Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Epic of Gilgamesh in Penguin Classics

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin

By Alex P. Vidal

Penguin Classics has produced a 127-page English version of The Epic of Gilgamesh by N.K. Sandars for a price of $2.25.
Luckily I got it only for P15 in a book sale.
Because of the proliferation of book sale stores in malls and shopping centers that offer affordable “used” books, we are now able to have dates with Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Copernicus, Charles Darwin and Queen Elizabeth.
We can now travel back to the ancient civilization, revisit the Trojan War, relive the Glory that was Greece and the Grandeur that was Rome, and review the Ages of Gaia.
We can now, more or less, understand in the English version The Epic of Gilgamesh.
Miraculously preserved on clay tablets which were deciphered in the last century, The Epic of Gilgamesh is at least 1,500 years older than Homer, the volume contains the English version of the adventures of the King of Uruk in his fruitless search for immortality and of his friendship with Enkidu, the wild man from the hills.
Also included in the epic is another legend of the Flood which agrees in many details with the Biblical story of Noah.
Let me share briefly why The Epic of Gilgamesh is a must read for lovers of religion, archaeology, history, literature, political and social sciences.


Gilgamesh was the son of a man and a goddess and king of the ancient Sumerian city-state of Uruk.
He was also the strongest and most handsome man in the world.
But his assets have gone to his head, and he spent all his time wearing out the young men of the city with endless athletic contests and sexually exploiting the young women.
When the citizens of Uruk couldn’t take it anymore, they prayed to the gods for help.
The god Anu heard them, and commanded the goddess Aruru to create another human who will be a match for Gilgamesh.
Aruru created Enkidu, an uncivilized wild man, and placed him in the woods.
There, Enkidu had several run-ins with a trapper who uses the same watering hole.


Terrified, the trapper went to Uruk for help. On Gilgamesh's advice, the trapper went back to the watering hole with Shamhat, a temple-prostitute.
When Enkidu showed up, Shamhat enticed him to have sex with her.
Afterward, Enkidu found that he could no longer keep up with the animals, but that his mind has been opened.
He started living with Shamhat, who initiated him into human life. When she mentioned Gilgamesh, Enkidu realized that he wanted a friend—and that he wanted to give Gilgamesh a beat-down.
Gilgamesh had been dreaming about getting a new friend, too.
Soon enough, Enkidu went to Uruk and faced down Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh won, but there were no hard feelings, and the two warriors became best buds.
One day, Gilgamesh decided to go to the distant Cedar Forest and killed Humbaba, the monster who guarded it. Against the advice of the elders of Uruk and Enkidu himself, the two friends set out on their quest.
Once they made it to the Cedar Forest, the sun god Shamash helped them overpower Humbaba, who started pleading for mercy.


Gilgamesh was about to grant it, but then gave in to peer pressure from Enkidu, and killed him.
The friends cut down the tallest tree in the forest, which Enkidu planned to dedicate to the god Enlil.
They built a raft and sailed home down the River Euphrates, taking Humbaba's head along for the ride.
At this point, the goddess Ishtar developed a crush on Gilgamesh and asked him to marry her.
Gilgamesh rejected her, pointing out that all of her previous lovers have come to bad ends.
Seriously pissed off, Ishtar borrowed the Bull of Heaven from her dad, Anu, and sent it to earth to punish the friends. But they killed the Bull, and, when Ishtar appeared on the ramparts of Uruk, Enkidu threw one of its legs in her face.
Not long afterwards, Enkidu dreamed that the gods have decided that, for killing Humbaba, chopping down the cedar, and killing the Bull of Heaven, either he or Gilgamesh must die—and that Enlil picked Enkidu. In no time, Enkidu fell mysteriously ill, and died after much suffering.

Is religion really the opium of the people?

“The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain.” Karl Marx

By Alex P. Vidal

I never had any idea about Karl Marx until I became a campus writer where I stumbled into Das Kapital as a wet-behind-the-ears member of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) in the 80’s.
Was it the bible of communism? 
In Das Kaptial, Marx, a German philosopher and social scientist, proposed that the motivating force of capitalism is in the exploitation of labor.
Marx believed that labor’s unpaid work is the ultimate source of surplus value and then profit both of which concepts have a specific meaning for the author of the Manifesto of the Communist Party.
We will not dwell on Das Kapital in this article.
We have no illusion that we would be able grasp the book’s depth and permanence in the minds of many followers of the socioeconomic system structured upon common ownership of the means of production and characterized by the absence of social classes, money, and the state; as well as a social, political and economic ideology and movement that aims to establish a social order called communism.
Political and social scientists are more knowledgeable on this subject matter.


