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For discussion purposes only.

The Dasein and Yaon1: Preliminary Reflections

Jove Jim S. Aguas PhD

Introduction

While we can speak now of Filipino philosophy, we could hardly speak of a philosophy of the other Filipino languages, particularly Bikol. But this does not mean that there is no Bikol philosophy, it only means that we not so far tried to focus our attention on this aspect of our Bikolano consciousness and culture. It is therefore very encouraging that we are now starting to shed more light into this aspect of our culture. We should therefore encourage more discussions on this to topic, Bikol philosophy in order to generate more ideas and consequently bring to the fore the real Bikol philosophy. This discussions are not supposed to be intended towards developing Bikol philosophy, in the sense that we have start from scratch and build a philosophy. For in the first place philosophy is already rooted in our culture and consciousness, and what we need to do is let this come out in the open and be recognized, through rational discussions. I am happy that my friend and classmate Fr. Tria has started these discussions and I say that we are moving towards the right direction. And as a Bikolano, I would like to share my thoughts in this discussions. I have taken up the concept of yaon, as a fitting starting point for a discussion in Bikol philosophy.

It is the intention of this paper to present a reflection, albeit preliminary, on the notion of yaon, to expose and further elucidate some meaning of this original Bikolano concept. Needless to say that the author agrees with the term yaon, as a suitable and appropriate expression of the Bikolanos understanding of the meaning of being or existence. Further this present paper tries analyze the notion of yaon and dasein and to identify some possible convergence and similarities and their divergence and differences. This paper is not exhaustive as this is just a preliminary reflection, but I hope that with this paper, we could continue our discussions on Bikol philosophy.

First let us ponder on ontology, and I would say that Fr. Tria has taken the right first step, when he first discussed a topic related to ontology, in his essay on Bikol philosophy.

Metaphysics or ontology (although ontology is the more appropriate term to refer to this science for its root word "onto" is the Greek term which means "being") is primarily concerned with the most fundamental question in philosophy, the question of being. Broadly, "being" is that which exists. We use the term to denote existence, hence being is opposed to nothing. But the question arises as to the nature and real essence of this "being." If all things that exist are beings, what does it mean "to be" or "to exist" Although we commonly use the word or the expression, we somehow are perplexed when we start questioning its meaning. And due to this perplexity Heidegger in his Being and Time raised anew the question of the meaning of Being. 2

Metaphysics or ontology is that branch of philosophy which endeavors to investigate the real essence of being or of anything that exists, of reality. And any philosophical system must have some grounding on being or must have touched upon being, for that is what is at the bottom of philosophical reflection. Any system that does not touch upon being, that is, the essence of things or reality cannot claim to be philosophical. There must be an ontology, or metaphysics in philosophical reflection. There must be a systematic reflection about the real essence of things, of reality whether physical or spiritual.

But what should be the interpretation of being, what should be the answer to the fundamental question about the ultimate meaning of being? Here lies the beauty and freedom of philosophy. For while we say that there must be a answer to the question, the answer that one philosopher or system proposes cannot be taken as the all-comprehensive and absolute answer. Being itself allows us to freely ponder, investigate and reflect upon its essence. It must be within the essence itself of being that allows rational discourse on its meaning. For if being were a univocal expression, then ontology must have been dead a long time ago. The Greeks must have already said the final word and there would be no further reflection upon the essence of being. But because being is free, then we are allowed to ponder on it and satisfy our curiosity and wonder as to its meaning.

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paper read during the PAP National Convention, April 3-6, 2002, Ateneo de Naga University and Holy Rosary Minor Seminary, Naga City. Theme: Philosophy and Culture.

Hence we continue with our reflection not only on the expression or term, for being is not just a word, but on the essence of any reality.

