Life Studies Blog (Old)

December 30, 2007

New Blog

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February 26, 2006

Theory of Web Evolution, Web 2.0, life studies as open source (by M)


I am now reading the book, A Theory of Web Evolution (Uwebu Shinkaron), Chikuma Shinsho, 2006, written in Japanese by Mochio Umeda. This book has just been published and is likely to become a bestseller. This is a really interesting book. I am going to write a book review for a local newspaper. Umeda, the author, is an engineer with a Ph.D., and the CEO of the Japanese web company, hatena. He has lived in Silicon Valley, USA, for these ten years.

He stresses that the revolution now being made by weblogs and Wikipedia as well as such company as Google and Amazon, will provide us with a completely different kind of cyber space, compared with that which the "old" style company, such as Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Intel, have shown us. The difference is that the former encourages us to create new webpages, information, and dynamic links using their open source technologies, and encourages us to go beyond the original models those companies have prepared beforehand. And after that, those companies tries to make profit out of us by monitoring users' activities and acquiring information about how the majority behave on the Internet. He thinks this is the core image of
Web 2.0, which is one of the hottest issues on the web today.

Umeda summarizes the three main features of Web 2.0 as follows:

1) First law: The understanding of the world from the viewpoint of "God"
2) Second law: A new economic sphere in which ones' automatic agents on the web make money automatically
3) Thrid law: Possibility of earning money from the accumulation of scattered very small profits (p.34)

However, in the latter half of the book, Umeda emphasizes that the most important feature of Web 2.0 is not that we can make money from it, but that we can cooperate to create a new world of dynamic knowledge and collective intelligence, just like Wikipedia, on the web volantarily and openly. This is the core philosophy of Web 2.0, and probably the most revolutionary contribution to our cyber society.

This could also be applied to our life studies project. Life studies should be a kind of open source, by using which every concerned person can create their own life studies in their real lives. Every life studies activity is different, but all of them are interconnected with each other. The same thing can be said about "philosophy of life." I am going to write about it here in the near future.

My intuition is that life studies or philosophy of life is similar to Web 2.0, because both of them aim to connect people, knowledge, wisdom, and activities in the way only developing living beings can fully execute. Hence for me, "2.0" means "life."

Photo: The entrance of
National Museum of Art, Osaka

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

February 18, 2006

Fundamental sense of security, disappearence of conviction of love (by M)


The paper, "Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security: A Philosophical Challenge in the Age of Human Biotechnology" has just been published in the web journal, Polylog. I discussed some philosophical problems raised by recent&future human biotechnology, and then I proposed four concepts, such as "problem of disempowerment", "fundamental sense of security", "disappearence of ", and "painless civilization."

This paper is a kind of a summary of my recent studies on life studies and bioethics, so if you are interested in Morioka's philosophy, I would recommend reading this paper first, then you can get an outline of my recent thoughts. Most topics in this paper have been discussed in my former Japanese books, such as
Painless Civilization and Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics, hence, by reading this paper you might be able to get a glimpse of the discussion in those Japanese books.

The following is the summary of the paper:

This paper discusses some philosophical problems lurking behind the issues of human biotechnology, particularly prenatal screening. Firstly, prenatal screening technology disempowers existing disabled people.

The second problem is that it systematically deprives us of the »fundamental sense of security.« This is a sense of security that allows us to believe that we will never be looked upon by anyone with such unspoken words as, »I wish you were never born« or »I wish you would disappear from the world.«

Thirdly, we argue that the loss of the fundamental sense of security is connected with the disappearance of »conviction of love« in the age of human biotechnology.

And finally, all these issues are examined from the viewpoint of »painless civilization.« Our society is filled with a variety of »preventive reduction of pain,« of which prenatal screening is a good example. By preventively reducing pain and suffering, we lose the chance to transform the basic structure of our way of thinking and being; as a result, we are deprived of opportunities to know precious truths indispensable to our meaningful life.