We are more curious about Marx’s thinking when he wrote: “Religion suffering is at one and the same the expression of real suffering and a protest against a real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
Marx mentioned this in the “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Rights.”
We will notice two things right off the bat, according to author Michael Macrone.
First, Marx says that religion is the opium, not the opiate, of the people—a small difference, but worth getting right. (Opium is a particular drug, while opiates are a class).
Second, Marx is very fond of italics.
Characterizing religion as a painkilling drug, shocking as it still is to many, was even more radical in its day, Macrone explained.
And yet Marx, more than condemning religion itself, was actually critiquing the condition of a society that would lead people to it.
Nonetheless, forever after we would hear about “Godless communists,” implying that Marxist thought lacks values and morals.
This isn’t quite true, argued Macrone. What Marx really meant was that religion functions to pacify the oppressed; and oppression is definitely a moral wrong.


Religion, Marx said, reflects what is lacking in society; it is an idealization of what people aspire to but cannot now enjoy.
Social condition in mid-century Europe had reduced workers to little better than slaves; the same conditions produced a religion that promised a better world in the afterlife, observed Macrone.
Religion isn’t merely a superstition or an illusion. It has a social function: to distract the oppressed from the truth of their oppression.
So long as the exploited and downtrodden believe their sufferings will earn them freedom and happiness hereafter, they will think their oppression part of the natural order—a necessary burden rather than something imposed by other men.
This, then, is what Marx meant by calling religion the “opium of the people,” explained Macrone.
It dulls their pain but at the same time make them sluggish, clouding their perception of reality and robbing them of the will to change.
What did Marx want? He wanted the “people” to open their eyes to the harsh realities of 19th-century bourgeois capitalism.


Macrone pointed out that the capitalists were squeezing more and more profit out of the proletariat’s labor, at the same time “alienating” workers from self-realization.
What workers deserved, and could have if they arose from their slumber, was control over their own labor, possession of the value they created through work, and thus self esteem, freedom, and power.
To that end, Marx, called for the “abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people.”
He wanted them to demand “real happiness,” which in Marx’s materialist philosophy was freedom and fulfillment in this world.
Since the rich and powerful aren’t just going to hand these over, the masses shall have to seize them.
Thus class struggle and revolution.
Would that it was that simple, concluded Macrone.

'Bontella's' literary and allegorical meanings

By Alex P. Vidal

SAN FRANCISCO, California -- Reading Bontella reminds us of Plato's Allegory of the Cave.
Bontella both has literally and allegorical meanings. In allegorical writing characters, actions and setting are used as symbols and they should be interpreted to make the allegorical meaning.
In Bontella, author Greg Bonfa has given a description of the journey of Theerus and Casmers into a mysterious place which he described as "the beautiful and mystical forest of Shea to find three divine gifts."
Both boys realized the world of creatures and powerful enemies they encountered during the journey is neither as hospitable nor as peaceful as they had hoped even if they were filled with hope and confidence when they started to embark on the perilous exploration believing that their divine mission would be an easy sojourn to the charm of their dream girls.
It has parallelism in Plato’s cave, which is very dark because there is little light inside it and hardly seen the objects.
Some chained people are seen inside on their necks as well as feet, and they cannot move comfortably.
Similarly, there is also another world out of the cave world, but between these two worlds, a wall is raised.
On the wall, many other people move with different things on their hands and their shadows fall in the cave world. The people inside the cave cannot raise their head completely so that they can only see the shadows like illusion, which they believe, as real but it is just their illusion.
Their adventure became legend to generations of other Bontellions in the future after successfully ditching some menacing challenges and spellbinding places that pushed their heart and soul to the limits.


Like the cave allegory, there is light and everything is clearly visible in the outer world.
One of the people, when released from the cave world and taken to the outer world, cannot see anything at first because his eyes dazzle in the light.
But if he stays in the outer world, slowly and gradually he begins to identify everything and he becomes to realize that the outer world is the real world and the cave world is the unreal world.
The chained person becomes gratified with himself and remembers the other people in the cave and gives pity and sympathy over the cave people lost in darkness.
He thinks it is better to be the slave in the outer world rather than being the king inside the cave and even though he does not want to go back to the cave world, his eyes dazzle more if he is taken back to the cave world, and he can’t count anything inside darkness.


