From Quest to Conquest of Impossible

Dr. Romulo G. Bautista
Social Ethics Society
Executive Director, DEVSTRAT

“Failure is a great teacher”

Many great teachers succeed because they are not afraid to fail greatly. Paradoxically, they fear greatly to fail, but such fear fuels their determination to succeed in their quest of success.

In our quest of success, we should and must distinguish “what is intrinsically impossible” from “what is seemingly impossible”. This paper is about “seemingly Impossible” To make a “square circle” is intrinsically impossible because you make a square which is not a square because it is a circle at the same time, but to reach “the unreachable star” is seemingly impossible because such quest does not involve inherent contradiction. In the latter sense, we can believe in the lyrics of the popular song entitled “Impossible Dream”:

“To dream the impossible dream,
To reach the unreachable star,
To beat the unbeatable,
This is my quest”

Those lyrics made no sense to my maternal great grandmother in the Fifties, because she was just an ordinary woman in a rural village. Ignorant of modern and contemporary sciences and technologies, she used to tell me that man would never reach the moon, much less reach the star. But those lyrics made sense to the enlightened children of Baby Boomer Generation and of Generations XYZ of the 21st Century. The prevailing world-view of these Generations is naturalism whose “ancient father” is Aristotle. He had argued that every thing we know about the world comes from experience – and that experience is interpreted by reason. In this, Aristotle was one with modern and contemporary science. It must be noted, however, that his process of reasoning was deductive, while the process of reasoning of modern and contemporary sciences is inductive.

Two Major Shifts in World-View

The scientists – Isaac Newton caused the fist paradigm shift in the 17th century and Albert Einstein caused the second paradigm shift in the 20th century’. Both world- views have strong impact and profound influence upon the Generations of the 21st century.

Contemporary Naturalism, in confluence with science and technology, is the view that every thing is, in principle, completely describable and explainable in terms of the physical sciences. Natural philosophy (as science was known then) was based on the authority of Aristotle.

The two paradigm shifts inspired and encouraged the contemporary scientists to ask “Why not dream the impossible?” and to act accordingly. They made the historic decision and action to reach the “unreachable star” by reaching first the “unreachable moon” in the early Sixties. There is, thus, the first transition of science from “quest of the impossible” to “conquest of the impossible!”

Certainly, the teacher’s quest or adventurous expedition to bring philosophy and ethics as way of life beyond the classroom is less challenging than “dreaming the impossible dream, reaching the unreachable star, and beating the unbeatable foe”.

Filipino Negative and Positive Cultural Values and Practices

There are deeply entrenched negative and positive cultural values and practices of Filipinos which would make seemingly impossible the effective pursuit of philosophy and ethics as a way of life in the classroom and beyond. Philosophy and Ethics do not operate in a vacuum, but within the cultural and concrete situations of the human individuals. The negative and positive cultural values and practices would make seemingly impossible to carry out .the tasks of teaching and educating the Generations of the 21st century in the classroom and beyond.

Filipinos are very personal. Personal relationship counts a lot in many of their decisions, whether such are made in the classroom or beyond. “Walang personalan, trabajo lang” is a Filipino saying that is better said than done in many instances, particularly when a personal conflict is involved, for example, between the personal religious belief of a student and a philosophy of religion taught being taught to him by his teacher in the classroom.. Cultural values and practices stand in the way of teaching (imparting knowledge upon the mind of the individual) and education (leading out the potentials hidden within the individual).

The negative Filipino values and practices, such as nepotism and “padrino system” of hiring, which emanate from close family ties and extended family ties; lack of discipline such as “palusot”, “Filipino time”, “Ningas cogon”, and “manana habit”; selfish attitude such as “crab mentality”, Kanya-kanya attitude”, and “Inggit”; Paktang-tao” or Show-off’; Apathy’ and ‘Amor propio” or self-esteem, would certainly make seemingly impossible the task of teaching philosophy and ethics as way life beyond the classroom.

The negative values and practices often obstruct the positive efforts of teachers to teach and educate their students in the classroom as well as beyond. These values and practices make teaching and educating a seemingly impossible task.

On the other hand, we have positive Filipino values and practices, among which are “Pakikisama”. “Pakikiramay”’ “Pakkipagkawa-tao”, “Bayanihan system”. “Utang na loob”, “Palabra de honor” and “Sense of Humor”. These values and may or may not make seemingly impossible the task of teaching and educating beyond the classroom.


The quest of success, notwithstanding the negative values and practices, should assure the truly committed Philosophy and Ethics teachers to “realize their impossible dream, to reach their unreachable star, and to defeat their unbeatable foe” n the field of teaching and education.

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