Hence, it is concluded that what is most needed is an academic research on »philosophy of life.« (
Web)

I believe the concepts of "fundamental sense of security" and "preventive reduction of pain" will probably become key terms when discussing philosophical problems that will be caused by high-tech medicine, such as "preinplantation genetic diagnosis" and "genetic enhancement." And I think these concepts will cover not only medical ethics but also the problem of, for example, a surveillance society that uses security cameras to prevent unforeseen crimes. Because contemporary society is deeply influenced by "painless civilization," we can find similar problems everywhere in our society. This is what I have repeatedly stressed in my papers and books.

In the conclusion section of this paper I talked about the importance of "philosophy of life." I am planning to start the "philosophy of life project" in a year or two with my colleagues. I am going to write an outline of the project soon on this blog.

Photo: The entrance of
National Museum of Art, Osaka

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

February 08, 2006

Neuroethics, Gazzaniga, Ethical Brain (by M)


I read Michael Gazzaniga's The Ethical Brain (2005) in Japanese translation, and I wrote a book review for a news agency, which will be published in newspapers later in this month. This is one of the first books that deal with the issues of "neuroethics." Neuroethics is a fairly new word, which was created in 2003 to discuss ethical problems raised by the observation and manipulation of the human brain by using drugs, silicon tips, fMRI, and other high-tech devices. Specialists predicate that in the future we will be able to see through a person's inner emotions and ideas from outside his/her brain, but isn't this violation of one's privacy? Or should it be acceptable in order to detect terrorists? What about the enhancement of memory and IQ of a child? It might be possible to do that by giving certain drugs to the child, or by operating certain parts of the child's brain.

It is disappointed that Gazzaniga does not fully discuss the above "neuroethical" questions. Most pages are about current topics on brain science and psychology, particularly topics of human cognition. But his discussion is interesting, especially the interpretation of data acquired from his experiments on patients with the split brain (The split brain has been one of the main topics of Gazzaniga's brain research). From his research, he concludes that the left hemisphere is the locus of the function of creating meaning. And he says that the frontal lobe is activated when buddhist monks are meditating, and the temporal lobe is activated when one is having a vivid religious experience, including out-of-body experiences. He suggests that the combination of these brain functions have helped create various forms of religions around the world.

Gazzaniga says that in a similar manner, our moral judgment might be able to be predicted by looking inside one's brain and detecting the activated areas of the brain. It is discovered that a certain area is activated when one makes a judgment on a certain moral question.

It is interesting to foresee how many areas of humanities will be replaced by future interdisciplinary brain sciences. In the near future, we will have to understand the brain function more and more in order to understand our inner activities. Probably psychology (including Freudian ones) will be merged into brain science sooner or later. Then, what about philosophy, ethics, and religious studies? There will be harsh debates over some fundamental concepts of philosophy and ethics between philosophers and brain scientists. (We can see some early examples even now.) I think one of the challenges of philosophy is to point out the theoretical limitation of brain science, that is to say, what brain science cannot understand theoretically.

Last year a research group on neuroethics was established by biologist Osamu Sakura, associate professor at the University of Tokyo. I have not attended their meetings yet, but this year I want to join their conference and see what they are discussing. Neuroethics is a really interesting topic, however, we have not fully known what we should discuss in the name of neuroethics. And I am curious to know what life studies can contribute to neuroethics.

<Related entry>

Photo: The entrance of
National Museum of Art, Osaka

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

February 03, 2006

Taste of whale meat (by M)


I have not posted for more than 10 days because I was busy writing papers last month.
I wrote about whale meat in the previous entry. Last week, I read an interesting article in the Kyodo news (
Kyodo, Jan 28 in Japanese). In Japan, whale meat acquired as the result of research whaling can be legally sold, however, the amount of the stock of whale meat has increased, doubles in these ten years. The reason is that while the total number of caught whales is increasing, the consumption does not increase in proportion.

Wikipedia writes as folows:

"In the postwar 1940s and 1950s, whale meat became a primary source of food and protein in Japan following the famines that came with World War II."

This coincide with my own experience in the 1950s and 60s. We loved to eat whale meat. I liked fried whale meat (tatsuta age). But it seems that recent Japanese prefer beef to whale meat. Our custom of eating whale meat will probably be decreasing and disappear someday. I miss the taste of whale, but it will be good news both for the Japanese and Greenpeace, and of course, whales.