If he attempts to persuade the people inside the cave saying that the outer world is the real world, and the cave world is unreal, his ignorant friends kill him.
In Bontella, the dog that the Fasmer had dealt with exhorts Villagers of Bontella to “listen to words from beyond, for they shall set you upon a journey. We have come to tell of three idols.
God, in His saving grace, placed three idols in the world.”

Idols of Wisdom, of Strength, and of Power, that were waiting to be discovered somewhere in the world.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

‘The strongest has the right’

“Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

By Alex P. Vidal

THE strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty.
This was the emphasis made by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in The Social Contract.
Rousseau stressed, “Hence, the right of the strongest, which, though to all seeming meant ironically, is really laid down as a fundamental principle.
“But are we never to have an explanation of this phrase? Force is a physical power, and I fail to see what moral effect it can have. To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will—at the most, an act of prudence. In what sense can it be a duty?”
Eighteenth century society found its severest critic in Rousseau, who spent much of his career in intimate contact with the leaders of the French Enlightenment.
But rather than sharing their ideas, he rejected them, vehemently and violently, according to John Louis Beatty and Oliver A. Johnson of the Heritage of Western Civilization.


To Rousseau, the major evils of contemporary society were political absolutism, over-intellectualism, and general artificiality.
“Nor were these evils separable; on the contrary, each fed on the others,” wrote Beatty and Johnson. “Hence, Rousseau could not agree with reformers who looked to reason to lead the way to liberty and equality. Society was rotten to the core, he contended; hence, no solution short of total regeneration could cure its ills.”
In the Social Contract (1762), Rousseau’s most famous work, he attacked the problem of political despotism.
Beginning with the provocative charge, “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chain,” Rousseau proposes a new social order in which freedom and equality will be the possession of all.
How such a social order can be achieved in practice is the basic problem that he tries to solve in the book.
How can we live under a government that, of necessity, exercises authority over us, and yet remain free men?
The issue, with which Rousseau wrestles so earnestly in The Social Contract, still remains one of the fundamental political problems facing the Western world.
In his other works Rousseau attacked with vigor and eloquence almost every facet of his society.


Perhaps his most sweeping condemnation of the Enlightenment is his early work, the Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, in which he offered up this prayer: “Almighty God! Thou who holdest in Thy hand the minds of men, deliver us from the fatal arts and sciences of our forefathers; give us back ignorance, innocence, and poverty which alone can make us happy and are precious in Thy sight.”
The opposition between this prayer and the ideals of the Enlightenment is obvious.
To appreciate the extent of Rousseau’s influence, we have only to realize that within about 50 years romanticism, a movement of which he was the chief prophet, was to sweep over Europe.
In the right of the strongest, Rousseau exploded:
“Suppose for a moment that this so-called ‘right’ exists. I maintain that the sole result is a mass of inexplicable nonsense. For, if force creates right, the effect changes with the cause: every force that is greater than the first succeeds to its right.


“As soon as it is possible to disobey with impunity, disobedience is legitimate; and, the strongest being always in the right, the only thing that matters is to act so as to become the strongest.
“But what kind of right is that which perishes where force fails? If we must obey perforce, there is no need to obey because we ought; and if we are not forced to obey, we are under no obligation to do so. Clearly, the word ‘right’ adds nothing to force: in this connection, it means absolutely nothing.
“Obey the powers that be. If this means yield to force, it is a good precept, but superfluous. I can answer for its never being violated. All power comes from God, I admit; but so does all sickness: does that mean that we are forbidden to call in the doctors? A brigand surprises me at the edge of a wood: must I not merely surrender my purse on compulsion; but, even if I could withhold it, am I in conscience bound to give it up? For certainly the pistol he holds is also a power.
“Let us then admit that force does not create right, and that we are obligated to obey only legitimate powers. In that case, my original question recurs.”


