Let me skip the Hegelian Speculation and the Aristotelian Reasoning. I am more interested in Speculative Logic or Logical Speculation as a tool for studying culture, considering culture as a reality where there are parts of it that are immaterial, abstract, and unobservable. I think we can still study a whole house even if we only see its front porch.
The latest news back home has been the ongoing public impeachment trial of the Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court. Every night since last week, I have kept my international radio on to listen to the probing questions of the senators composing the impeachment court, the accusations of the prosecution in their articles, and the brilliance of the defense in defending the Chief Justice. The defense lawyers' arguments are mostly technical and legally verbatim expressed to suppress the truth and save their client. "Objection, your honor, Sir" is their mantra.
Without technical arguments and convoluted legalities, it is clear to me that the Chief Justice is guilty of perjury, tax evasion, graft and corruption, and ill-gotten wealth. His only source of income is from the Supreme Court. He earns around ten thousand dollars a year but his cash, savings, and properties acquired while in the Court can reach as much as a million dollars. A Supreme Court ruling the Chief Justice himself penned years ago says that if income is not enough to explain assets and properties, there is a case of ill-gotten wealth and graft and corruption. His logic is speculative, and I find it cultural and interesting.
I grew up in a culture where proof is not always material but abstract and logical. If there are two people in the house without domestic animals, and an apple on the table suddenly vanishes, either of the two eats it. If I don't eat it, my brother does. This kind of reasoning is irrefutable in my culture. Denying it will only escalate into arguments and, worse, violence. We even have words for the denial. "Linlangin" is to fool, and "mata-matahon" is to make one blind. The second word is interesting as it suggests that knowing through reasoning is akin to seeing. To make one blind is more than an insult. It is a subtle way of expressing that one is an idiot.
My ageing parents still possess this speculative logic. They make reasons why I cannot visit them without asking me. Their reasons are always valid and true. Instead of thinking about my broken car, they thought of my busy job as the reason why I could not be with them. I could take a bus anytime. When I was a kid, they could tell I did not do my homework by just looking at the sweat on my brow and the mud on my slippers and without checking my notebooks. They knew I took a coin from my piggy bank because of the lollipop I licked. When my younger brother cried because someone ate his chocolate bar, I got the reprimand; my other brother had a toothache.
The question I want to explore here is whether we can use such reasoning in studying culture. In the absence of material evidence or objective observation, can we logically speculate? I am more in the affirmative on this one. When I saw shards of Ming vases and plates under the coconut tree in the rice field where I used to watch and count hopping minnows, I thought of China and early Chinese traders. The pieces of material evidence, to some who are quick to conclude, were enough to prove the link between China and my village. I thought otherwise. My grandmother was fond of Chinese ceramics and antiques. This shows that even an artifact that is material can lead someone to a faulty conclusion.
Again, in the absence of artifacts, historical records, and ethnography, can we speculate? How do we consider hoarding, for example, as a primitive economic activity of early gatherers? Unfortunately, we do not have any material evidence, visual or textual, regarding primitive hoarding. The early cave painters did not leave us a clue. Using Logical Speculation or Speculative Logic, I can reason out that the gatherers would hoard berries, for example, in a faraway field because they would not go there again until next season or gathering expedition. Hoarding, therefore, was part of their nomadic way of life. I can also add that they hoarded to have enough supply to distribute for exchange (a barter/trade with hunters, for example) or to keep for the group's food security. Ergo, hoarding helped them avoid intra-conflict since limited supply would mean fierce competition. My reasoning is speculative. Is my logic sound? I like to think so. Although the porch is not the house, what we can logically think of it will lead us to what can be inside.