Compiled Comments on Contemporary Continental Philosophy 當代歐陸哲學:小評大集薈

FeaturedCompiled Comments on Contemporary Continental Philosophy 當代歐陸哲學:小評大集薈

Contemporary Continental Philosophy (當代歐陸哲學) is a philosophical school or a set of philosophical schools since 19th century which, as I interpret how Michael Rosen’s essay, “Continental Philosophy from Hegel”, characterizes it, (i) in contrast to non-contemporary continental philosophy, is more metaphilosophical (i.e. concerning more the nature and method of philosophy) and more historicist (i.e. concerning more the historical background and context from which philosophical problems and questions are generated), (ii) in contrast to contemporary non-continental (i.e. analytic) philosophy, is more pre-theoretical (i.e. concerning more on how the problems are presuppositionlessly based on how reality is present to us) and more observer-sensitive (i.e. being more sensitive about the subjective role of the philosophizing observer). The philosophical schools involved are usually (or as Wikipedia tells us) “German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism (and its antecedents, such as the thought of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism”.

I know in some sense very little about Continental philosophy, but I find it extremely interesting and myself at least capable of commenting it and contributing to my own thoughts by doing so, because I see that it is a very fruitful resource bank from which I can draw resources to complete the first draft of my reality theory. Please choose your own topic(s) of interest below to start reading.

[A Response to Markus Gabriel’s Naïve Realism; for my reference for my future research (3 December 2016)]

I can’t help but say to myself that I have a response to it and claim that even if to exist is to be in a field of sense or a context, it does not preclude a real cohesion that different fields of sense can communicate with each other in a collective, intersubjective (or human-beings-relative-objective) coherentist picture, on which (roughly, with reference to a topography in the Kantian taxonomic spirit) (1) descriptively semiotically, translation and universal language, (2) normatively, means-end relata and hypothetical universal moral grammar, and (3) sensationally aesthetically, passively withdrawing Hegelian superseding hope are based; to which (1), (2) and (3) are coextensively referring. This is reality per se best characterized as personal, as I have been arguing the whole time.
P.S. on 13 December 2016: Markus Gabriel is strictly speaking not usually categorized as a continental philosopher, but my thoughts on his ideas helped my own Continental-philosophical world-building.

[On Marilyn McCord Adams, the Theologian (4 December 2016)]

Marilyn McCord Adams, as a theologian, writes very good theological works. Her treatises are not only clear against an analytic-philosophical standard, but also wonderful according to a Continental-philosophical (i.e. world-system-building) criterion of comprehensiveness. After all, being clear is and should not be the only achieved ends of a written piece, because without also being unique, being emotionally stirring, being setting-free, being intellectually original, being sensational-aesthetically praise-worthy etc., it is but a dull piece, not sufficient to be a good one that counts to be some masterpiece of a time period. Sometimes being dull can also help achieve the end of exhibiting the meaninglessness of a certain part of a certain kind of human existence, but well sometimes they don’t.
P.S. on 13 December 2016: Marilyn McCord Adams is strictly speaking not usually categorized as a continental philosopher, but my thoughts on his ideas helped my own Continental-philosophical world-building.

[On #ContinentalPhilosophy: Post-Structuralism, Existentialism and Beyond (4 December 2016)]

