In this post, I am going to share the thesis proposal of my former student (thesis supervisee) Mr. Khalil Maranda on Hegel’s theory of recognition. Mr. Maranda graduated BA in Philosophy (Cum Laude) from Silliman University in March 2015. I hope that this post will help philosophy students who are writing their thesis as a final requirement for their degree, as it will serve as a model thesis for them.
Understanding the Filipino Farmers’ Struggle for Land Rights Recognition
in the Light of Hegel’s Theory of Recognition
BA Philosophy Student
Rationale of the Study
This proposed thesis aims to critically assess the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition in the light of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s theory of recognition. This is premised on the idea that this thesis may contribute in the attempt to emancipate the Filipino farmers from all forms of social control and domination. I argue that as the most marginalized social group in the Philippines that has been subjected to unceasing oppression by the forces of globalization, the least that they can do is struggle for the recognition of their civil liberties such as, ancestral domain, land rights, and livelihood.
The Filipino farmers have been instrumental to the development and survival of our country because as the most vital sector in our society, they feed the entire population. For this reason, they should be treated with utmost respect. However, what we see in reality is the opposite as they have been marginalized by the forces of globalization. In addition, the Philippines who is supposed to be their staunchest ally, has failed to protect their rights, especially in terms of land ownership. But despite all of this, the Filipino farmers continue to struggle for land rights recognition and other basic rights necessary for their survival. Orlan R. Ravanera, a famous opinion writer in SunStar Philippines, describes the situation of the Filipino farmers as “heartbreaking”. He writes:
APTLY called the “backbone” of the nation, yet, they have no strength as their daily life is characterized by so much inequity and social injustice. Yes, they do the back breaking job of farming and have aged beyond their years, yet, they have not profited from farming. They till the land not their own and if they do, they do not control the mode of production, more so, of marketing their products. They don’t even have seeds as these have to be bought from big agri-business corporations, and so are the fertilizers.
Indeed, as Ravanera shows, the Filipino farmers have been in agonizing condition. This is where Hegel’s theory of recognition comes in, which may provide a powerful theoretical foundation of the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition. His theory will enable this marginalized group to become cautious on their plight and it will demand them to move for justice. Thus, it can pave the way for their emancipation.
But in spite of the fact that there are various philosophers who have made a contribution in the field of recognition and freedom, such as, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Locke who all views freedom as something given from the moment we are born, in other words we possessed dignity, Hegel’s notion of freedom is that we are not free from birth and we need to struggle in order to attain it. In other words, for Hegel, freedom is a by-product of social and historical development. In relation to the Filipino farmers, Hegel’s concept of freedom is very much applicable given their situation of continuous struggle as a result of being marginalized and oppressed. This means that, in order for the Filipino farmers to be free they need to fight for their freedom. For this reason, Hegel proves to be appropriate and relevant in understanding the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition.
As an overview of what has been presented, a critical assessment of the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition in the light of Hegel’s theory of recognition is not only timely, but necessary inasmuch as this kind of critical assessment appears to be a sine qua non to any struggle for emancipation. This, again, is what this proposed thesis aims to contribute.
A number of philosophers in the past have introduced different brands of freedom and a theory of recognition that aim at full realization of the individual’s capacities. To begin with, Immanuel Kant formulates a notion of mutual respect that all persons ought to embody every other individual with an ethical measure. He sees the notion of “respect” as the function of a highest moral principle and the core of his understanding of the categorical imperative which mainly aims to treat every person only as end in himself/herself. It can be understood that Kant’s emphasis on the significance of recognition as a cornerstone in ethics. In his words, ”Moral quality of social relations cannot be measured only in terms of the fair and just distribution of material goods; rather, our notion of justice is also linked very closely to how, what subjects mutually recognize each other”. Hegel develops this Kantian notion of mutual respect which became the basis of his concept of recognition. As we can see later, this concept is divided into three areas in terms of its concrete instantiations, namely, family, civil society and state.
Another prominent political philosopher is Thomas Hobbes who thinks that ”human beings are dominated primarily by the need to attain increasing degree of respect and honor”. That is why in his famous book The Leviathan he argues that civil peace and social unity are best achieved by the establishment of a commonwealth through social contract. Hobbes’s ideal commonwealth is ruled by a sovereign power responsible for protecting the security of the commonwealth and granted absolute authority to ensure the common defense. In his introduction, Hobbes describes this commonwealth as an “artificial person” and as a body politic that mimics the human body. As Hobbes portrays, “the commonwealth is a gigantic human form built out of the bodies of its citizens and the sovereign as its head.”
