The Moral Phenomenon of Dialectic in Contemporary Filipino Society (PART II)

Dr. Romulo G.Bautista
Ethical Development Strategies Phil. Inc.

The Ethical Code of Morality for the Filipino in the 21st Century

Moral Philosophy is not monolithic, which means that there is no unquestioned and established ethical code of morality for every one to follow, because there is a subtle distinction between “moral” and “ethical”. Both “ethical” and “moral” are similar in meaning in that both have to do with the difference between right and wrong, in which case both can be used interchangeably. But they are dissimilar in that ethical tends to refer to a system or theory or code of judging rightness or wrongness, whereas moral tends to refer to more concrete choices and issues that arouse strong feelings:, in which case “ethical “ and “moral” should not be used inter-changeably. The behavior of unscrupulous student who cheats during exams would be unethical for it violates the school code against cheating; but a military officer who orders the mass killings of innocent people, such as the Maguindanao massacre, would be called immoral because his behavior violates morality.

Today, nearly every aspect of our personal and social existence as Filipino has become increasingly complicated by science and technology amidst the increasingly humanistic, naturalistic, and materialistic socio-economic and political environments of Filipino society. The line between “moral” and “ethical” is growing very thin. It grows even thinner, excessively thin in fact, if not totally erased, thus what is moral is ethical and what is ethical is moral. Ethical codes are no more than the expression of the best moral practice of the times. When times change, ethical code must change with them. Nevertheless, I believe in fundamental moralities – do good and avoid evil – which remain fixed and permanent simply because they are inclinations inherent in our human nature. .I might add that our opposite inclinations are the reason for its being of freedom. Let the ethical code change with the times so that our best moral practice would always jibe with the times, meaning, the basic morality is ‘never out of fashion’. The fashion changes seasonally, but the basic moralities inherent in our nature remain unchanged.
What is my Moral Backbone?

Let me say that the moral backbone I represent is that of reshaped philosophic mind of the 21st century. My reshaped philosophic mind follows the two paradigm shifts or two major shifts in world outlook brought about by two scientists: the first major shift by Isaac Newton toward start of 17th century and the second by Albert Einstein in the 20th century. My philosophic mind is the child of the confluence of existential philosophy (or simply existentialism) and contemporary science and technology.

I do not confuse “moral” with “ethical”. My reshaped philosophic mind bears the subtle distinction between them, thus my proposition is - What is ‘moral’ is always ethical, but what is ethical is not always moral”. The proposition signifies the dialectic between “ethical” and “moral” where good and evil are dialectically measured by an ethical standard. Thus we might existentially say that it is right to do good some of the time; it is right to do good most of the time; and it is not right to do good all the time, in contrast to Plato’s ideal that it is right to do good all the time, and wrong to do some of the time and most of the time.

Plurality of Ethical Codes of Morality

Traditional Filipinos have adopted many Western religious doctrines as their ethical code of morality However; many of those doctrines were formulated during the pre-scientific period. How are religion and morality related?

1. Secular Morality – Briefly, Morality is based on reason alone, without any reference to religious ideas. If its values are the same as a particular religion, that is seen as purely coincidental. Morality is freedom of choice and responsibility. Responsible moral choice depends on freedom and the ability to choose rationally. Such is the character of the pro-choice advocacy among some of the very liberal supporters of the RH Bill.

2, Religious Morality – Briefly, Morality is based on direct dependence upon religious belief, or upon a set of values given by religion. Such is the character of the pro-life advocacy among conservative and orthodox supporters of the Catholic Church on the RH bill.

3. Quasi- Secular/Quasi- religious Morality (briefly, quasi-morality) – This is the middle ground or a “hybrid” morality between the secular and the religious morality, and which emerged from the confluence of religion with contemporary science and technology. Some of its followers are inclined more toward the left-of center, and others are inclined more toward the right-of-center. This is the middle-ground of moderately liberal supporters of the RH Bill.

Over the past decades, the Catholic Church’s authority and influence over the younger Generations XYZ, and the Generation Alpha which is more techno-savvy than Generation Z, are weakened and continue to decline. Pope Benedict XVI himself has lamented openly this phenomenon when he canonized the first saint of Brazil. To him, the only true Christian religion is the Catholic religion. He observed that Catholic values are converging with Protestant values because many Catholics are leaving the Church to join the Protestant Churches. Young Catholic adults today are most likely to use contraceptive, thus reducing fertility rate. They value autonomy more and obedience less. On the other hand, they continue to retain many of the traditional patterns of their ancestors – high marriage rates, high family stability, and low separation and divorce rates. On the other hand, they have become more individualistic, more future-oriented and less bound by neighborhood and extended family. They are now better educated than their parents or grandparents, and much better educated than their family histories would lead you to predict.