Photo: "Life" supermarket, Osaka.

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

January 21, 2006

Whale in Thames, eating whale meat, and whaling (by M)


From yesterday the incident of a stray whale in the river Thames in London has been heavily reported live on BBC "world" news. Last week they reported the collision between a Japanese whale catcher boat and Greenpeace boats protesting whaling. It seems to me that the British people are very conscious and sensitive about the issue of whaling. From the BBC site:

"The 16-18ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale, which is usually found in deep sea waters, has been seen as far upstream as Chelsea. A rescue boat has been sent to protect the whale and rescuers have been trying to keep it away from the river banks."

By the way, Japan is one of the few countries that continue whale hunting in the name of "scientific research," and Greenpeace accuses the Japanese of selling and eating whale meat acquired from such scientific researches. I feel that Greenpeace may be right because we can eat whale meat at some restaurants in Tokyo or Osaka. It is reasonable to protect them if the number is decreasing.

What I can't understand is why the British (and people in other countries) are so enthusiastic about whales and dolphins. For example, they eat lamb (child sheep) and veal (child cow), but isn't it cruel to kill small child sheep and cows only to eat them? They might reply that it is ok because they are domesticated animals, but if so, it means to imply that if we succeed in domesticating whales it is also ok to eat whales.

Have you ever eaten whale meat? When I was a child, boys and girls of our age used to eat whale meat at school because it was the Japanese government's policy to feed children cheap whale meat to nourish them with abundant protein. Whale meat was delicious. Today, I don't eat the meat of whales, cows, pigs, or chickins. Do you eat beaf or poultry? What do you think about eating whale meat?

A researcher from Norway once said to me that every county has its own sacred animals. This is an interesting idea. In India cows are sacred animals. Whales and dolphins might be sacred animals in some countries. In some areas of Japan, deer are considered to be sacred animals (particularly at
Nara prefecture). Whales and dolphins are cute and intelligent, but of course, pigs, chickins, and deer are also cute and intelligent. Let me hear your ideas on this topic.

(Continues on the next post)

Photo: BBC WORLD

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

January 15, 2006

Sense of happiness and mood-brightening drug (Prozac etc) (by M)


The President's Council led by Leon Kass discusses the topic of "happy souls" in their report Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness (2003). This discussion constitutes, probably, the most significant part of this report. I am not sure who wrote this part. I presume that Kass himself wrote it, but other council members might have written or added something.

They talk about the drugs that can delete unpleasant memories, or can provide us with happy feelings. While the former drug has not been developed yet, the latter one already exists, namely, such "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)" as Prozac, Paxil, etc.
Concerning memory-blunting drugs, Report concludes:

To have only happy memories would be a blessing—and a curse. Nothing would trouble us, but we would be probably be shallow people... In the end, to have only happy memories is not to be happy in a truly human way. It is simply to be free of misery—an understandable desire given the many troubles of life, but a low aspiration for those who seek a truly human happiness. (p.234)

And concerning mood-brightening drugs, Report distinguishes "the sense of feeling of well-being" from "well-being itself," and then concludes that acquiring the former does not necessarily lead to the latter, because these two are completely different from each other. Report admits that this kind of drug sometimes give depressed people the power and courage to live & survive, however:

While such drugs often make things better—they often help individuals achieve some measure of the happiness they desire—taking such drugs may also leave many of the same individuals wondering whether their newfound happiness is fully their own—and in this sense, fully real. ... It is even more pertinent, and more disquieting, should one come to feel happy for no good reason at all, or happy even when there remains much in one's life to be truly unhappy about. (p.255)

I think they have succeeded in pointing out an important philosophical question, that is, "What is the difference between 'the sense of happiness' and 'happiness itself'?" And they seem to conclude that happiness itself needs the (long and winding) "process" through which we can finally reach the state of happiness where we can enjoy the sense of happiness. Intuitively, I believe their idea is right, but I am not satisfied with their explanation in their report.

What if someone says, "I don't need any process. What I need is the sense of happiness, and that's all. Period," then what Kass would reply to that person? Is his answer, "You are a shallow person"?