I remember how I was unconsciously advancing a form-as-structure-type structuralist project to unravel the fundamental structural anatomy of the ways of human existence (aka “the elements of life”) in my last years in secondary school, but recently when I reflected on what I was doing then, I discovered the way I constructed all these can be connected to how the people at our time construct our societal lives. Put in Derrida’s thought, it is possible that the centre of the structure we discover be shifted by us as where the centre locates is arbitrary. Taking diachrony into consideration, the semiotic reality is an open system, as the biological-evolutionary reality is, in which the centre of the structural arrangement can shift over time, just as for Liah Greenfeld, the social order can transform. I would tend to response to the post-structural thinkers by saying that there is a limited foreseeable permutations for what the structure or the centre(s) in the structure could ever be, but it is of course relative to our and our current understanding of the universal. This is the best we can get about reality. My best take on the sole vehicle-like (i.e. being able to carry other properties) qualitative (meta-)property of reality is of course its being personal. I see it as the only objective and/or intersubjective structure (i) that, like other systems (or Derrida’s texts), can be deconstructed but even after deconstruction, its human-relative epistemologically premodial mode of being will still be at all times present to us as reality per se (or if not per se, at least it is “reality” as the word maximally connotes); (ii) that can determine us and determine that we, on our own rights, can have Sartrean absolute freedom, our freedom absolute relative to reality’s freedom absolute as we constitute a part-whole relation with it, which is the point I now believe Sartre misses so he concludes that there is no God of the Christian conception. Anyway, in the article, Eduardo Kohn’s intermediate conclusion seems to point to the fact that reality (again, perhaps per se) is personal, as present to us as we are in contact even with non-living things in nature. I believe that there are good substantive reasons to advance the Continental lines of thought in this way which identifies that personhood times personality, which is our best take on universality and the rest is movable.

[On Methodology (7 December 2016)]

Continental philosophy mostly is perhaps about how one does philosophy and perhaps also other kinds of enquiries and their consequences (and in this sense qualifies as consisting of philosophical methodologies). I finally understand that it is not *only* by defining some terms clearly out of void and see whether it matches our intuition most or make the best sense relative to what we think we already know that we can be in a good epistemic relationship with reality or nature or what the world really is. Although it is useful and perhaps necessary at some point of time of enquiry, but the key is to first and foremost acknowledge that we are not to *grasp* reality in order to control or alter it (It is the dead-end of all enquiries and truth in the original and Heideggerian sense: “ἀλήθεια”/”unconcealedness”/”removing that which conceals and let reality present itself”, sometimes also present in the an institutional form), but to respect the sovereignty of reality and nature (Note: not necessarily a personal reality if it is not believed to be like that). How to respect it? No matter which discipline one is pursuing, allow nature or reality to present itself to the observers of phenomena. Try not to quickly define it; try to put aside all disciplinary propositional knowledge one possesses and perceive its presentation to us; then, use one’s language to describe it before consciously employing the terms one has learnt and invented unless it has already been wholeheartedly accepted and internalized and was not invented out of the void regardless of the sovereignty of reality or nature.

[On The Young Pope (8 December 2016)]

This TV series is the single most thought-provoking series I have ever watched. Some may say it is anti-Catholic to the greatest extent, but I say differently: It is an example of a blasphemy to “the Holy Spirit” which Christians must do in order to faith God the non-existent but the present and to receive and achieve salvation. The Pope is, for the very first time, a sinful human, as papal fallibility echoes how Christ can suffer and be a human. It reminds us that Christianity is as exclusive as it can be (such that religious pluralism and universal salvation cannot be our human ideal), but it is also as directly linked to universal values as we every human cherish them to the utmost. If we are not the mortally sinful but truthful saints who have genuinely internalized the good and right things we preach but are the so-called normal Christians who perhaps just say I am a Christian and sometimes help people and care about the sick and the poor, we are not going to enter the heavenly realm through the narrow gate, because there is no faith without internalization of the belief in God and its consequences. Through this I am once again renewed. A revolution to turn back to the right path begins from the death of the philosophical God. The God of the philosophers, especially the scientistic-dogmatic one, is dead in modern times, because it is an incomplete concept, at most only allowing a tiny part of God to be identified. Although that God is dead, philosophers love to throw and play with His corpse in front of the public in order to advance their own God-unrelated personal interests. Btw, (this time without the quotation marks) this can truly be a blasphemy to the Holy Spirit, leading to eternal damnation as someone may use it as a way to prove a point and reorganize society according to it. The God of the people (including philosophers), as a present personal being, with coexistent modes of being, the primordial, the expressive and the unitive, is but revolutionarily ever-present, however He is named. And in these ways, the TV series, The Young Pope, becomes one of my muses to maintain a good relationship with reality. And it is good that I am challenged once again.