Lastly, contrary to the social contract of Hobbles, Rousseau begins with the most famous words he ever wrote: “Men are born free, yet everywhere are in chains.” From this provocative opening, Rousseau goes on to describe the myriad ways in which the “chains” of civil society suppress the natural birthright of man to physical freedom. He states that the civil society does nothing to enforce the equality and individual liberty that were promised to man when he entered into that society. For Rousseau, the only legitimate political authority is the authority consented to by all the people, who have agreed to such government by entering into a social contract for the sake of their mutual preservation. This collective grouping of all people who by their consent enter into a civil society is called the sovereign, and this sovereign may be thought of, metaphorically at least, as an individual person with a unified will. This principle is important, for while actual individuals may naturally hold different opinions and wants according to their individual circumstances, the sovereign as a whole expresses the general will of all the people. Rousseau defines this general will as the collective need of all to provide for the common good of all.
Rousseau also says ”it was not human beings started striving for social esteem that they began to lose the calm self-certainty by means of their freedom, recognize each other as free beings”. As a result of the ideas of both Hobbes and Rousseau, we can imply Rousseau and Hobbes see the struggle for recognition as a danger to the personal authority and political formation.
In Hegel’s understanding, relations between acquisition of self-consciousness and inter-subjective recognition need some dynamic correlations to obtain the moral development of entire societies. The three levels of Hegel’s discipline which are increasingly demanding models of recognition that the inter-subjectivive conflicts reconcile between each of these three levels and a struggle that individuals command for the aims of gaining their identity claims affirmed. Therefore, Hegel anticipates that the transition from one sphere to the other is the reason of struggle for recognition. It has been noted that for Hegel, just like Kant, emphasized mutual respect and recognition as a basis for ethical measure. This is then developed by Hegel which he argues that the struggle for recognition is necessary in order to attain freedom which is in contrast with the idea of both Hobbes and Rousseau regarding the idea of “the leviathan” and “the sovereign” respectively, to which man enters and succumbs in order to have a common good.
At first glance, Hegel appears to be anachronistic. Hegel’s notion of freedom in his theory of recognition has been considered as a thing in the past. However, recent literature on Hegel shows that there is some kind of Hegel renaissance lately. For example, Larry Krasnoff in his book Introduction to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, introduces Hegel’s best known and most inﬂuential work by interpreting it as a uniﬁed argument for a single philosophical claim that human beings achieve their freedom through retrospective self-understanding. In clear, non-technical prose, Larry Krasnoff sets this claim in the context of the history of modern philosophy and shows how it is developed in the major sections of Hegel’s text. The result is an accessible and engaging guide to one of the most complex and important works of nineteenth-century philosophy.
His work indeed suggests that Hegel’s theory provided an argument which can be applied in order to understand the relationship of a subject to the other. It also provides an importance to the notion of freedom and recognition in the development of Hegel’s philosophy and on how it is significant to the academe.
Robert Pippin, on the other hand, in his formative work titled “Back to Hegel?” deals whether there is much left in contemporary society that provides any sort of material basis for Hegel’s aspirations about these potentially transformative and educative potentials of modern civil society. Pippin also added, “The chapter four of the Phenomenology of Spirit is notably one of the most important texts of Hegel, and it is one of the most influent in his Wirkungsgeschichte as well.” In recent years following to the new philosophical attention raised on Hegel, especially by the so called normative turn, this chapter has come again to the fore.
Indeed his claim not only suggests the importance of Hegelian philosophy in providing theoretical and critical assessment in the contemporary society but also the importance of his brand of recognition in understanding the Phenomenology.
Lastly, Alexandre Kojève, an exponent of French Hegelianism, interpreted Hegel in such a way that he considered the “struggle for recognition” as a crucial part within Hegel’s system, identifying this struggle with history itself. This means that his brand of recognition is important in order to understand his entire philosophy. He also points out that the past is marked with a continuous struggle and this is somehow relevant when we relate it to the continuous marginalization of the Filipino Farmers throughout history.
After presenting the distinctness of Hegel’s brand of recognition from other thinkers through an engagement with the works of the famous scholars on Hegel, let me now present some literature on Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition.
To start with, in an article of Thedora Tsentas entitled, “Foreign land grabbing leaves Filipino farmers with nothing”, she quotes Attorney Benjamin Ramos, director of a local farmer-support group in Kabankalan, on the Philippine island of Negros Occidental. According to him, “Land is not a commodity: you don’t just take it away from people and give them something else. It is not a win-win situation, as some have come to call it, and that Entrepreneurs are not able to understand the needs of the locals: no tenure security is given, nor security regarding income.” This emphasized how important the land is to the lives of Filipino farmers; however it has been said that there is only less amount of attention given to them for the reason that power and due recognition is mostly possessed by the capitalist and for the capitalist. The question now is what our government is doing to uphold and protect the rights of the Filipino farmers.