I don't mean to offend Kass and his colleagues. What I want to do is to think about this important philosophical question more deeply. We need "philosophy of life."

<Related entry>

Photo: A house near my apartment, Osaka

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

January 08, 2006

Eternity, immortality, and desire to live longer (by M)


Leon Kass talks about his philosophy of death and aging in his book, Life, Liberty and the Defence of Dignity (2002). He discusses the future possibility of progress in medical technology that may provide us with long life, for example, a longevity of 200 or 300 years or more. He asks whether such longevity, or immortality actually makes us happy, and he answers negatively. He writes as follows:

I aspire to speak truth to my desires by showing that the finitude of human life is a blessing for every human individual, whether he knows it or not. (p.264)

He urges us to think of an immortal being and says:

Moreover, such an immortal someone else, in my view, will be less well off than we mortals are now, thanks indeed to our mortality. (p.265)

And he seems to distinguish between "immortality on earth" and "eternity."

The decisive inference is clear: none of these longings can be answered by polonging earthly life. Not even an unlimited amount of "more of the same" will satisfy our deepest aspirations. ... Mere continuance will not buy fulfillment. Worse, its pursuit threatens -- already threatens -- human happiness by distracting us from the goals toward which our souls naturally point. (p.270)

It is clear that he discusses this topic from the perspective of the Judeo-Christian tradition, however, the core of what he wanted to say reaches my mind directly (though I am agnostic). I think one implication of his words is that we cannot acquire "eternity" in the pursuit of "immortality." Eternity cannot be acquired in an extension of an immortal life. This is one of the most important philosophical questions, I believe, that should be discussed in the field of bioethics or "philosophy of life" in the 21st century. Of course, I don't agree with his opinion about abortion and the value of the family, but nevertheless, I am still very attracted to Kass's philosophy on life and death.

At the same time, I am not satisfied with Kass's philosophy. He seems to underestimate our desire to become healthy and live longer if some existing medication or operation provides us with them. This kind of desire must be shared by Leon Kass himself. We have to think about the nature of this kind of desire and our contemporary social system that incessantly stimulates our desire to live longer, become healthy, and avoid pain & suffering as much as possible. This is exactly what I tried to do in my book
Painless Civlization. Kass's works should be complemented, I believe, with the perspective of painless civilization.

Related entries:
Kass and President's Council (1) ;
Kass and President's Council (2) ;
Bill McKibben' s Enough;
Jurgen Habermas

(Continues on the next entry...)

Photo: A building near my apartment, Osaka

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

January 04, 2006

Importance of philosophy of life (by M)


Happy New Year!! I spent most of the new year holidays writing a couple of papers in Japanese, but I have to write two more papers this month. Last month I read some books on genetic enhancement and its impact on future society and individuals. Reading them I have come to think that we need a new "philosophy of life," in which we are able to talk about "wisdom" and a "new way of thinking" relating to our own life, death, and humanity.

So this year I am going to talk about the importance of "philosophy of life" on this blog, and in other conferences, journals, etc. many times. And I will try to add more translations of my works with the help of my friends. (By the way, the translation of
Preface of The Insensitive Man was slightly revised).

Anyway, I hope there will be no more wars in the world this year.

Photo: New Year lights in Osaka.

What's New: Revision,
Preface of The Insensitive Man.

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

December 23, 2005

Domesticated animals and humans, painless civilization (by M)


It is really cold these days. I am shaking with cold even inside the room. By the way, the translation of the book, Painless Civilization, was resumed with the help of Kenny Gundle. Today, I uploaded the first part of the section 2 "Human Self-domestication." The self-domestication theory insists that humans started to domesticate themselves as soon as they started to domesticate wild animals. This insight forms one of the important grounds of my "painless civilization" theory. Contemporary humans are the descendant of people who began domesticating themselves several thousand years ago.

