need with another more urgent and important need: the need to achieve (A1) the coherence of a person’s course of life with reality (and the social reality thereof) so as to lead a good life consisting of healthy relationships. Moreover, as this need is satisfied, the need of distinction is settled; there is no more need to distinguish the two. But people who still feel the need of distinguishment even after the need to achieve the coherence of a person’s course of life with reality (and the social reality thereof) requires not this part of the solution. Maybe they are curious about whether it conforms more to the one sovereign reality that this or that particular relationship be regarded as romance or friendship. Here is the second part of my solution:

Every individual relationship counts. And it is in the first place that the subject counts the particular relationship at hand. If the subject as the member of the relationship experiences the relationship, they must have a certain tendency to characterize it. The key is just to be true to oneself, and one would know whether one is true to oneself when one is given enough perceptual space (i.e. space to perceive one’s internal state or to introspect) and a glacial temporality (i.e. time with a glacial or slow pace). These can be provided by parents for a child, by teachers for a student, by counsellors for a client, by friends for a friend and by partners for a beloved. There are two identifiable problems these people who still feel the need of distinguishment of the kinds of relationship after their focus has been tuned back to the work for achieving (A1) would encounter:

(P1) There is insufficient suitable vocabulary to describe the relationship as the subject wants to make sense of it.

(P2) The subject as the member of the relationship is not self-conscious enough to conceptualize his or her internal feelings or sensations of, about, in and towards the relationship.

My solution to (P1) would be: (S1) Exhaust the currently available symbolic devices or vehicles (i.e. languages, signs, actions, activities and other expressions) to express their feelings if their primary aim is to communicate their experiences, and they would like others to understand. Or else, invent their own language or words, just as some people who are diagnosed as mentally disabled would do (as they inevitably tend to self-refer to their own semiotic world or reality), and signal others to understand them. My solution for (P2) would be: (S2) If some of them are conscious of the ambiguity but not of the experience, they would have to be led by the elder to discover their experiential internal state during their process of maturity; otherwise, they probably would not even be self-conscious of both the ambiguity and the experience, and then there will be no problem to be dealt with in the first place.

If every individual relationship long and relatable enough to be meaningful in one’s course of life counts, then the focus during individual contemplation should be on the individual, particular relationship instead of the abstract type of relationship or relationship structure. After all, exclusiveness/inclusiveness and romance/friendship are just notions helping one decipher the relations with the other part(ies) within a relationship. Distinguishing the concepts clearly is not an end for a meaningful life of sociality. There is no need per se to drag along the conceptual distinction just for the sake of individual contemplation on some particular relationship.

However, if reality treated as one sovereign subject or one thing of its own kind we can relate to presents to us such that there are some types of relationships or some forms of expressions of relationships (no matter which types the relationships) which it repels (that is, holding those relationships or having those expressions would be regarded as at all times evil or anti-realistic), then it is of course necessary to avoid those for maintaining a rightful, healthy and meaningful life. It must nevertheless be stressed that careful and respectful discernment upon which types of relationships or forms of expressions of relationships reality repels is essential to such life in which one develops a truthful relationship with reality as such. The ambiguity problem now switches to one of the most important topics of realist epistemology on how discernment is to be done. And it suffices to say here that I temporarily halt the exploration of another topic now.

But still, if the problem extends to a societal level, the biggest part of this extended problem will remain unanswered. Socio-political administrative needs and pastoral needs require a clear distinction of the two relationship structures or institutions so that resources can be better allocated to each type of them, or that rights and responsibilities (including sins) can be better assigned to each type of them etc. It is but a necessity to answer in what manner or ways we should classify one relationship structure as a social institution just for the sake of resource, right and responsibility allocation etc. If this article plans to solving the problem on an individual level, I believe it has done its job. Because I have not yet had an answer for this societal question, my sharing shall end here. Other thoughts are experiences are reserved for next time.

What do you think about my solution?

[1] A Cantonese video from Stakk on whether to Hong Kong young people there is true friendship between people of two sexes/genders: https://www.facebook.com/StakkFactory/videos/660295510845970/

[2] A Cantonese video from Stakk on how Hong Kong young people would feel and think if friends of the same sex confess their feelings towards them and would like to transform their friendship into further, possibly romantic, relationship: https://www.facebook.com/StakkFactory/videos/640667446142110/

[3] The relationship types, friendship and romantic relationship, cannot simply be different in degree and are the two poles within a continuum, because as there are interconnections of power relations or meaning-making directions within a relationship structure, the relationship is said to be arranging in a certain way. The very fact that it is the arrangement of those interconnections that makes the relationship a relationship structure guarantees the impossibility to abandon the systemic complexity and reduce the whole structure into its parts or the parts into the whole structure, so friendship and romantic relationship are categorically distinct because of its systemic, functional complexity. So they are different in kind. (Note: seeing relationship as structure is not necessarily a view that I adopt here, but it is provisional and could be seen as metaphorical.)

[4] Read Lewis, C.S. (1960). The Four Loves.

[5] If reality is not believed to be static but developing, in some sense we can say that what is expected of reality of the future and/or of the imagination of the non-actual would be ideal; seeing reality ideally is to be idealistic. Sometimes being idealistic would be used in contrast to being realistic (i.e. seeing reality as it has been in the past and is at the present and/or as it will normally be in its actuality), but here I am talking about the cases where the idealistic and the realistic points of view overlap in reality.

