Re: Wright's Request

On Wed, 14 Sep 1994, Alan Sondheim wrote:

> I would be interested in know, if you can describe it, how an oral
> culture plays out in terms of theory, or does it? For books can of course
> also be problematic loci of power.
> Does orality figure into the university system? Does it figure into a
> Philippine philosophical tradition?

Walter Ong, S.J., conducted some studies on orality, but I have not read
them. I'm afraid I'll have to give my views based on my own
observations. (I asked the question to a few colleagues in the
department who are having lunch right now, and they said orality makes
sex more pleasurable. *8-)).

At the Ateneo, few students speak up or write a lot. It has something to
do with the authoritarian nature of teaching in my country. Except for a
few younger teachers who encourage students to challenge and criticize,
the majority teach through rote. Even in my essay writing class, where I
encourage students to read and speak up a lot, only around a fourth are
able to provide insight in terms of both writing and speaking.

In terms of a philosophical tradition, I'm afraid we do not have that,
although old sayings, aphorisms, riddles, and political works (notably
those of Salvador P. Lopez, Jose Rizal, and others) are predominant, with
the latter mostly in written form. Right now, a growing philosophical
movement is taking place, with professors translating directly from
Greek, French, German, or Chinese to Filipino, but in terms of response
to these works (which are, essentially, Philippine philosophy), there are
few. As for inclinations, for now the focus is less on subjectivity or
even culture and more on predominant issues such as dictatorship,
censorship, poverty, and others.

I suppose the effect of orality is lack of rigor, since it takes more
effort to both express and derive information through speaking. Outside
the human mind, the effect is devastating. Marcos himself, and even some
politicians in my country today, besides media, employed what one
columnist called a "bumper-sticker mentality" to initiate large-scale

Rafael Acuna
Ateneo de Manila University

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