"Although perhaps a small detour, in order to fully understand the shape of this “painless civilization” I would like to consider the relationship between human beings and domesticated animals. The reason for this is that people in an intensive care unit, frankly, rather resemble cattle in the middle of a livestock factory. Imagine a row of chickens kept in small cages where the light and temperature are artificially controlled, an adequate amount of food is provided by means of a conveyor belt, and life becomes only a matter of earnestly eating and sleeping. Are not the same things humans do for livestock now being done for people? And isn’t this what we have come to call civilization?" (Painless Civilization, p.5.)

I have not been able to translate Painless Civilization for more than a year, but Kenny and I are going to translate and upload Chapter 1 little by little. I would like to say thank you to all those who have visited the page from time to time and sent us warm comments. Your support has encouraged me a lot.

Photo: Doutonbori, Osaka

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

December 15, 2005

Jürgen Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, Die Zukunft der menschlichen Nature (by M)


It is getting colder and colder in Japan. Today I read Die Zukunft der menschlichen Nature: Auf dem Weg zu einer Liberalen Eugenik?, 2001 (The Future of Human Nature) by Jürgen Habermas in Japanese translation. The Japanese translation was made directly from original German. The translated text is not so easy to read because the reader have to know the outline of Habermas's philosophy to date, but the content is very interesting, hence you can enjoy his description if you like philosophical books. (He is famous for his theory of communicative action.)

The subject of this book includes ethics of biomedical technology and liberal eugenics, which is similar to the topics of the report of US president's council on bioethics published in 2003 (See my comments on this report, Dec.6 and Nov.28). Habermas says that the manipulation of fertilized eggs might modify our self-recognition as a species, and as a result, the basis of the norm that is indispensable for social integration might be fundamentally destroyed. This creates a sense of "dizzy" that we feel when the foundation beneath our feet, which have been considered to be immovable, suddenly falls down. He also uses the word, "feeling of vomiting."

The most serious problem of genetic enhancement will be that the intention of the parent(s) inevitably sneaks into their child, and as a result, the child is deprived of exploring his/her own integrated life as the real subject of his/her life. This seems to be Habermas's tentative conclusion concerning this difficult problem.

Habermas's discussion looks similar to Leon Kass's report and books on bioethics. And their philosophy is different from American "liberal bioethics." I am very interested in how philosophers outside Euro-American area think about this topic. I have tried to think in a different way from liberal bioethics (See
Disability Movement and Inner Eugenic Thought, and other papers written in Japanese, and my Painless Civilization). Of course, we have a lot of liberal bioethicists and scientists in Japan, and frankly speaking, they may be the majority here. What about Korea and China, where the word "eugenic" does not necessarily have a negative nuance?

I think what is needed is "philosophy of life," and research on "philosophy of life" in various areas and countries, and to extract wisdom from philosophical discussion on life, death, and nature in contemporary society. I am going to talk about this in the future entry.

Anyway, it is interesting that Habermas, well-known European philosopher, criticized "liberal eugenics" in terms of his theory of communicative action. 20 years ago, I never imagined Habermas would talk about bioethics and gene manipulation in his book.

Photo: Doutonbori, Osaka

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

December 05, 2005

Retardation of aging, biotechnology, and fear of death (by M)


In the previous entry I talked about the book, Leon kass's (+President's Council on Bioethics) Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. In the United States, this book might be seen as propaganda from conservative right-wing ethicists backed up by Christian churches. However, in Japan, this book will be welcomed by various researchers and activists regardless of their own religious backgrounds, because in Japan, Christians account for not more than 1 % of the whole population.

In this book they discuss the retardation of aging as well as other topics. In the future it might become possible to delay the aging process by manipulating our genes or other chemical substances in our body. What if we can live more than 200 years, or a thousand years without serious illnesses? Futurologists and some bioethicists tend to think that there will be no problem to live longer with the help of advanced technology. But the authers of this book do not necessarily think so. Probably most people would choose to live longer with advanced technology and/or medication, but in exchange for it, they will have to face very difficult problems they have never anticipated.

Paradoxically, one of the big problems we have to tackle in such a society will be the growth of fear of death. For, their long life is supported by their intentional activities of delaying aging by using various technologies and medication, and as a result, they are forced to see their own death everyday in an indirect manner. In this sense, the life of people in such a society will be totally covered with the shadow of death, in other words, uneasiness, fear, and melancholy resulting from the fate of human existence. They also say that we will be segregated from the sense of nature, time, and maturation, without which we cannot live our lives meaningfully and deeply.