While the other languages have their own expressions to connote this concept, "esse," "existence," "sein," "onto," we ask, is there an equivalent word in the Bicol language which we used to refer to being? This is not an endeavor to give equivalent terms to philosophical expressions in western philosophy. This is not to duplicate their lexicon. Each individual and group of people would have a concept, an idea of the real essence of things and reality and they do use words to express their concepts. Hence we Bikolanos have also a concept of that which is the essence of reality, of the essence of being, but the question is: what is that expression that succeeds in capturing our thought. Wilmer Joseph Tria proposes the Bikol term: yaon. Martin Heidegger proposed a term, that has been part of the western contemporary philosophy, an expression which is related to his understanding of being: the dasein.

 

 

Yaon

How do we express "I exist" in Bikol? The most immediate answer is "Ako buhay" (I am alive.) But according to Bikol thinking, to be alive means that one is not only found in a particular place or location and at a particular time, it means one is breathing, feeling, working and caring for other persons and things. But not everything that exists breaths, feels, cares and works, hence not everything that exists has life, so we cannot equate existence with life.

Another possible Bikol term which we can use to mean existence is "igwa," the equivalent of the Tagalog term "meron." But "igwa" means "to have," or "having" and to have does not mean to exist. Literally, it means to possess something, as when we say, "igwa ako nin libro," (I have a book) "Meron" or "igwa" may have some similarities with the German term "es gibt" which means "there is" in English. But "igwa" according to Tria, is not that profound to express existence.

Tria then proposes the Bikol term "yaon" (there). Why "yaon?" From Trias exposition, we can see three reasons or characters of yaon, that makes it the most appropriate Bikol term to express existence or being.

First, according to Tria, "yaon" has a universal character and application. Whether man or thing, physical or spiritual, could be said to be "yaon." So we say "yaon an tawo," (man is there or there is a man) "yaon an kalag," (there is the soul) "yaon an kuwarta" (there is money) "yaon an angel," (there is an angel) or "yaon an amigo" (the friend is there). We can even apply "yaon" to mental objects, like when we say, "yaon an magayon na ideya," (there is a beautiful idea) "yaon sa isip nin tawo," (its there in the mind of man).

Second, "yaon" just like "being" transcends time and place. It is not limited by time and place or distance. We can use "yaon" to refer to near or far objects, like when we say, "yaon dyan," (its there, relatively near) "yaon duman," (its there, far) "yaon digdi," (here), "yaon sa harong," (its in the house), "yaon sa abroad." We can also use "yaon" to refer to the present, past or future, like when we say "yaon ngonyan," (its here now), "yaon kaidto," (it washere before), "yaon pirmi," (its here or there always), "yaon sa aga," (it will be here or there tomorrow). This differentiates "yaon" from the term "uya," for the term "uya" cannot transcend location, it always connotes here. So we cannot say "uya duman." If we say "uya sa abroad" it means "here in abroad.

And third character is that it is used to put or give emphasis to existence or presence. While we can say "an agila nasa kadlagan," we can say "an agila yaon sa kadlagan," and this gives added emphasis to its presence or existence. While we can say "madyan ako," if we say "yaon ako dyan" that gives more emphasis on the persons presence.

But "yaon" or " being" has different degrees of perfection or manifestations. The "yaon" of a rock is different from the "yaon" of a dog and the "yaon" of bird is different from the "yaon" of a man and the "yaon" of a mere spectator is different from the "yaon" of a participant in an activity. Here we see that there are different manifestations of "yaon." From Trias exposition we see the following manifestations or perfection of "yaon"

The first manifestation of "yaon" is presence. Everything that exists is present, so we say "yaon dyan" "yaon duman," "yaon kan sarong aldaw" (it was here or ther the other day) and it could be anything that is present. But to be present or to exist has reason, so "yaon" is manifested in reason or "katuyohan" "Yaon has the connotation of reason, everything that exists or "yaon" has reason or cause for its existence, a " raison d etre" (may katoyuhan an pagkayaon) "Yaon an cemento tanganing gamiton sa paggibo nin harong." (The cement is there to be used in building a house) "Yaon ako para magtabang," (I am here to help).