[On God of the Philosophers (9 December 2016)]

If an individual can grasp completely who God is, there is no need to faith God, and this pure philosophical concept of God is thus a being inferior to us. I never know who my parents really are. I bet no one would know unless they become your friend or your object. In that case, they are not superior as parents per se anymore. Parents are just pure names then.

[On Nietzsche and Christianity, Übermensch/Superman and the Holy Spirit (9 December 2016)]

If we are to (solely) learn to be like Jesus, as Christians may say, does that mean we are to embody or internalize God’s ethics and morality such that we become Nietzschean Übermensch/Superman. I suspect the difference is that Christians may say what is internal to us is the Holy Spirit, the Other in a sense embodied by us, but I don’t see why we have to carve up reality in this way. Maybe it is because the recognition of the sovereignty of the ultimately good persona (who is a being and therefore has the three coexistent modes of being: the premodial, the expressive and the unitive) is internal to the Christian tradition such that if one groups it differently like Nietzsche did one cannot be a Christian anymore? I can see that ultimate pantheism and ultimate polytheism is untenable. (See my articles in the Notes section.) But why is the Christian way of ontological classification superior or more accurate than the Nietzchean classification? In what way persona as the focal point of understanding reality can answer my question? I suspect that there is more to the story, and I am going to find that out.
P.S. And of course, I believe I disagree with Nietzsche in that I believe if one must see that the motive of existence is will to power, then the values in slave morality, even after the revaluation of values, can still be a demonstration of power. Modern people has to be reminded that compassion is the (new) power initiated by Jesus Christ and his followers in their revolution to introduce a living morality different from (Greek) ethics.

[On “World-Bringing” (9 December 2016)]

Watching “My Dinner with Andre” makes me feel the intensity of “world-bringing”. In our contemporary era, we always talk to each other. This is not some special and it happened in premodern times when the social structure was so stable and fixed without much social mobility so that what people chatted about was largely anticipatable. Nowadays, when we talk to one another, we are engaging in an activity I call “world-bringing”, a phenomenon type emerged in our mind during my Performing Arts exam (and so I’ve written about it). When we perform, we bring our life-stories into the stage of our life, and if expression is coextensive with performance, then our quotidian performances as our expressive presentations of our selves are the very bringing-out of our life-story. World-bringing happens when Andre talks to Wallace about his story, as he brings his world unanticipatable from Wallace’s perspective without Andre’s presentation to the dinner table and lets Andre observes, experiences and understands (or in total, relates to) it. World-bringing only happens when the other party cannot anticipate and thus in this way cannot comprehend or contemplate what a party has been or was going through. It therefore happens only in modern times when social stratification and specialization separates us such that we are not living in the same world anymore. It is a factor contributing to loneliness, anomie and nihilistic tendencies of moderners. It is a concept usable in disciplines like performance studies, communication studies, studies of modernity and relationship studies.

[On Cultural Relativism and Ethnocentrism (10 December 2016)]

What we conclude is often what the universal appears to us from our perspective and in our context. What we need to do then is not to perpetuate a doctrine of cultural relativism. Nor should we be ethnocentric or epistemo-centric and claim that we know better than others about things seen from their perspective. What we should do is to understand the limits of our context and understand the context of the other parties that we are trying to understand and their personal experience and contemplated conclusions from their perspective and so that our perspective, upon absorbing other perspectives previous other to us, can expand. A way to do this is to use the other parties’ cultural-symbolic resources to try to communicate with them our own equivalent thoughts in their terms or by the creative imagination rooted from their terms. In this way, cross-context communication is possible. Simple terms, difficult but necessary task.

Finished compiling at 15:43 on 13 December 2016. Last edited at 19:17 on 28 December 2017.