Of course this doesn't constitute a sufficient condition for *stopping* the progress of such technology. However, thinking about the negative aspects of such technology is very important. What is more important is to think deeply about the meaning of the progress and the fate of our civilization. This is what I have repeatedly stressed in this bog. (Related page:
Painless Civilization)

Anyway, I want to object to the idea that the progress of science automatically provide us with fulfilment and happiness, or the idea that those who object to the progress of science must be religious fundamentalists. We have to see both sides of technology and civilization.

I wanted to quote some sentences from the book, but I couldn't because I didn't have the original English edition yet.

(See this entry "Eternity, immortality, and desire to live longer" of Jan.8,2006)

Photo: Doutonbori, Osaka

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

November 27, 2005

Leon Kass, Beyond Therapy, President's Council (by M)


I read the Japanese translation of Leon kass's (+President's Council on Bioethics) Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness, and wrote a book review for a monthly magazine. This is a really interesting book. This report, probably deeply influenced by the philosophy of Leon Kass, casts doubt on some advanced medical technologies which seek to enhance the ability of a baby, extend longevity, or make people happier by medication.

This is a report of the President's Council on Bioethics. The President of the United States is George W. Bush. Hence, this report may be considered as the propaganda of American conservative bioethics. For instance, a reviewer at Amazon.com writes as follows:

This book is just Leon Kass's latest treatise on all the possible (but not necessarily probable) negative aspects of biological research and progress. Leon Kass was appointed by George W. Bush as his "Bioethics" committee board chairman - and Leon quickly filled the board with other right-wing christian fundamentalists. (
Amazon)

It might be interesting to broaden our horizons to see the situation in Japan. In Japan, conservative ideas about advanced medical technologies have been supported mainly by left-wing parties. On the contrary, conservative parties have supported the progress of science and technology relating to human life. For example, the Liberal Democratic Party, the biggest conservative party, supported the research on human ES cells and some human cloning technologies, and the Democratic party of Japan, the biggest opposition party, tried to restrict them as much as possible.

Hence, in Japan, it might be said that the role of "right-wing Christian fundamentalists" in the US has been played by left-wing bioethicists and politicians. This is a really interesting phenomenon. However, at the same time, (this may sound strange to US readers), concerning abortion, Japanese right-wing parties wish to restrict it, and Japanese left-wing parties try to protect women's right to abortion.

I suppose I am categorized as a left-wing bioethicist because I support women's right to abortin but I don't support the endless progress of biomedical technology. (Of course I don't think abortion is a "good" thing. See
my paper). This report doesn't talk about abortion. Instead they talk repeatedly about the preciousness of a limited human life and persuade us to accept our own life as an indispensable and irreplaceable gift. This is just what left-wing thinkers have said in Japan against the government policy to promote technology and industry concerning biotechnology and advanced medicine.

If US Christian bioethicists care little about our ideas about abortion, they will learn a lot from Japanese left-wing discussions on bioethics. And even some of left-wing discussions on abortion may be interesting because they can find a unique idea about human desire and evil (See the
above paper).

Anyway, this report might become a turning point in the history of US bioethics. I am a kind of left-wing thinker, and I oppose to President Bush's conservatism and foreign policy, but I do respect the authors who wrote this report.

I will talk about the content of this report in the next entry.

Photo: Doutonbori, Osaka

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

November 23, 2005

Two books on life, death and technology (by M)


I read two books in Japanese translation. The one is Margaret Lock's Encounters With Aging: Mythologies of Menopause in Japan and North America and the other is Leon kass (+President's Council on Bioethics) Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. Both books were very interesting.

I wrote book reviews of these books in a newspaper and a magazine.

I will write about them in the next entry.