The next manifestation of "yaon," is life (pagkabuhay). Life is a higher perfection of "yaon." The individual being is not only present he is alive. So the being of an animal and man is different from the being of an inanimate object. The "yaon" of a person is different from the "yaon" of a chair. It is more perfect to have life than just to be there. But one cannot have life if he does not have existence or if he is not there or here. If we are asked, "kumusta an saimong parok na ayam ?" (how is your pet dog?), we answer "yaon pa man, maray man, buhay pa." (its there, doing fine and still alive).

The next perfection of "yaon" is thought (pagisip). It is more perfect to think than just to live. So there is a difference between the "yaon" of a dog and the "yaon" of a man Man thinks,he does not just exist or lives. The dog exists and lives but does not think. But in order to think, one must exist and live. We say, "an tawo yaon, nagiisip," (man is there, he thinks.)

And the highest perfection of "yaon" is a meaningful existence or a valuable presence (also katuyohan) Meaning can be applied to an existing being who is conscious or has consciousness. Here we draw the line between reason and meaning, while every existing being has reason for its existence, only conscious beings can have meaning because meaning is related to value. And only man can attach value to things and to his own life and existence. Our existence can have meaning if we attach value to it. So we ask, "ngata ta yaon ka?" (why are you here?) what is being ask is not only the reason but more importantly the meaning of you being here, and the reason why one is here, is because he attaches some value to being here or being present. Physical objects, animals cannot have meaning, it is the conscious being, man, who gives meaning to their existence, in the same manner that man gives or discovers meaning of his life. So we say, "yaon ako sa kinaban tanganing mabuhay, tanganing utobon an sakuyang obligasyon, tanganing magtabang, tanganing makidumamay," (I am here in the world in order to live, in order to fulfill my obligations, in order to help and in order to sympathize).

Valuable presence then, is more perfect that thought, every man thinks but not every man knows the meaning of his existence or gives valuable meaning to his existence. Hence it is more important to be an active participant than just be a mere spectator, for when we participate we give more value to our existence. So we say "Yaon, alagad mayo," (he is there but absent) because we do not feel his presence.

Dasein

Let us focus now our attention to Dasein3. The central problem of Heideggerss Being and Time is the meaning of being. But according to this German philosopher, before we question the meaning of being, we have to inquire first about the questioner or the inquirer and that is the Dasein.4 But why the Dasein first? Because the Dasein takes ontical priority over other things because it is the only entity in the ontical level which has existenz ontologically; it can achieve an understanding of its ontological structures, it can achieve self-understanding and lastly, it can achieve an ontological understanding of all ontic structures of all other entities.5

The ability to have such an attitude towards oneself, understand oneself in regard to the possibilities of one being, is the distinctive mark of an entity characterized by existenz and existenz is exclusive to man. The Dasein is distinguished from all other entities by the fact that he builds up a certain relationship with himself. It is only Dasein who is conscious of itself, all other entities do not have consciousness of their existence.

But what is the Dasein? To catch sight of the Dasein, we have to bring to light the existentialia or existential, the basic structural determinations of the Dasein like understanding, disposition, forfeiture and speech. The existentialia pertain to the Dasein and they are distinguished from the categorical determinations of non-human entities.

One existential of Dasein is that the mode of being of each Dasein is a question of its own being, thus "my-owness" is a character of the Dasein. "Mineness belongs to any existent Dasein, and belongs to it as the condition which makes authenticity and inauthenticity possible."6 The distinctive character of the Dasein lies in its specific mode of being, that it can choose itself, it decides for its existence. Hence choice determines authenticity and inauthenticity of the existence of Dasein. There is authenticity when the Dasein, by its own choice attains itself and realizes its inmost possibilities. Inauthenticity is when the Dasein lets the choice be "pregiven" to it and exists in the mode dictated by others.

