Quo Vadis? (A Farewell Article To The Last Batch of Philosophy and Human Resource Development Majors of San Beda College)

Amidst the sea of red togas and red mortarboards are a group of individuals who graduating with the thought that comforts them but will horrify most parents: That in their four years of stay in college, they don’t know anything. Presenting, the last batch of Philosophy and Human Resource Development majors of San Beda College.

It was in 1960 that SBC added Philosophy as another major field of concentration to the curriculum. Deciding that the said course will strengthen its Liberal Arts program, the college formally offered the major AB Philosophy and Letters to its enrollees in 1984. One of its notable alumni is parapsychologist Jaime Licauco who later on taught in the department. Recognizing that many of the program’s graduates explored careers in personnel department, and hearing the clamor of the alumni to have this formalized, the late Raymond Briones created a program which combined Philosophy with Human Resource Development. The former chairperson’s brainchild was in time with the curricular changes of 1994. “It was revolutionary,” says another former chairperson, Ramon Rafael Dolor, “as it was the first time an HR program, in the Philippines was conceptualized. Others eventually followed. ” Graduates of the said course not only had more job opportunities, they also had bragging rights for having earned two majors in a span of only four years.

A PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY

As a course offering, the Philo-HRD program banked on its historical and pluralistic characteristics. There is emphasis on the history of philosophy since the faculty scholars believed it is still necessary in interpreting contemporary social issues. Classical, modern and contemporary courses were equally given weight. In keeping up with the pluralistic tradition, no school of thought was left untouched. Students were instructed on both Eastern and Western philosophies. In line with this, they were educated on the areas of logic, epistemology, legal philosophy, hermeneutics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of natural and social sciences, and social critical theory. Seeing to it that not only topics popular in the Western setting are dissected, the department also gave importance to Indian, Chinese, and Filipino Philosophies.

Where then does philosophy and human resource development converge? The answer lies in the program’s focus on social critical theory. This theory aims to introduce a new elucidation on human resources’ view of the human person as an economic resource. Using this system, not only are human behavior and corporate organizations studied, students are also  encouraged to set up rational and innovative programs for different HR processes. A written proof of how much the student understands the union of these two seemingly diverse subject areas is their thesis which is different from the usual expository theses written by philosophy undergrads. Panelists during  oral defense ensure that the student’s work shows the application of theory to modern issues. Through their papers, they are able to show that intellectualization can also be put into action to address current problems.

ACCUSATIONS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

As a philosophy student, one faces many challenges both inside and outside campus. Even before embarking on their journey as college students, the individuals who chose to study philosophy have had to face many questions which include the oft-repeated “Why philosophy?” to “Can you actually obtain a job after graduation?”. The former is a query that most philosophy students have learned to shrug off, yet prior to “immunization”, this question either leads them to a further love of the course or a descent towards uncertainty. Their answers usually vary from “My father said I should major in it,” to, “It’s a good pre-law program”, to “I believe there is a higher truth out there that is for me to find.” However, as years pass, the answers become more defiant with the budding philosophers gaining more ammunition and becoming more argumentative. The second question is usually much easier to answer even if one thinker already admitted that “philosophy bakes no bread” (W. James). This is because the inclusion of Human Resource Development to the program gives the students more security after graduation since they can practise their craft as HR personnel if they don’t pursue Law school or Masters in Philosophy.

Because much reading and scholarly work are demanded from them, philosophy majors are usually perceived as conceited intellectual snobs. Though this description may hold true for some of the philo students in SBC, the majority still prides itself on the idea that they can converse about a wide range of topics be it politics, social issues, or even LAN games. Super-sized egos are immediately shot down by professors who remind students of Socratic humility – one does not really know anything. This seems counterproductive to spending both time and money in college but the philo majors acknowledge that too much confidence in whatever little knowledge they learn leads to complacency. This will only bring  death to critical thinking and thus must be thwarted by the budding sages.

Another misconception about philo majors is that they are all non-believers. There is a percentage of them who are either agnostics or atheists but a greater part still believe in a Higher Being. The struggle to remain faithful becomes even more challenging for these individuals since their yearning to attain higher reasoning conflicts with their heart-felt desire to form a closer relationship with God. Despite the many times the department has been criticized as a breeding ground for atheism, the students will still miss these accusations because these gave them a chance to hone their debating skills and bust myths about the department.

The ability to argue is always a good quality to possess for any student yet for these budding philosophers, the talent becomes even more valuable as they constantly have to face constant indictment from people who believe the pursuit of higher knowledge is impractical. The sense to prove one’s self and one’s decisions will always be present in the thinking individual.

ULTIMA RATIO PHILOSOPHORUM

What will the graduates of Philo-HRD miss as the gates of their alma mater close and they explore the world that is out there? For some, it is the carefree days of their freshman year when they chanted “Philo sex machine” in Mendiola during integration (the origin of the chant is attributed to some Freudian angst). For many, it will be their professors who, after unintentionally intimidating them with their scholarly brilliance have inspired them to remain steadfast in their search for personal philosophy. Then there are those who will simply miss being in the company of paradoxically alike yet dissimilar minds where they can freely verbalize their thoughts without fear of being deemed too radical or peculiar.

They do not know anything. This is not meant to trivialize the untiring efforts of their professors; rather it is meant to remind them that despite having two majors under their belts, the search for that ever-elusive knowledge continues even after graduation. The closure of the program brought feelings of disgruntlement to the student body but they have long moved beyond that. Now, the aim is to look forward and to strategize how their own windmills of thoughts can bring about considerable change to their environment.

The curriculum may have ended but the challenge to contest existing systems of knowledge, to reaffirm that these lions’ roar will not be a submissive meow, has only commenced.