Photo: A subway station, Osaka

* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

November 13, 2005

Kinsey, sexual science, and the emptiness after ejaculation (by M)


I have uploaded the translation of the remaining part of Section 1, Chapter 2 of The Insensitive Man. In this part I illustrated how sexual science and sex therapy have ignored the idea of post-ejaculatory emptiness. I think the cause of this neglect should be attributed to Alfred Kinsey. Kinsey realized through his extensive research that there were men who do not feel good after the ejaculation. However, in his book Sexual Behavior in the Human male, he ignored the psychological diversity of ejaculatory experiences.

Kinsey deliberately states that orgasm should not be mixed up with the “pleasure” resulting from orgasm. Furthermore, Kinsey clearly states that there are various degrees of sexual satisfaction, and that there are such cases where “there is little pleasure accompanying an ejaculation.” Kinsey had realized the existence of “male frigidity.” But, surprisingly enough, just after that he declares as follows:

"But we have no statistics on the frequencies of physiologic differences, or of the various degrees of satisfaction, and, in the present study, all cases of ejaculation have been taken as evidence of orgasm, without regard to the different levels at which the orgasms have occurred. "(Alfred C. Kinsey et al., Sexual behavior in the Human Male. 1948, pp.159-160.)


Kinsey ignored the psychological diversity he had realized. By this declaration, made by Alfred Kinsey, the father of contemporary sexual science, was created the formula that ejaculation equals orgasm equals the sexual climax. And then, the issue of “male frigidity” has since disappeared from the forefront of sexual science. (The Insensitive Man, p.42.)

I think Wilhelm Reich had clearly realized and stressed that some men feel emptiness or a sense of disgust after the ejaculation, but he was the exception. Kinsey himself refered to Reich in this book, but he did not follow Reich. Three months ago I saw the movie
Kinsey directed by Bill Condon. Although this was a second-rate movie, it was a really interesting film because it provides us with lots of information about Keinsey's personal life and the American society's responses to his sex research. I would recommend you if you are interested in sexual science and/or Alfred Kinsey himself.

The next part of Chapter 2 of The Insensitive Man deals with the sense that "something is gathering there," the sense of which most men know and most women (probably) do not.

Photo: Sakai Station, Osaka


* We moved to a new blog. Please visit: http://www.lifestudies.org/weblog/

November 02, 2005

John Mack at Kyoto and Boston (by M)

I happened to visit John mack' homepage and knew that he had been killed by a car on September 27, 2004. It was a little shocking to me because I was thinking of giving him the translation of my Painless Civilization when its first chapter is translated. Wikipedia says as follows:

John Edward Mack, M.D. (October 4, 1929 - Sep 27, 2004), professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, considered to be a leading authority on the spiritual or transformational affects of alleged alien encounter experiences. (...) The dominant theme of his life's work has been the exploration of how one's perceptions of the world affect one's relationships. He addressed this issue of "worldview" on the individual level in his early clinical explorations of dreams, nightmares and teen suicide, and in his biographical study of the life of British officer T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in biography in 1977.

I first met him probably in 1989 or 1990 at Kyoto. A year before I had met Arthur Kleinmen, professor at Harvard University, at Osaka. After going back to the US, Professor Kleinman introduced me to John Mack. Several months later John visited Japan. John and his wife Sally and I met at Kyoto. I forget what we talked about. The only thing I remember was that he was very interested in my research and he promised to meet me when I come to Boston in the future. In 1991, I went to stay at Wesleyan University, Connecticutt, USA, and visited Boston to meet John. John, Sally and I met at a restaurant in Hyatt Boston, had dinner, and visited his office in his research center. We talked about the meaning of death in modern society and some topics in philosophy. I was deeply impressed by the warmth of his personality.

After I came back to Japan we sometimes exchanged letters. In the mid-1990s I found him in Time magazine. He was introduced as a Harvard professor who believes in UFO abduction. He was saying that some kind of extraordinary things were happening in the US and around the world. I was shocked and wrote a letter to him. He soon wrote to me that he was researching abduction cases in terms of psychology. Some materials were attached to his mail. I couldn't figure out why he was so absorbed in this kind of topic. I thought what he was really interested in was the "psyhological process" and the "transformation of spirituality" of the people who insisted to have been abducted by aliens. This is, certainly, an interesting topic in the field of psychology.

