Work on Philippine values has focused on either 1) identifying shared values or on 2) proposing needed values. While these are both important, this paper has a different focus. It proposes that everyday particularistic values, which other authors have identified, could serve as bridges to more abstract, universal values. The model used is Hegel’s dialectical “lifting up” (Aufhebung) of a concept to a higher level. (This I translate into Tagalog as “pag-aangat.”) As such this discussion of universalizing traditional particularistic values is significant to the wider public, for we all face the challenge of adapting to new circumstances while retaining one’s identity. This paper reviews three cases where a “lifting up” occurs implicitly: 1) Albert Alejo’s dialogic seminars on the value of utang na loob (a client’s feeling of indebtedness toward a patron) invert a relationship of dependency by demonstrating that the patron actually depends on the client; 2) the teachings (turo or aral) of three heroes of the Philippine Revolution invite all to discover that concern for the family is unrealizable without concern for the nation; 3) during the People Power Revolution of 1986, activists used pakikisama (harmonizing the self with a group) to draw multitudes to resist the dictatorship and to vivify abstractions like “freedom” and “justice.” The paper recommends that Alejo’s dialogic seminars could be one way to vivify universal values by using familiar values as starting points. Dialogic seminars could flesh out the sketches by the heroes or discuss how a narrow value, like pakikisama, can become a gateway to a broader one.
Situations appear when we must concern ourselves with an abstract common good that will supposedly benefit all of us including anonymous strangers. Should my business company consider the impact of our products upon the welfare of others who are not my kin? As a public official, what is this “public” I should serve? Why can I not provide for my kin who have supported me emotionally all my life and will continue to do so long after I have resigned from my post? What value should guide me in trying to decide between my duty to my kin and my duty to a broader public? One approach would be to remind ourselves of the deeper values we all share. While I see merit in doing so, in this paper I would like to propose another approach: our re-imagining of particularistic values that people already observe in their everyday life as initial signs that can be oriented toward more universal values such as concern for an abstract common good. Rather than propose new paths that may be alien to people’s experiences, let us acknowledge the paths that people do take and indicate possible future trajectories such paths could assume. But how to do so? How do we draw the unfamiliar from the familiar, the universal from the particular? In defining a value, the definition formulated in 1951 by anthropologist Clyde Kluckhohn remains relevant: It is a “conception, explicit or implicit, distinctive of an individual or characteristic of a group, of the desirable which influences the selection from available modes, means, and ends of action” (Robbins and Sommerschuh 2016, 3–4). To go back to the situation discussed above where the individual faces a dilemma as to which path to take given the conflict between loyalties, either to the small group of familiars or to the wider community, his decisions will ultimately be based on what he explicitly or implicitly regards as desirable. In this essay, I see values as either particularistic or universalizing. By the former, I mean a particularistic value’s scope is a small group—a family, a barkada (peer group), a patron vis-à-vis clients. In contrast, a universal value’s scope embraces a wider group—the neighborhood, the city, the nation. Interest in values as a topic for serious discussion has varied according to context. In both sociology and anthropology this interest has been a roller coaster ride. From Emile Durkheim in the nineteenth century down to the Functionalists of the twentieth century, an overriding goal was to show how a society is integrated through commonly shared sentiments. However, the rise of Marxism during the 1970s to 1980s called this consensus into question by
revealing conflicting powerful interests. In turn, postmodernism critiqued Marxism and cast doubt on grand narratives that generalized about society. But values have again become topical because of the crisis in self-definition that many nation-states, rich or poor, are now experiencing vis-à-vis global factors like increasing immigration or the integration of the nation-state into regional blocs (like the European Community and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Paradoxically, renewed interest in Marxism has re-ignited interest in values as a product of social labor (Robbins and Sommerschuh, 2016, 6). In the Philippines, interest in values has never waned.2 One reason may be because the question of defining the Filipino persists. The other is because of the many problems facing us: the widespread poverty, the corruption in the state bureaucracy, the destruction of the environment, and the deterioration of our cities. Indeed, there are continuing proposals urging a program of action based on explicit common values, whether in the public or private sphere (Shahani 1993; Villalon et al. 2019). It would be interesting to compare our efforts with those of other countries like Indonesia where, upon independence in 1950, the leaders formulated five basic principles that would guide all conduct and be taught in schools: the Panca Sila. Much of the work on values in the Philippines has focused on either identifying shared values or proposing needed values. All these are important. But rather than identify values, I would like to start with everyday particularistic values, which other authors have already identified, and propose using them as bridges to more abstract, universal but much needed values. To do so, I would like to use Hegel’s method of “lifting up” (Aufhebung) a concept from one level to a higher one. An application of this method in our cultural milieu may be significant to readers in other countries, for always there is the challenge of how to adapt to new circumstances while retaining one’s identity.
Zialcita, Fernando. (2020). “Universalizing Local Values through ‘Lifting Up.’” Social Transformations: Journal of the Global South, 8 (1). 5-39.