The term Dasein means "to-be-there" (being there). To-be-there-in-the-world is another existential that characterizes the Daseins structure. But according to Heidegger, the meaning of "being-in" is not "to-be-contained-in," it means being "familiar-with," it means that the Dasein is always outside, dwelling alongside with other entities.7 It comports itself concernfully within the world. Dasein is a concernful being alongside other entities. The other entities are simply "ready-at-hand or present-at-hand.

According to Heidegger, within the environing world, the world of our surrounding, within this world, we encounter entities which are closest to us, e.g. utensils, they form part of the world of Dasein. The being of entities in the world are phenomenologhically exhibited through our "dealing-in" and "dealing-with" of these entities.8 In our dealings, we encounter entities as "tools" in the wide sense of the Greek "pragmata." This "dealing" is not perceptual cognition, but manipulation and using. We cannot view utensils/tools in purely theoretical mode; we understand them not by observation, but in the course of handling them and using them.

The structures of entities are readiness-to-hand (Zuhandenheit) and presence-at-hand (Vohandenheit).9 The world for us is available - "ready-to-hand," this is our primordial relation to the world; the world with all the other entities are there as something to be used. The world is also made up of things independent of each other and they are "present-at-hand." This is our derived relation to the world; things as something that occur in the world.

The next existential that determines the structure of Dasein is Befindlichkeit10 which is translated by Macquarrie and Robinson as "state-of-mind" however another author Gelven11 stressed that the term is more akin to the phrase "the state in which one is to be found."

Gelven enumerated the purposes for the analysis of Befindlichkeit.12 First :. the analysis of state-of-mind as an existential of Dasein is aimed at showing that when Dasein becomes aware of itself in the world, it always does so to some extent influenced by the unalterability of facts, that no Dasein relates to the world without at least some awareness of the unavoidable influences of the way the world is. The Dasein knows that he is in the world and the world affects him. Second state-of-mind becomes an all-important factor even in such seemingly tranquil moments of human existence, even the dispassionate activity of scientific investigation. It cannot be reduced to a mere psychological account, it is part of Dasein existence. Third, Dasein's awareness of actual existence is due to Dasein's state-of-mind. And state-of-mind is the basis for the world mattering to Dasein. Hence the state in which the Dasein finds himself is basis why the world in important to him.

The state-of-mind is the mode of awareness of the actual, it "discloses" the actual state of Dasein in the world. But to be disclosed does not mean to be known as this sort of thing, but rather it discloses or reveals the fact that Dasein is in the world; hence it discloses Dasein's actuality.

The next existential is Verstehen. Verstehen is translated as "understanding."13 It is an existential which is equiprimoridial with Befindlichkeit. Verstehen informs the Dasein of its "possibilities." Understanding as an existential is an a priori and reveals the manner in which Dasein exists. It should not be interpreted only in terms of mind's cognitive activities. Understanding first reveals to Dasein its existence-structure, that the Dasein has in front of him different possibilities, and only through such revelation of such possibilities can Dasein use understanding in its cognitive function. Hence verstehen or understanding reveals to Dasein its mode of existence by making Dasein "able-to-be," by making Dasein aware of his possibilities (pontentiality-for-being). Through understanding the Dasein is aware of his "potentiality-for-being." Dasein's existence is a possibility stretching out before him. Dasein's pontentiality-for-being (or "to-be-able-to-be") is part of Dasein's mode of existence.

Thus, if state-of-mind is the mode of existence that reveals to Dasein its facticity and the mode through which the Dasein is aware of its givenness of the world and the throwness of Dasein, understanding is the mode of existence that reveals to Dasein its existence and through which Dasein is aware of its possibilities.