“There is no such thing as perpetual tranquility of mind while we live here; because life itself is but motion, and can never be without desire, nor without fear, no more than without sense.” Thomas Hobbes

By Alex P. Vidal

IT was Thomas Hobbes who declared that governments were created to protect people from their own selfishness and evil.
The best government was one that had the great power of a leviathan, or sea monster, Hobbes emphasized.
Hobbes believed in the rule of a king because he felt a country needed an authority figure to provide direction and leadership. 
Because the people were only interested in promoting their own self-interests, Hobbes believed democracy or allowing citizens to vote for government leaders, would never work.
The great revolutions in 17th century England produced two major political philosophers, Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704).
Their writings, which coincided respectively with the Puritan Revolution and the Glorious Revolution, reflect the ways in which these political upheavals differed from one another.
Hobbes’ Leviathan, published in 1651, is filled with overtones of the insecurity, fear, and violence of the civil war just finished.
Hobbes himself, because of his associations with the English aristocracy, had been forced to flee during the revolution to France, where he tutored the future King Charles II, also a refugee, in mathematics.
The Leviathan, beyond mirroring it own troubled times, is a carefully argued defense of the theory of political absolutism.
Hobbes found a philosophical justification or absolutism in the ancient theory or materialism, which had been revived during the 17th century in the scientific writings of men like Galileo and Descartes.


Applying the assumptions of these scientists to human nature, Hobbes then deduced his absolutistic position in politics from them.
Hobbes’ theory of absolutism is sometimes confused with the theory of the divine right of kings, as elaborated, for example, by his contemporary, Bishop Bossuet.
Although both theories provide defenses of political absolutism, the defenses given are very different.
While Bossuet’s is based on an interpretation of Christianity, Hobbes’ rests on philosophical materialism, which logically cannot admit the existence of God.
Also, for Bossuet the sovereign is justified in his rule by reason of his hereditary right of succession, but for Hobbes the “right” to rule reduces simply to the sovereign’s ability to stay in power.
In his emphasis on power, Hobbes picks up a theme from Machiavelli, but he transforms it into one element in a complete philosophy of society and government—something that the Florentine, for all his insight into practical politics, had not succeeded in doing.
Below is the introduction of Leviathan provided by John Louis Beatty and Oliver A. Johnson of the Heritage of Western Civilization:


Nature, the art whereby God hath made and governs the world, is by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an artificial animal.
For seeing life is but a motion of limbs, the beginning whereof is in some principal part within; why may we not say, that all automata (engines that move themselves by springs and wheels as doth a watch) have an artificial life?
For what is the heart, but a spring; and the nerves, but so many strings; and the joints, but so many wheels, giving motion to the whole body, such as was intended by the artificer?
And goes yet further, imitating that rational and most excellent work of nature, man.
For by art is created that great Leviathan caller a commonwealth, or state, in Latin civitas, which is but an artificial man; though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defense it was intended; and in which the sovereignty is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body; the magistrates, and other officers of judicature and execution, artificial joints; reward and punishment, by which fastened to the seat of the sovereignty every joint and member is moved to perform his duty, are the nerves, that do the same in the body natural; the wealth and riches of all the particular members, are the strength; salus populi, the people’s safety, its business; counselors, by whom all things needful for it to know are suggested unto it, are the memory; equity and laws, and artificial reason and will; concord health; sedition, sickness; and civil war, death.
Lastly, the pacts and covenants, by which the parts of this body politic were at first made, set together, and united, resemble that fiat, or the let us make man, pronounced by God in the creation.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Malones has the last laugh

“Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” George S. Patton

By Alex P. Vidal

IN soccer, they call it a “hat-trick” or a head goal.
In stopping the suspension order against him, embattled Maasin Mayor Mariano Malones scored a hat-trick against the Iloilo Provincial Board and his political enemies who have written him off as early as September this year.
Malones was found guilty of simple misconduct by the Iloilo Provincial Board with a penalty of suspension for three months over the administrative case filed by an illegally terminated assistant human resource officer of the Maasin municipal government last September.
He filed an appeal before the Office of the President in Malacanang which "stayed" his suspension.
Signed by Deputy Executive Secretary Michael G. Aguinaldo, the order stated: “Pursuant to Section 9 of Administrative Order No. 22 series of 2011, the execution of the assailed Resolutions is hereby stayed.”
Since the order presented to the Iloilo Provincial Board was a certified copy, Vice Governor Raul Tupas said they will wait for the official transmission of the order from Malacanang.