On Sex, Gender and Sexuality: A Phenomenological Proposal of Typology 生理性別、文化性別、性:現象學分類概念獻議

FeaturedOn Sex, Gender and Sexuality: A Phenomenological Proposal of Typology 生理性別、文化性別、性:現象學分類概念獻議

Since the 1970s (and perhaps even earlier in the history of the West) our sexual (categorical) intuition(s) have been changing and shifting from perceiving binaries into seeing tendencies within a spectrum with binary poles, bringing about semantic transformations to the conventional simple conception of the typology of sex in terms of male and female and of gender (if any) in terms of masculine and feminine, also with a rising recognition of the intersex and the transgender in different social spheres. Whether this semantic change should be intentionally controlled or even discouraged or be let develop is out of the question here. The key is, instead, to provide a phenomenological provisional, working typology based on these newly cognitively identified experiences and phenomena primarily centred on the self and the other in their complementarity, of sex and of gender. [1] My proposal is as follows:

Although sex as a concept is as symbolic and cultural as gender the concept, sex usually indicates the individual-biological perspective of conceiving the different (and in a sense opposing) sides of complementarity, sometimes understood in terms of the self and the other, whereas gender often denotes the socio-cultural perspective of conceptualizing the self and the other in their complementarity. So, it is safe to conclude that sex is about biological complementarity of the self and the other and that gender is about their cultural complementary. That is, the male sex and the female sex describes the two biologically complementary roles where one is the self and another one is the other, with the intersex referring to the self and the other (as in the other-self) both biologically embodied by the self awaiting another other whose other-self gives an extra layer to this another other such that this another other can in its way complement the aforementioned self. And the masculine gender and the feminine gender depicts the two culturally complementary roles where one is the self and another one is the other, with the transgender or the genderqueer referring to the self and the other (as in the other-self) both culturally embodied by the self awaiting another other whose other-self gives an extra layer to this another other such that this another other can in its way complement the aforementioned self. For example, in the face of the other, if the self is more of the masculine gender, the self is masculine relative to that other. Sex the concept is but less fluid than gender the concept. When it comes to sex, body is what is anatomically observed, and its behavioural expressions include sexual activities with possible functions including procreation and sensual excitement. Gender tells a similar story, though from a social and mental perspective: Body can mean the cultural consequences of what is anatomically observed or what is perceived as the self as sensed and identified by the self itself, i.e. gender identity. As for gender (behavioural) expressions, compared to sexual expressions, they relate more to the performativity generalizable from the performances of a cultural being in their complementarity of their role of being the self with the other. In this sense, all cultural expressions seen in terms of the complementarity of the self and the other are gender expressions. Sex and gender are both given and constructed (intentionally), since sex is identifiable culturally by the individual and its social surroundings using their cultural intuitions about biological anatomy of the body which are both given (i.e. there before intentionally constructing) to the individual and its social surroundings and being intentionally shaped by the individual and its social surroundings, and so is gender too.