Secondly, according to an article by Joe Torres, a group of landless peasants has called on the Philippine government not to continue with its land reform program for the reason than it favours rich landholders and disenfranchise the poor. The program, in which plots of land larger than seven hectares were bought by the government and sold to landless farmers. Farmers claim however that the government has failed to distribute it, with vast tracts still unused. “It has never served its purpose,” Genalyn Avelino, a farmer from the province of Negros Occiental, said. “Instead of providing us with our land, [the program] paved the way for the rich to consolidate their landholdings.”
This means that the law whose purpose of protecting the rights of the farmers is not upholding its purpose; rather it is favoring those who are in power. Clearly, there is a failure on the part of the government in executing its laws and programs. Instead of being an agent of equality and justice, it has become a body for the elite. The question now is what can we do?
Lastly, according to Karen Liao on her article at rappler entitled, “Voices from the field: Farmers need more government assistance” she wrote that farmers and fishermen can be dependent and self-sufficient, and can adapt to changing environmental conditions. But this is less achievable without enough government support, whether through capitalization, financial and technological resources, and, most importantly, land leasing for farming. When asked what kind of support farmers would need, she quotes a statement from Rolando Merto, a local farmer of Quezon province, he said, “some forms of assistance can be fertilizers and seed supply,” but he hopes these will actually materialize. In the past, he said, “there were promises from local officials of distribution of tools to help farmers, but these were rarely, if not fulfilled at all.” He also believes he and his fellow farmers should not rely on dole-outs candidates give out during local elections. Without support for small-scale farmers who are also part of the country’s agricultural manpower, they could decline in number. Reports earlier this year suggested that the population of Filipino farmers is aging, and shrinking. Furthermore, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio Delos Reyes said that farming is one of the poorest sectors in the country, yet it has potential for the most immediate productivity in raising the poor’s output, as opportunities can also be found in small farm lands.
This gives us the insight that despite all the problems that the Filipino farmers are facing there is still an ample amount of hope if we want to save this dying specie. This is possible through the dutiful relief efforts of the government and the private sector through a genuine land reform program. To this end, a more equitable distribution and ownership of land, with due regard to the rights of landowners to just compensation and to the ecological needs of the nation, shall be undertaken to provide farmers and farmworkers with the opportunity to enhance their dignity and improve the quality of their lives through greater productivity of agricultural lands.
As we can see, the presentation above shows the distinctness of Hegel’s political and social philosophy from other thinkers, that there are scholars who conducted extensive studies on Hegel which clearly shows the timeliness and relevance of Hegel’s philosophy, and the conditions of the Filipino farmers in the contemporary society. These represent a glimpse of the importance and significance of Hegel in providing a theoretical insight to the problems of the society. To add to that, the presentation also provides a picture on the disheartening situation of the Filipino farmers in the present-day society and by appropriating Hegel’s theory of recognition, I believe that his philosophy may serve as a theoretical basis in the critical assessment of the struggle of their plight, and his notion of the struggle in attaining freedom is very much applicable in the emancipation of the Filipino farmers from being marginalized.
Statement of the Problem
This study critically engages Hegel’s theory of recognition and appropriates it to the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition. It will specifically address the following questions:
- What is Hegel’s theory of recognition?
- What is the condition of the Filipino farmers today, especially in terms of their struggle for land rights recognition?
- What is the relevance and implications of Hegel’s theory of recognition to the Filipino farmers struggle for Land rights?
Significance of the Study
The significance of this study rests on three crucial points: first, to the Filipino farmers in general; second, to the Philippine society; and lastly, to the enhancement of learning in the academic community.
Firstly, this study will contribute to any attempt to understand better the marginalized and oppressed Filipino farmers who continuously struggle for land rights recognition. In this way, the readers will be enlightened on these prevailing issues. Secondly, this humble undertaking will in some way contribute in the attempt of the Philippine government to implement appropriate policies on agrarian land issues that would benefit the Filipino farmers. And lastly, this study may greatly contribute in the enhancement of knowledge and learning for the people in the academic community. As members in the academe, a critical view on and approach to the issues concerning the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition, and even issues of power and domination, is indeed needed today. This study may also help readers and scholars alike to know Hegel’s very important theory of the struggle for recognition and its relevance to the contemporary Philippine society.
Scope and limitation
This study is about Hegel’s theory of recognition, found in his book Phenomenology of Spirit, and its relevance to the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition. It does not propose to provide the whole philosophical thought of Hegel; instead, it will only focus on his social and political philosophy and his dialectics which is mostly found in Chapter 4 of his Phenomenology. Other works of Hegel such as the Philosophy of Right and Philosophy of the Mind may provide some insights in the whole system of Hegel but this will not be dealt with as this thesis only focus in his social and political philosophy.