The order meant Malones would stay in his office and the suspension order is either held in abeyance or terminated.
Whatever it is, Malones has scored a moral and psychological victory against his adversaries.
The rescue order from Malacanang also proved that the local legislature does not have absolute power to rule against or in favor of local elected officials facing administrative cases.
That it is not yet end of the world for any local chief executive found guilty of simple or even serious misconduct. 
Because there is still a big brother somewhere out there for the rescue. 
When the Iloilo Provincial Board meted the suspension order on Malones, only two members voted against the resolution: Ninfa Garin and Dennis Valencia, all from the first district of Iloilo.
Two others abstained: Licurgo Tirador (third district) and Shalene Palmares-Hidalgo (fourth district).
In the 2016 elections, Malones, one of the most influential and strongest political leaders in the third district of Iloilo, will definitely remember their names.
And the names of those who voted to suspend him.


Unlike former congressmen Salvador “Badong” Cabaluna Jr.(partylist) and Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco (Iloilo second district) who were overexposed in media before Iloilo second district Rep. Arcadio “Cadio” Gorriceta trounced them in the 2013 congressional elections, Iloilo Board Member June Mondejar is considered as wet-behind-the-ears in as far as bigger political battles are concerned.
Mondejar, younger brother of former TESDA Regional Director Buen or “Bokbok”, was municipal mayor of New Lucena for three terms and was never in the limelight in all the years of his muted political career.
Until he announced he would challenge Gorriceta in 2016.
Even outside the second district of Iloilo, curious Ilonggos were now starting to talk about Mondejar, not because they were familiar with the youthful-looking board member, but because they were startled by his guts to disclose his political plans at the time when no one was discussing about politics.
But now that the cat is out of the bag, Mondejar’s moves will now be monitored and misconstrued as part of his preparatory steps for a possible showdown with Gorriceta, the best friend of Senate President Franklin Drilon.


Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog suspended classes in elementary and secondary levels both in public and private schools yesterday (November 27) afternoon due to heavy downpour brought by typhoon Queenie.
“Despite that the water level of iloilo river & creeks are still within n0rmal level and water level inside iloilo city natl hi sch minimal and also All roads and bridges are passable & No evacuees reportd. Upon the advise of Mr. Darwin Papa that Typhoon Queenie is gaining strength and may hit ground this pm, together with Schools Division Superintendent Nelly Valerio, I Jed Patrick E. Mabilog, Mayor of Iloilo City under the General Welfare Act do hereby declare the suspension of classes in all elementary and secondary levels for both public and private schools in the afternoon of today November 27, 2014. Classes for College level depends on their respective school heads,” Mabilog wrote in his Facebook account.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

‘Ilonggos are not corrupt; I am proud to be an Ilonggo’

“There is no compromise when it comes to corruption. You have to fight it.” A. K. Antony

By Alex P. Vidal

WHILE others claim they felt “ashamed” when Iloilo was recently referred to as “a bird’s nest of corruption”, the former economic planning chief of the Iloilo provincial government said the issue did not shake his faith in the Ilonggos.
“I am still proud to be an Ilonggo and I am not ashamed to tell the world that I am a resident of Iloilo,” declared 77-year-old Teodoro “Teddy” Sumaray.
Aside from the economic planning portfolio, Sumaray also served for 13 years as press secretary and protocol officer of the late Iloilo Governor Conrado “Rading” Norada in the 70’s and late 80’s before the EDSA Revolution.
Sumaray does not believe that the Ilonggos are corrupt.
“Corruption is not a monopoly of one province (and city). Corruption is endemic in the entire country,” he pointed out even as he criticized the Iloilo City Council for declaring former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy M” Mejorada as persona non grata on November 18.
“It (the declaration of persona non grata) was a misplaced reaction,” quipped Sumaray, a resident of Zarraga town but grew up in La Paz district, Iloilo City. “They (city councilors) should have just ignored him (Mejorada).”
Sumaray praised Councilor R Leonie “Boots” Gerochi, the lone member of the city council who did not vote against Mejorada, describing him as “respectful” and “always studying his plans.”
Sumaray was elected as president of the other faction of the Iloilo Press Club in 1990, the same year Mejorada was elected as president of the Iloilo Press and Radio Club (IPRC).
The two press clubs emerged after IBC TV-12 newscaster Bobby Rodriguez’s term as IPRC president expired.