Both the concepts of the body and behavioural expressions are the subject matters of the analysis of the self in terms of its complementarity with the others from the biological and cultural perspectives. Regarding the subject matter of the analysis of the relation of the self to the other in complementarity, the central topic is orientation or attraction, sexual and of gender. The popular conceptions blend the two distinguishable concepts, namely sexual orientation and gender orientation, into one and use them to refer to the same referent: what kind(s) or type(s) of the other will appeal to or attract the self as the self perceive it to be. This engenders the discussion ranging from liking to loving relationships of (modern) romance, usually distinguishable from friendship, necessarily happening between the self and the other in complementarity, which has been dealt with in other articles, “On Love (of All Times) 何謂愛?” and “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?“. Heterosexuality is the property or quality of the self being attracted to or appealed by the other of a different sex or gender (which is of a broader definition than usually conceived to be, since it includes the intersex and the transgender) (e.g. the self of the female sex being attracted to the other of the intersex in sexual complementarity, the self of the more feminine gender being attracted to the other of the transgender in gender complementarity etc.), while homosexuality is the property or quality of the self being attracted to or appealed by the other of the same sex or gender (e.g. the self of the male sex being attracted to the other of the male sex in sexual complementarity). But if gender is understood in the abovementioned way, there can only be homosexuality as a sexual orientation but not gender orientation, because no gender in complementarity can be the same. For instance, two biological males in romance must be complementary in a way that one is sometimes, if not at all times, more masculine and less feminine than the other, while the other is sometimes, if not at all times, less masculine and more feminine than the other, which means they are at one point of time at least of different, slightly differentiable, genders. Complementarity is at least necessarily there culturally. If one deems that there is and, if there is room for ought-claims, should be complementarity in biological realms, then homosexuality as defined above will not be possible unless sex for procreation (which is necessarily biological, possibly cultural by nature) is not (and should not be) the only possible sexual activity between the self and the other in complementarity. (As I see it, sex for procreation is not the only possible sexual activity, therefore homosexuality as a sexual orientation exists. But I remain agnostic about whether sex for procreation should be the only possible sexual activity, so I remain agnostic about whether homosexuality as a sexual orientation should exist.) One point to conclude here is that one can further specify orientation into the concepts of sexual and gender orientations as the biological and cultural kind(s) or type(s) of the other who will appeal to or attract the self as the self perceive it to be.

After all, one must remember that sex and gender are primarily coextensive and coreferential in precognitive semantics but only clearly and distinctly distinguishable in cognition, thus sexuality can be used to refer to both the semantic union of sex and gender and the extra-semantic, “real-world” union of the self and the other in complementarity. It is because of this why sometimes sexuality refers to sexual orientation only where the self opens towards the other in complementarity.

Here the concepts of sex, gender and sexuality are for my very first time clarified in a phenomenological framework of the self and the other, allowing issues and problems on sex, gender and sexuality arisen from typological ambiguity to be dissolved by themselves. I also believe that related sociopolitical issues can become solvable with this kind of phenomenological demystification, which one somehow finds rare in terms of its scope, its philosophical depth and its logical rigor in non-academic circle and even in academia, to admit the obvious. To conclude, sexual and gender complementarity of the self and the other is an important property of the dynamics between and within the self and the other. That is, the self is to open towards and to complement the other such that the self can be more complete than before in its biological and cultural growth and development. It is also in this manner (and only in this manner) how the self can be said to be sexed and gendered in the face of the other.

[1] One may see that there is some tension between this proposal and a Butlerian point of view which holds that there should not be any conscious attempt to construct stable, static set of typologies of sex and gender, just because the concepts once fixed cannot become drags, or free-flowing concepts. (Read Butler, J. (1991). “Imitation and gender insubordination”. In. D. Fuss (Ed.) Inside/Out: Lesbian theories, gay theories (pp. 13-31).) Nevertheless, this attempt is justified as it is not aimed to be a Platonic, fixed ideal against which all sexual and gender identities must be judged, but a semiotic schema of descriptors resourced from the lived experience of at least the West in the past decades. Such schema is definitely changeable regarding its descriptive function, as more experience different enough to generate a different kind or type of sex or gender is accumulated through the ages. So, there is no disagreement between the aim of this proposal and a Butlerian belief in the normativity of the maintenance of the drag state of the concepts of sex and gender. (This footnote is added to the article on 28 December 2017 at 16:15.)

Finished writing on 26 December 2017 at 19:12 at Tel Aviv, Israel.

Warning: one must be aware of the copyright issue and must not use the original idea in this article for non-private use (e.g. publication) unless permitted by the author and used with proper reference(s).

P.S. I also wrote an article, “On Gender and Gender Orientation Agnosticism: Why can’t we finally rely on these applicable concepts to understand who we are? 論性別及性取向不可知論:為何我們最終不能被這些可用的概念定義?“, a year ago on why I am agnostic about the concepts of gender and gender orientation in ultimately identifying the self or its personal identity and its personality. I still think that since those concepts are instrumental, similar to saying that a person is kind, for example, they are not final descriptors of personal identity, though I have been more open to the use of these instrumental concepts in daily-life scenarios.

