‘Venerable Master’: With humanities under attack, continue pursuit of ‘true knowledge’

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Philosophy professor Alfredo Co receives the honorary professor title from Rector Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. Photo by Deejae S. Dumlao

PROFESSOR Emeritus Alfredo Co of the Faculty of Arts and Letters urged Thomasians to yearn for true knowledge, as he lamented society’s focus on impersonal digital technology at the expense of humanities and philosophy.

“I am disturbed that man is gradually abandoning the idea for the search of true knowledge, the good of human, and the beauty in human,” Co said as he accepted the rare Professor Emeritus title bestowed on him by the University on Thursday, March 9 at the Medicine Auditorium.

“I am disturbed that we are more preoccupied mostly of the here and now, the present, the tangible, pragmatic, convenient and experienced and lately, even in the virtual world brought by the age of new media.”

Despite this, Co said he believes mankind is still keen on learning through the liberal arts.

“I refuse to accept that mankind is tragically to stay in the darkness of the mind’s reason, eclipsed by the wrong values and indifferent with the pursuit of things that are true,” Co said.

Even in the age of artificial intelligence, technology and science, people will always find true solace in the learning provided by philosophy, he added.

“I still believe that only one day, mankind will bow before the order of the good and the beauty, and God will descend to bless these men for he is the personification of all that is known. He is the truth, the good and the beautiful all in one,” Co said.

Not the end of philosophy

Co, fondly called the “Venerable Master” by his students, expressed gratitude upon receiving the title and said he hoped it would not signal the end of philosophical studies in UST.

The recognition is also a tribute to UST philosophy professors of centuries past.

“I realized the award is a form of recognition and perhaps, a secret wish or maybe a profound dream of the Pontifical University that holds on the great tradition of pioneers, founding fathers that brought the eastern and European traditions for a great respect for humanistic philosophical learners,” Co said.

Co admitted he was perplexed at being the first philosophy professor to be conferred the title Professor Emeritus.

“Why this first award to a most beleaguered discipline for over 406 years of the University? I am not the first one to walk in the philosophical corridors of this university. There are several great minds that graced this venerable institution,” he said.

Mentor of ‘novice’ philosophers

Artlets Dean Michael Anthony Vasco said Co’s way of teaching philosophy paved the way for philosophy students and teachers to engage in a dialogue between philosophical and cultural traditions.

“He avoids philosophical triumphalism. Instead, his critiques and interpretations may open further philosophical inquiries if not a philosophical revolution. These are the trademarks of Dr. Co’s brand of scholarship,” he said.

Vasco also praised Co’s loyalty that influenced other philosophy teachers to stay in UST.

“Despite attractive offers from other prestigious universities here and abroad that have lured some faculty members in the past, he stayed in UST and guarded the fortress of philosophy,” he said. “Such heroic acts inspired generations of philosophy teachers to stay and remain loyal to the Pontifical institution,” he said.

Rector Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P., Secretary General Jesus Miranda, O.P., Vice Rector for Academic Affairs Clarita Carillo and Artlets Regent Fr. Rodel Aligan, O.P., were present during the solemn investiture.

The 67-year-old professor, who taught in the University for 40 years, served as chairman of the UST Department of Philosophy from 2010 to 2011 and the Department of Social Sciences from 2000 to 2001.

He finished his doctorate in philosophy in UST in 1976. He obtained his post-doctorate degrees in classical Chinese philosophy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and comparative philosophy at the Université de Paris III and Université de Paris IV.

In 2010, Co was awarded the seven-volume “festschrift” by UST as a testament to his scholarship and passion for the study of philosophy.

Co joins the roster of UST Professor Emeriti, which includes scientist Fortunato Sevilla III and the late literature professor Milagros Tanlayco.

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