Following the link from her tweet, I happily got to watch a lecture delivered recently at the University of Chicago by Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer of the Political Science Department of U.P. Diliman (where our only daughter, Celine, used to teach). The lecture, entitled “Peace Talks from a Discourse Analytic Perspective”, has, as its main topic, the idea that (in her own words) “political negotiations are really about deconstructing each others’ discourses; finding convergence; producing modified, enhanced, or maybe a different discourse altogether; all articulations that provide what is ‘sufficient’—because you cannot find ‘complete’—consensus”.
For those who may not be aware, Prof. Coronel-Ferrer was the Chief Negotiator of the Peace Panel of the government that ended the armed conflict with the MILF. Her husband, Anthony, is one of the country’s leading geologists (whom I first met on one of his many visits to Palawan for offshore oil exploration). She is also sister to the journalist Shiela Coronel (one of the founders of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism who became Dean of the School of Journalism of the University of Columbia); both being daughters of the late trial lawyer Dean Antonio Coronel (of the Philippine Law School).
Watching the lecture made me reflect on the importance of discourse in general—the importance of words that we use to communicate—and of the far-reaching effects these may bring us and others. The realization seems all the more relevant in this age of Twitter and Facebook (and other “social media platforms”), where anyone can post practically anything, anytime, subject to no editor’s or publisher’s veto, which can reach any number of viewers all over the world.
I think it is good to be reminded every now and then of the need to be more “responsible” in our use of social media, i.e., to be more conscious of (and attentive to) the possible consequences of our “posts”: the damage we might cause to our relationships, to individuals or to the common good; the demands of truth and justice; and of the ideals of edifying; of spreading light, peace and joy; of raising the quotient of love in the world, etc. Posting on social media should not be simply a matter of indulging our feelings of the moment.
Indeed, our “feelings” (emotions or passions) are the “acts” or “operations” of our “sensual appetites”. The word, “sensual”, is used here in the sense of our “animal” dimension, as opposed to the “spiritual” (non-material); the latter being manifest in the capacity of the human intellect and free will to transcend material realities.
I like to translate “sensual appetites” as mga hilig ng pangangatawan, which fall into two categories: the “irascible” (from the Latin, ira, for “anger”); and the “concupiscible” (from concupiscere, “to desire”). These appetites are what drive us (instinctively) to abhor—or to want—what our senses perceive to be inimical—or beneficial—to our well-being. Thus, we experience “fear” in the face of perceived dangers, “delight” in physical comforts, etc. I used to think that feelings belonged to the human spiritual soul until I realized that dogs also have feelings (no offense meant to pet-lovers).
On the other hand, since it pertains to our intelligence and free will to lead us to our ultimate end (beatitude, eternal happiness in union with God), our feelings ought to be subject to these “higher” spiritual powers. Our human intelligence, ordained by nature to “understand” the “truth”, and our free will, ordained by nature to “choose” (love) the “good”, are what can make us tend towards the Fullness of Truth and Good (God).
A teacher of mine in college (forty years ago!), Prof. Manny Escasa (who taught Philosophy), composed a couplet (pareado) in Spanish that goes << Los pasiones, buenos compañeros/Pero no son buenos consejeros>> (The emotions are good companions but not good advisers).
Not that our emotions need to be suppressed. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The human person is ordered to beatitude by his deliberate (knowing and voluntary) acts: the passions or feelings he experiences can dispose him to it and contribute to it” (CCC, No. 1762; italics mine).
Going back to the importance of words, human intelligence (but, yes, angels have a superior kind of intelligence) does require discourse—the use of words—since the act of “understanding” is normally “discursive” (i.e., “reasoning” proper, as distinguished from “intuition”); hence, the importance of Logos, Greek for “word”, but which actually encompasses “intelligibility” (as in “logic”)—that which, in the final analysis, imparts “order” and elevates into “cosmos” what would otherwise be “chaos”. It is no accident that the Gospel of Saint John opens with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1)—an obvious reference to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, in Whom the universe has its ultimate meaning.
May this Marian month of May in the Year of Saint Joseph, the Husband of Mary (she whose Fiat made it possible for the Word to become flesh and redeem mankind), bring more graces and blessings to everyone. (12.V.2021)