The ethics of quasi-religious/quasi-secular morality is the ethics of the reshaped philosophic mind, and it embodies, among others, the following social gospels:

• Always try to be the least believing member of one of the more observant sect;

• Participate in organized religion, but be a friendly dissident inside;

• Settle yourself in traditional moral practice, but champion piece-meal modernization; and

• Submit to the wisdom of the ages, but keep one eye open.

Filipino Cultural Values as Ethical Standard

Existentially, we never act in a vacuum but always in a given situation which affects our choices, decisions, and execution of our human acts. We could never act beyond our existential situations, which are of two kinds – (a) our intrinsic situation which is our inherent inclination toward good and bad, and (b) our extrinsic situation, such as but not limited to, our education and our cultural values and practices. We could never transcend existentially either situation.

I should say that Filipinos’ cultural values constitute the “soul” of the Filipinized Western religious morality. Filipinos generally and traditionally follow the Western religious morality, which might explain why they are high in their moral standard but low in their moral performance. This phenomenon can be explained by the dialectic between their negative and their positive cultural practices. Those opposing practices are grounded in cultural values, such as, “close family ties and extended family ties” which tend to make their members responsible for one another, which thus results into negative effects, such as but not limited to, “nepotism” and “godfather system of hiring”, both of which favor personal interests over public interests. These values are some of the roots of moral corruption in the public as well as in the private sectors of Filipino society. Other popular phenomena of negative practices are “lack of discipline” which manifests themselves in “palusot”, “Filipino Time”, “Ningas Cogon”, and “manana habit”; Fatalism and Superstition which appear in their ‘bahala na’ and ‘bahala na ang Diyos’ attitude; Selfish Attitude which manifests in their ‘crab mentality’, ‘kanya-kanya attitude’ and ‘inggit’; Apathy, Show-Off or “Pakitang-Tao’ and Amor Propio or Self-Esteem.

Moral Education of Filipinos beyond the Classroom

The primary activity of philosopher is to understand the most general principles or causes of things and ideas that lie behind the various aspects of life. He is primarily a generalist, and secondarily a specialist.

An educator is always a teacher, but a teacher is not always an educator. My concern is the philosopher’s activity as moral educator beyond the classroom. Beyond the classroom, the philosopher’s activity is more of a generalist than a specialist.

Induction and instruction are the two interdependent methods of moral education beyond the classroom. By induction, I mean a guided and developing experience of membership of a group, for example, induction into the family. Induction into the family means, ideally, that a child is dependably cared for, firmly controlled when necessary, weaned at the right times physically and mentally, enabled to become competent and competitive, and thus self-dependent, dependable, and cooperative. It means exposure to the ideas and ideals, the traditions and ways, the standards and values of the particular family.

The first simple but all-important point in respect to instruction is to base it on dependable knowledge. Instruction is blended with induction in guided group experience, and both are dependent upon spontaneous activities and responses normal to the child at a given age. Basic knowledge underlies all instruction, but some forms of instruction also require special skills.

Without induction, which is moral experience, there is no moral education, and without instruction which leads to the conscious possession and evaluation of moral experience, there is no moral education. Moral experience and reflection upon it is an encounter with reality and a projection of ideals. Beyond the classroom, there is a wilderness. It is the task of philosopher as moral educator to transform this wilderness into a garden, where the pupil must be enabled to see the actual in the light of better and worse possibilities and to want to enlist on the side of the better.

Given the inductive and instructive methods of moral education within a wide
range of existing Filipino moral and ethical values and practices, two questions are hereby asked -

(1) What can the Filipino philosophers beyond the classroom do to educate their fellow Filipinos in order to empower them to retain some moral backbone despite the opposing moral values and practices in increasingly materialistic society?

(2) Given the plurality of contemporary ethical codes, which one is most the appropriate to measure, definitively the rightness and wrongness of moral acts of Filipinos in the 21st century?


Before attempting to answer those questions, let me say that our philosophizing may not be able to tell us that something is right or wrong, good or bad, true or false, but it will certainly clarify the grounds upon which we will make our answer and our decision to commit ourselves to some thing or some one whom we believe in. Our commitment is our belief in something or in someone even in the absence of evidence, as in the case of our religious faith. Our psychological commitment becomes our ethical and moral way of practical life.

Our commitment is what makes us a truly moral person. Our commitment is a never-ending phenomenon of our inherent dialectic, but what matters is how we manage to moderate our evil inclination on the side of the better and to measure our moral behavior according to our ethical code.

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