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Li and Filipino behavioural propriety

ABSTRACT

This paper takes behavioural propriety as the source of ritual or the ritualistic in indigenous philosophy in the Philippines. Filipino understanding of behavioural propriety is seen in what have been identified as elements or features of indigenous philosophy in the country. These features are stored in pre-hispanic era (pre-16th century CE) maxims or proverbs and myths. In this paper, I engage conception of behavioural propriety in Filipino philosophy with that in Confucian philosophy. In Confucian philosophy, it is “li” 禮 which relates to ritual. Li encompasses ritual propriety and behavioural propriety. It is originally about ritual or ceremony and, as understood in contemporary scholarship, it has the general meaning of proper conduct; it refers first and foremost to rules of proper conduct. In this paper, I address the question of what each understanding offers for the enrichment of the other. I suggest that importantly, Confucian understanding of li offers the view of behavioural propriety as having an ennobling function, and that Filipino understanding of behavioural propriety offers a perspective on the debate in Confucianism about whether it is ren 仁 or li that is more fundamental in Confucius’s thought. A point that appears to be present in the Filipino understanding is that propriety in behaviour cannot be separated from humaneness (ren). The point comes from the view in the proverbs that a person of ren is necessarily a person of li. Accordingly, the perspective which the Filipino understanding offers proposes the view that behavioural propriety is a necessary condition for humanity (ren).

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