On Gender and Gender Orientation Agnosticism: Why can’t we finally rely on these applicable concepts to understand who we are? 論性別及性取向不可知論:為何我們最終不能被這些可用的概念定義?

FeaturedOn Gender and Gender Orientation Agnosticism: Why can’t we finally rely on these applicable concepts to understand who we are? 論性別及性取向不可知論:為何我們最終不能被這些可用的概念定義?

Anthropologically speaking, human beings, as distinct from other animals, are existentially personal and thus creatively rational, hence essentially in need of a self-search of personality or personal identity. It is in this sense how they change and develop their individual personalities on the necessary basis of personhood characteristic of them, the species in general or in collective terms.

Premised on that, gender (i.e. whether they pertain more to being masculine or more to being feminine and in what ways; not the totality of cultural performances or expressions) and gender orientation (the type, instead of the token, of the gender to which they are modernly romantically attracted or with which they are modernly romantically in love) are instrumental (not final) cultural constructs (not biological nor physical givens), and even if some would like to define (or is willing to self-label so as to make sense of) their developing cultural identities or personalities or personal identities in terms of gender and gender orientation, they, whether consciously or unconsciously, are doing it for an end to understand who the persons are, that is, what personalities they have.

Gender and gender orientation are not final (but just instrumental) descriptions or expressions of personality (on the basis of personhood), because they are too generic but not contextual enough to decipher accurately who the persons are. What I mean by being final descriptions of personality is that they are used to necessarily and sufficiently identify the uniqueness of the person in question. In order to identify me but not the other persons apart from me, we have to resort to different descriptions of personality but arrange them in our speeches and in our cognitions in a way that forms an image of person in our minds corresponding to that in the bigger reality, perhaps said to be external to our minds. To do that, we as symbolic thinkers must use categories to label the person in mind so as to make sense of them. We give the greatest charity and care during the making of the image of the person in our mind, specifying the necessary and sufficient sets of properties (as I believe all properties are finally person-making properties for I believe that reality per se is personal, here properties just are coextensive with person-making properties) in a certain unique arrangement (and that’s the best the human mind can get of the image of a person), either consciously or unconsciously, distilling and contextualizing the complex of properties into the image of the person. There we arrive at the person we have in our minds. The person can have a certain gender (and thus gender orientation), but unless it is the broadest concept of gender as all cultural performance we are using, gender (and thus gender orientation) is not final in describing the person, because its being masculine, to a certain degree, if not already incorporated into and thus related to the description of who he is as a whole in general and his other person-making properties (with the holistic understanding of their interrelations and complex arrangement) in particular, is not definitive of his fully developed personal identity up till this point of time of examination. If that is true, then gender is ultimately or finally unsatisfactory in capturing the totality of one’s lived experience of one’s personal identities. Therefore, it can only help but cannot actually identify personality.

Descriptions normally thought of as describing one’s personality, like “being kind”, is under the same critique. They are not sufficient (and even not necessary) to describe a person without specifying in what ways the person’s personality are “being kind’, for example. Even if we specify its qualitative personality as “being kind in … ways”, there could be other legitimate answers, as the answers are by nature subjective, or at best intersubjective, but not sufficiently objective in that it must be so in all possible worlds or it is (metaphysically but not logically) necessarily so (in a sense that perhaps because God, the necessary posited personal being, (freely) ideates so). If that is true, then the above way to specify fully the personality of a person is only final on the human level, and only if knowledge can be drawn (or revealed) from the higher levels (e.g. the comic level and the highest, reality-per se-level etc.) can human beings conclude a more accurate picture of the reality of the person at hand under examination.

