Encouraging ADDU Research in Academic Freedom

[Address:  2nd ADDU Celebrating of Research, Finster Hall, March 7, 2014]

It is truly a great joy for me to participate this evening in this university celebration of research.  Once again, I thank Ms. Bing Chan and the rest of the members and staff of the University Research Council (URC) for putting this celebration together.  And I would like to thank all of you for taking time our of your busy schedules to be here.  The facts, amply presented by the URC,  attest to the progress we have made:  39 completed URC-sponsored researches involving 101 members of the faculty, and 14 externally funded researches through the Tropical Institute of Climate Studies (TropICS), the Ateneo Institute of Anthropology (AIA), and the Social Research Training and Development Office (SRTDO).  We have warrant for celebration.  And we celebrate with joy.

Certainly, part of this celebration needs to be a sincere word of gratitude.  With you, I would like to thank the members of the Council for the dedication, thoroughness, patience and eros they constantly and consistently manifest in promoting and shepherding research in this university.  May I ask all the members and the staff of the URC to stand?  Let us salute them with a round of applause!

For my part, I would like to encourage you in your research.  I am happy that our basic education units have opened themselves seriously to the challenge of research, and that it has been discovered how research can complement their fundamental mission in basic education to deliver excellent age-appropriate basic education to our students.  I am also happy that on the tertiary level research is accepted as an integral part of our higher education mission.  It is a position in our self-definition and re-formulation of our vision-mission that you yourselves have co-authored and approved.  It is a position that finds itself embedded now in the rank and promotion scheme of the University that we are about to approve.  I sincerely hope that these attitudes, these resolves and these structures encourage us in our research.

Research Needs Courage

“Encourage us” because I am quite aware that research needs courage.  One needs courage to pull away from our comfort zones in teaching students who have normally not reached the levels of our knowledge, in order to venture into a world of research peers.  One needs courage to say:   from the particular perspective I now have, using the methodology of my discipline as I grasp it, as demanded by the particular situation in the community that the university confronts as I understand it, I have something of value to contribute to the world in truth.  One needs courage to move on the lonely road from an intention to do research to actually doing the reading and data gathering and analyzing and theorizing and writing and re-writing – sometimes with, sometimes without, and sometimes despite the critical remarks of colleagues – to the point where you are able to say, “For now, I have stated my case.  I am ready to hand this in.”  One needs courage to be willing to face the critical remarks but also the manifestations of appreciation that come with research well  done;  at bottom, even critical remarks from serious peers are manifestation of your recognition as a researcher and an encouragement to research further.  Research does need courage.

The Austrian transcendental philosopher, Emerich Coreth, who became a mentor to me doing my research on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx, was certainly one who encouraged me in my research, even as he was sensitive to my despair in confronting the volumes of primary and secondary sources for my study.  But even as he encouraged excellence, he also spoke of a different kind of courage that may be relevant for many of us.  “Man muß Mut zur Unvollkommheit haben!” he would tell me.  “One must have the courage to imperfection.”  One must have the insight that in this world, when the ideal must be brought from the sphere of clean clear and distinct concepts to the messy muddled disorderly sphere of the real, one must have the courage to let go of the ideal demands of perfection to accept the higher pressing demands of the real.  One must accept that sometimes the better is the enemy of the good, and that in our historical world it is better to be reconciled with the good rather than pine for the better which refuses to be had.  One needs courage to say, “I do not need to be perfect,” because if I do not find this courage I fall victim to what Søren Kierkegaard would call a despair of infinity.  And I grow old in academe thinking of all the perfect journal articles and books I could have written, but were never written, because I’d never found the courage to be imperfect.

Please excuse my references to my favorite philosophers.  These thinkers may be salutary partners in thought, but they are dangerous to your hair.  On the other hand, they may help you with your doctorates and your research!

Courage to disturb

I wish to encourage you in your research because many shall not wish to be bothered, derailed, or haunted in conscience by the results of your research.  Many may not wish to be deterred in their intended courses of action because of what you uncover.  Many would rather cling to the favorable spins of media apologists for the importance of humongous investments for the generation  of jobs in enterprises which justify collateral damage to the environment, or for the importance of cosmetic surgery on one’s midriff for self-esteem among peers in an aging bracket of society, or for the imperative of military interventions to protect the human rights of minorities within sovereign states.  Many would rather not stand for the truth they discover in research, preferring privacy to the glaring lights of the media, or security to the guns of goons trained against those who would blaspheme against the profit gods of endless consumption.  Research, and standing to the truth it unveils, needs courage.