In making sense of the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition, I would make use of some famous and recent examples of peasant struggles in the Philippines, such as the Hacienda Luisita and the Sumilao, Bukidnon farmers. I understand that there are such struggles like the land-grabbing incident in Calamba, Laguna Province, and Hermosa Bataan Province where farmers also fought for their lands. They might be a good study to deal on, but my study will only focus on the Hacienda Luisita and the Sumilao, Bukidnon farmers.
This study will employ several methods of research. In the preliminary phase, I will make use of hermeneutic and descriptive method in presenting Hegel’s theory of recognition which is mostly found in Chapter 4 of his seminal work Phenomenology of Spirit. In the second phase, I will employ a historical-analytic method in analyzing and presenting the plight of the Filipino farmers. In doing so, I will make use of the cases of the Sumilao Bukidnon farmers and the Hacienda Luisita farmers as concrete examples of a struggle for land rights recognition in the Philippines.
The latter part of the thesis will then connect the two phases mentioned above, that is, to make sense of the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition through an appropriation of Hegel’s theory of recognition.
Organization of the Study
This thesis is structured in the following sequence:
In chapter one, I will be presenting the blue print of the thesis which is composed of the Rationale of the study, Theoretical Background, Significance of the study, Scope and limitations, Research methodology, Organization of the study and Definition of terms;
In chapter two, I will be discussing the elements of Hegel’s theory of recognition found in Chapter 4 of his famous book The Phenomenology of Spirit;
In chapter three, I will be presenting an exposition on the key issues of the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition. Part of this chapter is a presentation on the cases of the Sumilao, Bukidnon and the Hacienda Luisita farmers;
In chapter four, I will be providing a discussion on the application of Hegel’s theory of recognition to the Filipino farmers’ struggle for land rights recognition;
In chapter five, I will be presenting the summary, conclusion and recommendations of the study.
Definition of Terms
Consciousness and Self-Consciousness are two important and distinct terms in the Phenomenology. The first one is about the mind’s initial attempt to grasp the nature of a thing, which Hegel expounded that everyone possesses this kind of ability which made it is possible for us to arrive at a universal concept. On the other hand, self-consciousness dwells more on the individual about being aware of not just one’s consciousness but also the other. To put it in another way, one becomes aware of oneself by seeing oneself through the eyes of another. In this study, the later will be used.
Filipino farmers in this study are the majority group of farmers who belong to the lower class namely, landless, dependent, marginalized and oppressed. Although there are some Filipino farmers who have a good quality life, it is the concern of this study to dwell on the kind of farmers who are part of the first cluster.
Land rights in this thesis focuses on the Agrarian laws which normally every Filipino farmers possesses. Some of these rights are the ancestral domain, distribution of land as established in the CARP, legislation on conservation and sustainable use of crop genetic resources, etc. These land rights serve as the arbitrator between the Filipino farmers and their livelihood.
Recognition for Hegel is a dynamic process of the consciousness between the subject and the object. This idea is emphasized in his Phenomenology of Spirit specifically in Chapter 4 wherein it presented the master-slave dialectic. In this study, Hegel’s brand of recognition will be put to the test if it may contribute to the emancipation of the Filipino farmers.
Struggle in this study is attributed to the necessary actions that the Filipino farmers are executing in order to liberate themselves from injustice. This serves as their strongest and immediate weapon in order for their voices to be heard. Examples of struggle are rallying, petitioning, and even taking up arms.
For some helpful guides in writing philosophical research, see Jeffry Ocay, “Handout in Philosophical Research,” http://philonotes.com/index.php/2017/11/24/handouts-in-philosophical-research/
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 Wirkungsgeschichte is a german term that denotes how a text or scripture interpreted the readers. Markus Bockmuehl, “On Wirkungsgeschichte”, http://www.thesacredpage.com/2012/03/bockmuehl-on-wirkungsgeschichte.html. (accessed 14 November 2014).
 Robert Pippin, “Back to Hegel?”, http://www.mediationsjournal.org/articles/back-to-hegel. (accessed 28 October 2014).
 Patrick Riley, “Introduction to the reading of Alexandre Kojève”, ( Cornell University Press; 1st edition, 1980), 54.
 Theodora Tsentas, “Foreign land grabbing leaves Filipino farmers with nothing”, http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/545087/foreign_land_grabbing_leaves_filipino_farmers_with_nothing.html. (Accessed 8 November 2014).
 Joe Torres, “Filipinos are given land but can’t set foot on it”, http://www.ucanews.com/news/filipinos-are-given-land-but-cant-set-foot-on-it/68422, (accessed 14 November 2014).
 Karen Liao, “Voices from the Field: farmers need more gov’t assistance”, http://www.rappler.com/move-ph/issues/hunger/42700-farmers-government-assistance. (accessed 8 Novermber 2014).