Mejorada and Sumaray had clashed over principles. 
The two press clubs have been reunited.
Sumaray, who claimed he bested Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, 69, in their Junior Republic days at the Iloilo National High School in La Paz district in 1960, said, “Ilonggos should be proud of our heritage and history.”
He considers Senate President Franklin Drilon and Defensor-Santiago as among the best contemporary Ilonggo leaders in the national government.
Defensor-Santigao was the best campus writer in the country in 1961 and would have been our president in 1992, said Sumaray, the first scholar of then Iloilo Governor Jose Zulueta.
“We have more reasons to be proud of as Ilonggos rather than be ashamed,” added Sumaray.
He cited the following reasons:
-the first Supreme Court chief justice in the Philippines was Victorino Mapa, an Ilonggo;
-the longest-serving Supreme Court chief justice (24 years) in the Philippines was Ramon Avancena, an Ilonggo;
-the lawyer with the highest rating (96.75%) scored in the Philippine Bar Examination in history was Florenz D. Regalado, an Ilonggo;
-the first deputy speaker in the Philippine legislature under Pesident Sergio Osmena was Nicolas Jalandoni, an Ilonggo;
-the first most bombastic senator in the Philippines known as the “Colossus of the South” was Ruperto Montinola, an Ilonggo;
-the first doctor of pharmacology in the Philippines was Joaquin Maranon, an Ilonggo;
-the first woman civil engineer in the Philippines was Josette Garcia-Portigo, an Ilongga;
-the first elementary school established under the American educational system was the Baluarte Elementary School in Molo district, Iloilo City;


The first national high school established outside Manila in 1902 was the Iloilo National High School in La Paz district, Iloilo City;
Sumaray said Iloilo was the pride of the entire country and considered as the best province during the Spanish era.
“We used to be called as the ‘Queen City of the South’ and Molo (district) was considered as the Athens of the Philippines,” explained Sumaray. “More boys from Molo studied in Europe than in the Philippines. Some of the best intellectuals in the country are Ilonggos.”
Graduated a cum laude in the Central Philippine University (CPU) College of Agriculture in 1964, Sumaray’s parents were Placido Poblador Sumaray, Sr. and Floreta Sequite-Sumaray.
He described his Ilonggo children as “all intellectuals” starting from eldest Roberto, a cum laude in the University of the Philippines School of Economics; only lady Rhodora Mae, former chief of staff of former Vice President Teopisto “Tito” Guingona; Arturo, a mathematics wizard; and Jose Manuel, an Information Technology (IT) expert.
Sumaray, born on May 7, 1937, described his wife, Rohita Robles, 73, as also an intellectual but a “low profile” person.

Novum Organum

“In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.” Francis Bacon

By Alex P. Vidal

SIR Francis Bacon was an Enlightenment of almost universal accomplishment.
He rose quickly as a lawyer during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and was knighted in 1603 before being named chancellor of King James I in 1618.
His career took a tragic turn in 1621 when he was charged with financial corruption, expelled from Parliament, and briefly imprisoned before his death in 1626.
Throughout his career as a royal official, he wrote histories, moral essays, and philosophical treaties.
But he never lost his interest in scientific studies, and, although not a scientist except in an amateur sense, he has traditionally been regarded as the father of scientific empiricism, the doctrine that all knowledge is derived from sense of experience, observation, and experimentation.
In books such as The Advancement of Learning (1605) and Novum Organum (1620), Bacon set the tone for a new standard of scientific inquiry and attacked the medieval Scholastic belief that most truth had already been discovered by calling into question the traditional reverence for the authority of the ancient authors.
Bacon urged his contemporaries to have confidence in their own abilities and see change as desirable.