Even if that is true, arguably, gender and gender orientations are less fundamental or core to the understanding of personality than psychological traits of personality, a subclass of person-making properties of the class of personality-identifiers often studied and researched for in the field of modern psychology. It is because the former only reductively analyse the person by means of a dualistic spectrum of the colour of the person (e.g. resembling the tone-colour of music), pinpointing roughly where the person is within the confines of a spectrum or to how much degree the person pertains to an end of the two ends (i.e. in this case, masculinity and femininity) of the spectrum. The personality traits are more comprehensive in scope and so it can penetrate the person more comprehensively in a sense that it specifies not only the colour of the person but also the pace of the person, that is, the temporality embodied by the person. The temporality is also usually measured by a dualistic spectrum, this time with the two ends being clock temporality (i.e. identifiable, regularly fast pace) and glacial temporality (i.e. non-identifiable, irregularly slow pace). For instance, “being arrogant” can be interpreted as “more of masculinity” and “more of clock temporality”, as the person who is arrogant is more rough and man-like in his or her colour and more impulsive in his temporality. As the psychological traits of personality is still more useful (and pragmatically better or closer to the real picture) than the concepts of gender (and by inference, similarly, gender orientation), they are arguably better cultural symbols to be employed to identify and self-label oneself.

That is why we cannot finally rely on the concepts of gender and gender orientation (though instrumentally applicable and helpful) to understand who we are. And the position to deny that they are finally relevant and pragmatically better or closer to the real picture of the person (presumably more that merely the image of the person since the image is not just in the mind but also materialized) is being agnostic of their explanatory power in explaining the person in reality. Gender and gender orientation agnosticism is thus a good and reasonable position to be held, as shown by this article.

To respond to one of the chief claims of the current LGBT(Q+) movement, as gender and gender orientation agnosticism is defensible in the manner explored by this article, it will be provably false to say that gender and gender orientation are the final concepts to understand who we are socioculturally, unless they mean gender differently from my conception and they have good reasons to say that their proposed meaning of gender defeats my argument for or account of gender and gender orientation agnosticism. And if the LGBT(Q+) movement bases their reasoned action solely on this premise (I haven’t argued for this, but it could be), then given the truth and validity of my argument, the whole movement collapses unless it moves on to base itself on some other premise(s).

… human beings, as distinct from other animals, are existentially personal and thus creatively rational, hence essentially in need of a self-search of personality or personal identity.

Finished writing at 05:02 on 24 November 2016.

P.S. Some of my ideas in this article have developed over the course of the years, so they may not necessarily be upheld by me now. For instance, I am now more open to the possibility of the everyday use of instrumental concepts and descriptors to identity one’s gender and orientation to other gender(s). But this article, nevertheless, remains a good exposition to the conceptions of gender and gender orientation, thus one can still refer to it for my understanding of how the instrumental concepts are not definitive of personality or personal identity.

One more point to add is that since the 1970s (and perhaps even earlier in the history of the West) our sexual (categorical) intuition(s) have been changing and shifting from perceiving binaries into seeing tendencies within a spectrum with binary poles, bringing about semantic transformations to the conventional simple conception of the typology of sex in terms of male and female and of gender (if any) in terms of masculine and feminine. Whether this semantic change should be intentionally stopped is out of the question here. The key is, instead, to provide a provisional working typology based on these new experiential phenomena. My proposal can be seen in this article, “On Sex, Gender and Sexuality: A Phenomenological Proposal of Typology 生理性別、文化性別丶性:現象學分類概念獻議“.

(Postscript finished writing on 26 December 2017 at 19:12 at Tel Aviv, Israel.)



On Theories, Reality and Reality Theory 論原理、實存與實存原理

FeaturedOn Theories, Reality and Reality Theory 論原理、實存與實存原理

“We need practice! Not theories!” An activist on the TV shouted.