[6] Greenfeld, L. (2016). Advanced Introduction to Nationalism, (pp.112). Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

Finished writing at 18:51 on 31 January 2017.

Why Philosophy? 點解讀哲學?

FeaturedWhy Philosophy? 點解讀哲學?

1. Why do you study philosophy?

“Why philosophy?” People always wonder.

Like those with curiosity from the past, my primary reason cannot be nobler. It has always been my lifelong goal to understand and help model the nature of reality and uncover its mysterious veil through pursuing interdisciplinarity. Although all disciplines are more-or-less guiding, I believe philosophy is one starting point of all the ambitious routes struck out by mankind towards wisdom.
Contrasting other disciplines with philosophy can build a case for my current philosophical studies. I have not completely resorted to other humanities subjects, because to me, history, with a focus on the causation of events, is deemed as important as but not more urgent than philosophy, which emphasizes a thematic comprehension of the interrelation of the major transformative ideas. Theology and religious studies may lead us to truth through expounding faith and revelation, but religious questions may be grounded on and be reductively translated into a more primitive philosophical quest. Anyway, philosophy can still be seen as a foundation for analytically grasping theological concepts. Also, if the arts and the subjects of creativity are to be studied, a foundation on aesthetics is inevitable. Hence, philosophy, instead of other arts subjects, is perhaps a more substantive building block to begin with.
The Thinker from National Museum – National Gallery in Oslo, Norway.
On the other hand, philosophy’s affiliation to other disciplinary categories necessitates a discussion of my choice to prioritize philosophy over them. To my observation, social sciences indeed scrutinizes sociocultural reality through a diversity of methodology employed by the distinctive fields, but the phenomenon of specialization such that an agreed unified framework encompassing the divergent studies of culture and society seems to be currently lacking or immature might impede my interdisciplinary comprehension if it could not guarantee a stable foundation for an undergraduate aiming at liberal-arts generality before specialization. Philosophy can but give an extensive overview of and about social human behaviour, which may comparatively be more preparatory for further investigation.
Besides, it is the task of natural sciences to demystify the physical and biological reality scientifically by observation, experimentation and/or prediction that attracts me. However, to warrant a road to scientific truth without deviance, it is preferable to equip oneself with some philosophical background to fully capture the pre-existing root of science as natural philosophy, better prior to scientific enquiry. Furthermore, arguably the firmest of all, formal sciences offer us formal abstraction of reality by logical and mathematical deduction, yet one prerequisite is one’s ability of symbolic abstraction, a skill which can first be learnt and sharpened via an analytic philosophical training of logical argumentation with philosophical logic. Therefore, after surveying different disciplines before my tertiary education, I believe that since philosophical questions underlie every facet of human knowledge, skill and experience, philosophy should be firstly approached to gain my first, if not my last, set of answers regarding reality.
In terms of broadness and without trading off depth for it, such undergraduate philosophy course acts as my guidance for interdisciplinarity by its examination of the philosophies of various disciplines and its training of transferrable skills of argumentation and critical thinking, hopefully lighting the way to my deeper discovery of reality in the near future.

2. Which areas of philosophy do you find most interesting and why?

Those most interesting me are metaphilosophy and how philosophy as a discipline is related to others; philosophical anthropology focusing on how freedom, mind, language, morality, sociality etc. jointly define humanity; philosophy of religion and philosophy of science, though I want to explore more about philosophy of medicine and philosophy of law. After all, I do love learning and discussing ontology and epistemology in general, mostly in Western tradition. Next time you ask me, I might give you a different set of answer.
Søren Kierkegaard’s Grave, Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen, Denmark.

3. Which philosopher do you find most interesting and why?

Classical figures are typically interesting, but at least up till this point, none has enlightened me in a way like the American analytic philosopher, Alvin Plantinga. His proposal of properly basic belief in his reformed epistemology and his evolutionary argument against naturalism sometimes keep me smiling and critically thinking at night. I am still reading some of his work. At times, I find my own thoughts interesting too, because I am always curious about what conclusion I can eventually come up with given my ambitious premises.

4. Which philosophy book or article do you find most interesting and why?

Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga (2000) interests me most currently, since I just realized how essential it is to investigate the epistemology of religious belief in general if I am to further my understanding of philosophy of religion and how I was unaware of such a fruitful bookish treasure when I was studying philosophy of religion last semester.

5. Write a quote from a philosopher or book you find interesting.

Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City.

“The existence of God is neither precluded nor rendered improbable by the existence of evil. Of course, suffering and misfortune may nonetheless constitute a problem for the theist; but the problem is not that his beliefs are logically or probabilistically incompatible. The theist may find a religious problem in evil; in the presence of his own suffering or that of someone near to him he may find it difficult to maintain what he takes to be the proper attitude towards God. Faced with great personal suffering or misfortune, he may be tempted to rebel against God, to shake his fist in God’s face, or even to give up belief in God altogether. But this is a problem of a different dimension. Such a problem calls, not for philosophical enlightenment, but for pastoral care. The Free Will Defense, however, shows that the existence of God is compatible, both logically and probabilistically, with the existence of evil; thus it solves the main philosophical problem of evil.” ― Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil

Originally published as Interview with Tommy Leung Yiu Man (Philosophy Student) in Issue 6 of The Objector – Lingnan Philosophy Student Periodical on 18 November 2015.