The following excerpts, published by the Aspects of Western Civilization, focus on the goals of Bacon’s new methods of scientific inquiry and offer some of the thoughts on the relationship between religion and science:
“I Have Made a Beginning of the Work”: Novum Organum (1620)
For my own part at least, in obedience to the everlasting love of truth, I have committed myself to the uncertainties and difficulties and solitudes of the ways, and relying on the divine assistance have upheld my mind both against the shocks and embattled ranks of opinion, and against my own private and inward hesitations and scruples, and against the fogs and clouds of nature, and the phantoms flitting about on every side; in the hope of providing at last for the present and future generations guidance more faithful and secure.
Wherein if I have made any progress, the way has been opened to me by no other means than the true and legitimate humiliation of the human spirit.
For all those before me have applied themselves to the invention of arts have but cast a glance or two upon facts and examples and experience, and straightway proceeded…to invoke their own spirits to give them oracles, I on the contrary, dwelling purely and constantly among the facts of nature, withdraw my intellect from them no further than my suffice to let the images and rays of natural objects meet in a point, as they do in the sense of vision…And by these means I suppose that I have established forever a true and lawful marriage between the empirical and the rational faculty, the unkind and ill-starred divorce and separation of which has thrown into confusion all the affairs of the human family…I have sought on all sides diligently and faithfully to provide helps for the sense—substitutes to supply its failures, rectifications to correct its errors; and this I endeavor to accomplish not so much by instruments as by experiments.
For the subtlety of experiments is far greater than that of the sense itself, even when assisted by the exquisite instruments; such experiments, I mean, as are skillfully and artificially devised for the express purpose of determining the point in question.
To the immediate and proper perception of the sense therefore I do not give much weight; but I contrive that the office of the sense shall be only to judge of the experiment, and that the experiment itself shall judge of the thing.
But I design not only to indicate and mark out the ways, but also to enter them. And therefore the third part of the work embraces the Phenomena of the Universe; that is to say, experience of every kind….Those who aspire not to guess and divine, but to discover the know; who propose not to devise mimic and fabulous worlds of their own, but to examine and dissect the nature of this very world itself; must go to facts themselves for everything….This therefore we must have, or the business must be forever abandoned.
But up to this day such has been the condition of men in this matter, that it is no wonder if nature will not give herself into their hands….
I have a beginning of the work—a beginning, as I hope, not unimportant….For the matter in hand is no mere felicity of speculation, but the real business and fortunes of the human race, and all power of operation.
For man is but the servant and interpreter of nature: what he does and what he knows is only what he has observed of nature’s order in fact or in thought; beyond this he knows nothing and can do nothing.
For the chain of causes cannot by any force be loosed or broken, nor can nature be commanded except by being obeyed.
And to those twin objects, human Knowledge and human Power, do really meet in one; and it is from ignorance of causes that operation fails.   


Romanticism and Goethe’s Prometheus

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

By Alex P. Vidal

IT is often said that Romanticism was a reflection against the rationalism of the Enlightenment.
And yet this interpretation does not provide a complete explanation of the movement.
For Romanticism was more than an anti-intellectual outburst; it was a general rebellion against the whole civilization of late 18th century Europe.
Encyclopedia Britannica defines Romanticism as an “attitude or intellectual orientation that characterized many works of literature, painting, music, architecture, criticism, and historiography in Western civilization over a period from the late 18th to the mid-19th century.”
Romanticism can be seen as a rejection of the precepts of order, calm, harmony, balance, idealization, and rationality that typified Classicism in general and late 18th-century Neoclassicism in particular.
It was also to some extent a reaction against the Enlightenment and against 18th-century rationalism and physical materialism in general.
Romanticism emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental.
Although the positive view of the Romantics were often quite divergent and sometimes even contradictory, almost without exception the Romantics shared a desire to escape from the immediate historical situation in which they found themselves.
The escape routes varied.
Some Romantics, like the novelists Hugo and Scott, immersed themselves in the medieval past; some, like the philosopher Hegel, identified themselves with a supernatural Reality transcending the vicissitudes of time and space; some, like the political theorist De Maistre, found refuge in the traditions and authority of the Church; some, like the poet Wordsworth, sought communion with an idyllic Nature, itself soon to be despoiled by the mills and factories of the Industrial Revolution, according to John Louis Beatty and Oliver A. Johnson of the Heritage of Civilization.


“Prometheus” (1774) is written by German Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was too broad in his interests and attitudes to be classified as a Romantic.
Indeed he has been called the last uomo-universale in Western civilization.

Cover your heavens
In cloud-mists, Zeus,
And like a boy
Beheading thistles, go practice
On oaks and mountain tops!
Still you’ll have to
Leave me my earth,
The hut you did not build,
And the hearth,
Whose fire
You envy me.

I know nothing under the sun
Less enviable than you gods!
Your majesty,
Wretchedly nourished
On exacted sacrifice
And breath of prayer,
Would famish were not
Children and beggars
Hopeful fools.
While yet a child,
Knowing no other way,
Lost, I turned my face
To the sun, as if up there
Some ear might hear my lamentation,
Some heart like mine
Pity my affection.