Hong Kong people, old or young, hate theories. Perhaps partly because they remind them of their childhood suffocated in piles of heavy schoolwork and all the restless nights cramming for exams and tests. By psychological conditioning, inevitably, they have long associated theories with impracticality and lack of pragmatic use, symbolically portrayed as stuff thrown from the ivory tower by the egotistical academia to crush their normality down the tower. Theories are off-grounded, not down-to-earth enough to capture our lived experience, they believe. It is especially the case for social-scientific theories. Unlike objective scientific (or more precisely, natural-scientific) ones, they are saturated with subjective interpretations of social phenomena, stained by our political ends called ideologies. They urge that they better be discarded, and that politicians really act to make our society a better place.

They are not entirely wrong. Theories, if are not linked to our lived experience, do no more good to us, as they can offer no more insight to how we organize our social lives, our digital lives and our biological and physical nature than merely an unactualized possibility or imagination. Social-scientific theories should not only relate directly to (or better, correspond to and cohere with) our lived experience, but it should also distinguish itself from theories from the ivory tower, which is not experience-responsive, that is, which is not formulated according to experience, or better, reasoned experience (in its broadest conception). In other words, first and foremost, theories of generalization must be first established from instances of experience, and it is according to the experiences to which theories change to accommodate, not the other way round. By then, experience can be shaped in light of the theories. There is no problem in the phenomenon that the theory in turn structures the experience back, because it is unavoidable and can even be helpful in systemizing a variety of experiences. Though we must constantly search for a better theoretical construct to make sense of newly emerged experiences to help us understand more about ourselves and the world.

Any non-descriptive, non-experience-based theories are normative ideals. If we theorize in this way, then the theories can only be relevant and legitimate only if they are (or are claimed to be) the goals for us to work on to achieve, or else, they are not at all relevant to us in any way in which we must address them. Once we realize this, we can see how goals as normative ideals are different from other descriptive theories and normative but experience-based theories. The former are by nature actuals. Formal-scientific, natural-scientific and (histo-)socio-(culturo-lingual-mental-)scientific theories of a deductive or observational, reporting nature are belonged to this categorical construct. Examples include “1+1=2”, “I see a dog”, “Water boils at 100°C” and “God heals my soul”. The latter are normative actuals as anticipated. Natural-scientific and (histo-)socio-(culturo-lingual-mental-)scientific theories of a predictive nature are belonged to this categorical consturct. Examples include “The sun will rise tomorrow” and “Donald Trump will win the 2016 US Election”, “God will not make Hong Kong a nation by tomorrow” and “Jesus Christ will come onto the Earth again soon”.

Theories aim to be isomorphic to reality on a linguistic level. Take a reality theory of a descriptive nature, of a time-relative past-to-present scope and of a (histo-)socio-(culturo-lingual-mental-)scientific level as an example. Such a reality theory aims to generalize descriptively all occurrences in reality up till the present from the past relative to there being time on a scientifically sense-making level where historical facts, social facts, cultural facts, linguistic facts and mental facts lie (I argue, in the form of nominal properties). The theory is general and global in a sense relative to all of its instantiations as specific and local, which together constitute reality from the past to the present on the socio-cultural level.

As reality per se is personal (I have argued that reality is personal in my previous article, “A Simple Defense of Personal God from Reality 為人格神辯護”) and it is absolutely free and thus is not a closed but an open system — although arguably (and well, controversially), temporally the future is fixed yet eternally it is open; if so — reality theory is possible not only as descriptive, but also as normative. Temporally speaking, if the future is fixed, then reality theory of such scope is defined to be of normative actuals, while eternally speaking, if the system (as operated by the grounding absolutely free personal being) is open, then reality theory of such scope is defined to be of normative ideals. I suspect that they are doubled, or doubly entangled, in a soul/mind-body-resembling way I explored in that previous article such that the future of the living realm is connected ultimately to eternity born by and in this sovereign personal reality per se.

Well, it’s time to stop and halt the speculation premised on my shallow understanding of the personal reality per se. But I believe that it is in so manner how reality-theoretic constructs are to use in one way by us to make sense of reality, the reality of our lived experience, not anything as foreign to us as something up the shadowy ivory tower of the academia.

Finished writing at 00:04 on 15 November 2016.

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:

[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:

[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.