I wish you courage because whether people like it or not truth is important, and research is about truth.  This is emphatically so in our Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino ADDU.  Research is not simply about publication in an international refereed journal, nor is it about extraneous financial perks, merit, and rank and promotion rewards such as may be offered in our shared effort to support a culture of research.  Ultimately, research is about truth, sought and pursued rigorously from the interior imperative of one’s self responding to given exigencies in one’s world.  It is integral to our identity as a university and consequent on our mission.  Today, the truth that we seek and towards which we are challenged as a university community is multifaceted, calling forth multi-disciplines, and consists of the following:

The Truth We Seek

The truth about human meaning.  In research, answer the question: What is the truth about human meaning?  What is the meaning of the lives we lead?  Answer it in a way that is convincing in a world that is marked by a globalization of superficiality.   Answer it in an increasingly hostile world that looks at religion not as a source of compassion, but as a source of wars, and rejects religious effervescence in favor of a staid world of science and ratioinality.  But account as well for the outcomes of science and rationalism on the human culture which shuts out transcendence and God in favor of a world of fast cars, celfons, laissez faire, air-conditioners, and coal fired power plants.

The truth about the common good.  At ADDU we have stressed the importance of giving attention to the common good as a demand of social justice and as a demand of ADDU sui generis leadership formation.  How are its demands to be articulated?  How are leaders to be developed for commitment to the call of the common good.  For research the field is still wide open for deeper discussion on how the common good might be arrived at from ethical and religious and secular perspectives, especially since argument which invoke the common good tends to be absolutist, irrational, and so prone to coercion and violence.  An invasion into the Crimea can be argued for in terms of the common good;  a counter invasion may be justified on the basis of international law which protects the common good.  The global war that ensues is warranted in terms of the common good – even if its effect may be the obliteration of the human race.  But as difficult as rational discourse about the common good may be, its proper place is in the university, especially in the Catholic and Jesuit university that is missioned to social justice.  We have much work to do in research on the relative claims of the economy and of the environment, of religion-based morality vs. secular ethics, of of value-neutral social empirical science and the imperative for building a just society.

The truth about culture and cultural transformation.  Pope Francis has spoken about the contradictions in our culture brought about by a global culture of unbridled consumerism, which divides the world into a group whose problems are symbolized in obesity, heart attacks, and boredom, and another group whose problems are starvation, homelessness, despair.  He has bluntly said No to a economy that excludes and No to an economy that worships money.  There is much agenda here for research, is there not?   Even as we encourage our School of Business and Governance and our School of Engineering and Architecture to partner with external industry to find ways of creating new wealth, we also speak about the equitable distribution of wealth.  How is that to come about really?  Even as we educate our students as Filipinos to be active and participative in the global world, how do we do this without alienating them from family and locally-honed values which may be rooted in indigenous cultures?  In the context of a leveling globalized western culture, how do we recognize and preserve our Filipino cultural heritage especially in its multiple expressions in Mindanao.

The truth about the God of Compassion who seems today to be calling different religions to dialogue within themselves and among one another to re-discover the compassion of God, his regard for human life, and his call for peace.  As we all know, this is especially urgent today as we move towards a Bangsamoro law.

The truth of the environment in a world of climate change.  What was an option yesterday has become an imperative today:  the protection and preservation of the environment.  Many however continue to live in the past.  For those who have begun to understand, many are afraid of the truth of a 500-hectare open-pit mine in Tampakan;   many are afraid of the truth of a 600 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Toril.  Many think that the quantities of water which once reliably drove the turbines of our hydroelectric plants in Mindanao will just come back no matter what destruction is wrought on our watersheds.  Here, research is urgent.

In all these areas, research which uncovers the truth must take on the prophetic role for articulating the truth.  Prophets, notoriously, were persecuted.  A great Prophet was crucified for telling the truth.

Our Privilege as a Catholic University

This is why in the joy of this celebration,  I wish to encourage you.  And pray with you for courage.  Truth is our responsibility, no matter the cost.  It is our duty in academic freedom.  Ex Corde Ecclesiae says it is our specific privilege as a Catholic university on the one hand to know the source of truth, Jesus Christ, and yet in this world to search for truth.  Research searches for truth.  Unabashedly.  It seeks understanding.  It demands understanding.  It asks:  where our Compassionate God has created a world so beneficently for all, why is there so much poverty and suffering? Why is there such disparity between the rich and the poor, the developed and the undeveloped, the included and the excluded?  Why do we live with so little regard for human love and dignity for all?  How can entrepreneurship and science help provide solutions to poverty?  How can we benefit from this world without annihilating it?  Jesus, our Truth, has said, “I have come to bring you joy, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 10:10).    Research dares to try to understand this.   “Joy.”  “Complete joy.”  Why is this not yet the case for us?  Why are there so many people we know who are sad?   How, as Pope Francis invites, might we return to the joy of the Gospel.  All of us.  “No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her,” Pope Francis insists, “since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord'” (EG 3).  No one is excluded:  not the Muslim, the Christian, the Catholic, the Lumad, the agnostic, the atheist, the materialist, particularly in Mindanao.  In research, with courage, we search for this truth.




About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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