Who helped me
Resist Titanic arrogance?
Who rescued me from death,
From slavery?
Didn’t you accomplish it yourself,
High impassioned heart?
And yet, youthfully passionate and good,
You gave deluded thanks for rescue
To the slumberer above.

Why should I honor you?
Did you ever soothe the pain
Of the oppressed?
Or still the tears
Of anguish, ever?
Wasn’t I forged a man
By everlasting fate
And time omnipotent,
My lords and yours?

Did you suppose
I’d come to hate life,
Escape to deserts,
Because not all
Dreams blossomed?

Here I sit and create men
After my own image,
A race like myself,
To suffer, to weep,
To relish, to rejoice,
And to ignore you,
As do I?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Better to have Ebola virus than to be caught stealing

“Dignity is not negotiable. Dignity is the honor of the family.” Vartan Gregorian

By Alex P. Vidal

SOME people may avoid us if we are infected with Ebola virus, but will sympathize with us nonetheless for humanitarian reasons.
If we are thieves, people will not only avoid us but will also denounce us, stab us in the back and question our culture.
Between having an Ebola disease and being a thief, we prefer the former.
Much better, of course, if we don’t have any contagious disease and with zero criminal record.
Some of us prefer to die of Ebola or others diseases than to live with a tarnished name because of graft and corruption.
In death, there is dignity if our integrity is intact.
In life, we die a thousand times once our dignity has been besmirched by dishonesty and crimes against moral turpitude.
It's better to suffer instant death than to continue living and pretending as if everything is normal even after we were caught in flagrante delicto with our hands in the cookie jar.
Acting Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin should not begrudge critics who expressed “worries” when she and Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang went to Caballo Island to visit quarantined Filipino peacekeepers, who arrived from Ebola-hit Nigeria early this month, without wearing protective masks as required by the World Health Organization (WHO).


If we were Loreto-Garin, we would gamely accept the criticisms without showing any emotion, and prove those Doubting Thomases wrong.
How? Assure them that if she shows some signs of Ebola infection, she would resign immediately and isolate herself for medication before going to an exile in an island.
Loreto-Garin, 42, should also prove to all and sundry that she is not a corrupt public official; and it’s OK to die anytime as long as her name and the legacy of the Loretos of Leyte and the Garins of Iloilo are preserved and not tainted.  
Meanwhile, when she attended the senate budget deliberations on November 24, Loreto-Garin was not treated shabbily.
In fact, Senators Bongbong Marcos and Bambam Aquino kissed her and shook her hand.
It was Senator Tito Sotto III who first expressed alarm and even requested Loreto-Garin, Catapang and others who went with them in the island to undergo quarantine.
He was among the senators who refused to come near Loreto-Garin during the budget hearing.


Loreto-Garin appeared panicky in her initial reactions when the unprotected visit tumult erupted last week: “I am not perfect. I might have lapses. But in critical situations like this, I will not do it without proper protocol on the proper guidance of the experts.”
She added: "People were asking, why not wait for the 21st day. If you wait for the 21st day, the decisions needed that time cannot be made."
The DOH has repeatedly announced that Ebola virus is not contagious unless an infected person showed symptoms.
The peacekeepers on Caballo Island have been cleared of the virus and are just undergoing quarantine as part of protocol.
The symptoms of Ebola include fever, muscle pain, headache and sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash and in some cases internal and external bleeding, reported the WHO.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Serial relationships bad for women’s mental health

“At times it is folly to hasten at other times, to delay. The wise do everything in its proper time”  OVID

By Alex P. Vidal

WHILE men, strangely, fare better in a recent study, women have been cautioned to avoid getting involved in serial relationships after emerging from a bad marriage or long-term relationship to prevent a severe break down and depression.
Other findings in the report confirm previous research that women who remain single throughout their lives do much better, in terms of mental health, than steadfast bachelors.
The research was an analysis of a data mine called the British Household Panel Survey that started in 1991 and includes information supplied annually from 10,000 British adults.


It includes a 12-item questionnaire designed to assess levels of psychological distress, depression and anxiety.
The study analyzed the returns for the year 2000 from 4,430 people.
Of that number, nine percent had remained single throughout their lives and over half had been in a stable marriage or cohabitation during their lifetime.
Of the remainder, 35 percent had experienced one partnership bustup during the lifetime.