By Dr. Rolando M. Gripaldo

[Filipino philosopher Claro R. Ceniza] tried to reconcile the Parmenidean denial and the Heraclitean affirmation of the reality of change. His philosophical views simply forget the colonial past and proceed with contemporary relities. He rendered obsolete that past and its hangover. Something like this view we find in the Bible: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18–19). In attempting to reconcile Parmenides and Heraclitus, Ceniza indeed is making a way in the desert.

Ceniza (2001) began by showing that we can derive the existence of contingent objects from the postulates of Parmenides that what is rational is real and what is real is rational (or what can be thought or spoken is possible and vice versa, and what is possible is and vice versa) and its negative corollary that what is nonrational is nonreal and what is nonreal is nonrational (or what cannot be thought or spoken is not possible and vice versa, and what cannot be thought or spoken is not and vice versa). In themselves, individually, the postulates and their respective corollaries do not contradict each other, but when applied to contingent phenomena, they involve a contradiction. For instance, it is a contradiction that “it is possible for things to be and for them not to be” at the same time. It is contradictory for me to have a million dollars in the bank and not to have them in the same bank. Being contradictories, it is apparent that contingent phenomena do not exist. But Ceniza argued their nonexistence does not mean they are completely obliterated, because we experience seemingly contingent objects like chairs, tables, trees, and the like. Conceptually, contingent phenomena as contradictories do not exist, but experientially, they do. How is that possible?

Ceniza first clarified the meaning of existence. “To exist” is “to stand out.” Contingent entities do not stand out; they subsist. If an object is not green, it does not mean it has no color, but the color green does not stand out or does not exist in the object. Red and green result in yellow but they are there subsistent in yellow. The colors of the rainbow are subsistent in white — the plenum or neutral state — which is the “balanced sum of all colors of the rainbow.” Numbers subsist in zero, the plenum (or sum total) of all positive and negative integers, as silence is the plenum of all noises. The other meaning of the phrase “to exist,” according to Ceniza, is “to make a difference” in the sense of affecting something or its surroundings. In a sense, the Parmenidean Being or universe is a plenum of which contingent entities subsist, and they exist or stand out only from the perspective of experiencing finite subjects or persons. Existence is, therefore, experiential, that is, either phenomenologically or empirically.

From the Parmenidean plenum, contingent entities exist or stand out because they are caused. There must be a “reason, cause or explanation for the things we experience.” If the ground is wet, it must have been caused by (1) rain, (2) flooding, (3) broken underground water pipe, (0) sprinkled water, or (5) waste water thrown on the ground. In (1), the wetness would cover a wide area including the roofs of houses; in (2) the wetness will be wide but will not include elevated grounds and roofs of houses; in (3) “the wetness would cover a relatively small area, with a center where the break in the pipe is located”; in (4) the area covered by wetness will even be smaller; and in (5) the covered area will be much smaller and the water might even be dirty. By examining the affected surroundings, we can determine the cause of the wetness.

Ceniza discussed a number of other issues such as the nature of the universe, the possibility of a Final Cause, the nature of the person, and the like, but for lack of space I will just enjoin the readers to read his book. In the final analysis, Ceniza’s reconciliation of the reality of the Being (“The One”) of Parmenides and the multiplicity of contingent changing entities of Heraclitus hinge on the notions of subsistence and existence which are both experiential (experienced by the subject phenomenologically or empirically).

Excerpted from Filipino Philosophy: A Western Tradition In An Eastern Setting

An Online Archive of Negrense Literature of the Buglas Writers Guild