Next existential is projection, Entwurf, ("throwing forward"). By knowing its possibilities, the Dasein now can throw himself forward, hence the function of understanding is "projection" Understanding operates by projecting before Dasein its possibilities. Projection is itself an existential, to throw before Dasein its own possible ways of existing is an essential character of what Dasein is. Projecting ha noting to do with comporting oneself towards a plan that has been thought out, what is projected is the entire range of Dasein possibilities. And any Dasein has, as Dasein, already projected itself; as long as it is it is projecting.14 Projection is the existential function of understanding and it is primary function, the cognitive function is only secondary and based on this existential function.

 

Analysis and Conclusion

For Heidegger Dasein refers to a questioning entity or being and that is none other than man for there is no other entity who can question his existence except man. The Dasein is different from the other beings because of he has a different set of structures which Heidegger calls existentials.

It is helpful to note that Heidegger distinguishes between Being (Sein) and entity (Das Seiende.) Being is ontological and entity is ontical. Hence he also distinguishes two kinds of inquiry: the ontological and ontical.15 Ontological inquiry is about the meaning of Being and ontical inquiry is about entity. The terms that describes ontological investigation are called existentials and that of the ontical, categories. The Dasein is an entity, one of the das Seiendes, but it is the only entity who can inquire about the ontological, hence he is our window to the ontological or to the Being.

One existential of Dasein is being-there or to-be-there, which is connected or similar to our notion of "yaon." Yaon is the Bikol term that represents and signifies the essence of reality, the term that can be predicated to all things that exist. Hence to be or to exist is synonymous with the Bikol term yaon. Everything that is said to exist or "being," whether living or non-living, physical or spiritual, mental or actual, conscious or not conscious, is "yaon." A Dasein then is "yaon"

But Dasein is not just "yaon," for he is the entity that understand his existence and is conscious of his existence and the existence of other beings or entities. The Dasein is the being that is capable of questioning his existence and the existence of other entities, he is the only entity who can have authentic existence. So the Dasein is the only entity who can understand his "pagkayaon."

The term yaon is more encompassing in its connotation for it includes the Dasein. The Dasein is always "there" it is always "yaon," But the "yaon is not limited only to the Dasein, for it includes all the other entities, which Heidegger calls "das seindes."

MABALOS!

 

Endnotes:

1 The first essay on the concept of Yaon was written by Fr. Wilmer Joseph S. Tria, entitled, "Yaon: Sarong Pamimilosopiyang Bikolnon." in Jason William Lobel & Joseph Wilmer Tria. An Satuyang Tataramon: A Study of the Bikol Language. Naga City: Lobel & Tria Partnership, Co. 2000. This is the first essay in Bikol philosophy, written in the Bikol language and hence the first attempt to reflect about the essence of being according to the mind of the Bikolanos.

2 Martin Heidegger. Being and Time. trans. By John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson, New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1962, p. 1.

3 Literally means "being there."

4 Cf. Ibid., p. 27.

5 Cf. Ibid., pp 3235.

6 Ibid., p. 78.

7 Cf. Ibid., pp. 7980.

8 Ibid., p. 95.

9 Cf. Ibid., pp. 95102.

10 Ibid. pp. 172-173.

11 Michael Gelven. A Commentary on Heideggers Being and Time. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1970, p. 78.

12 Ibid., pp. 81-82.

13 Cf. Heidegger, pp. 182-188.

14 Ibid., p. 185.

15 Gelven, p. 19-20.

A paper read during the Philosophical Association of the Philippines, Inc., National Convention, April 3-6, 2002, Ateneo de Naga University and Holy Rosary Minor Seminary, Naga City, Philippines.

The Philosophical Association of the Philippines, Inc, is an association of philosophy professors and graduate students in the Philippines.

Philosophical Association of the Philippines, Inc.

Jacques Maritain (1882-1973)
maritain.jpg
French, Neo-Thomist philosopher and political thinker

Maritain was one of the principal exponents of Thomism in the twentieth century and an influential interpreter of the thought of St Thomas Aquinas