In 1995 he divorced Sally. His new research topic might have been one of the causes of their divorce, but I didn't know anything about it because we haven't exchanged letters for these ten years.

Anyway, discussion with John at Kyoto and Boston encouraged me a lot. I wish I sent the translation of Painless Civilization to him and had a chat on contemporary psychological problems in painless society found in Japan and the US. Wiki says that his abduction research was a "philosophical treatise connecting the themes of spirituality and modern worldviews." And I would like to see Sally again someday.

May his soul rest in peace.

Photo: Lights on the ceiling


What's New: New translation was added to The Insensitive Man: Chapter 2 .

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October 20, 2005

Sempo Sugihara, the Japanese Schindler (by M)


October 11th, the TV drama, Visas for Six Thousand People's Lives: Sempo Sugihara, the Japanese Schindler, was aired on Yomiuri Television. The story was really moving. Sempo (Chiune Senpo) Sugihara was born in 1900 in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. In 1939, Sempo was sent to Lithuania as consul. One morning in 1940, Sempo and his family were surprised at a number of Jewish refugees gathering at the gate of the Japanese Embassy. They asked him to issue transit visas to pass through Japan because other countries refused to issue any visas to the Jews. Sempo wondered if he could issues visas, and asked the Japanese government, however, they firmly rejected Sempo's proposal. It became clear that issuing visas was contrary to the policy of the Japanese government, and that if he did he might lose his job as a diplomat. But, in front of the gate there were a number of Jewish people waiting for transit visas. They might lose their lives if they do not get visas.

After a few days of hesitation, he finally decided to issue transit visas to them. He started to issue a number of visas to the Jews, day and night, with the help of his secretary and his wife. Soon, the Russian police came to the Embassy and forced him to get out of the building. He and his family stayed at a hotel, and continued to issue visas. Many Jews gathered around the hotel. Then he was forced to get out of Lithuania. On the last day, on the platform in front of the train he still continued issuing. He wrote and wrote and wrote. The number of visas he wrote was more than 3 thousand, and almost 6 thousand Jewish people's lives were saved. He is said to have written more than 300 visas a day. Those Jews were called Sugihara Survivers today.

After the end of World War II, Sugihara was fired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was 47 years old (the same age as me...). He spent the rest of his life quietly at home doing some translation works. One day in 1969, a Jewish man who was saved by Sempo, came to meet him. This man had long been trying to find him, and finally found Sempo's house. They met, and Sempo knew for the first time the people he issued visas to were alive in Israel. In 1985, he was recognized as "Rightous among the nations" in Israel. He died next year peacefully.

Because Sempo kept silence after the war, his achievements had not been known to the Japanese, and the world audience, until recently. Probably, many people who watched this TV program got to know Senpo and what he did during the war for the first time. This was a really good TV drama.

I remember that in a bioethics meeting held in Tokyo in the early 1990s, Frank Leavitt, a philosopher from Israel, talked about Sempo Sugihara before his academic presentation. At that time I did not know anything about Sempo. Many Japanese audience would have been the same.

About Sempo Chiune Sugihara, visit
the article at Jewish Virtual Library. If you read Japanese Wiki will be helpful.

Photo: Kawachi ondo (Kawachi dance song) in Autumn festival, Osaka.

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October 15, 2005

Korean translation of The Insensitive Man from Random House JoonAng (by M)


I have been very busy in preparing for a new class in the fall semester. Yesterday, I received the Korean translation of The Insensitive Man (2005). The translated book was published from Random House JoongAng, on October 1st. The translation was made by Kim Hyojin, who is a Harvard graduate student majoring cultural anthropology. She wrote a detailed analysis and comment for this book, which is contained as a postscript of the translator. Thank you, Hyojin.

I am looking forward to hearing reactions from Korean readers.

By the way, I am now editing the English translation little by little. Please give me time to finish the rest of the first section of Chapter 2 of The Insensitive Man.

Photo: The cover of the Korean version of The Insensitive Man.

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October 04, 2005

Happiness in the age of advanced technology (by M)


Today I will write again about Bill McKibben's Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Times Books, April 2003. The previous post about this book will be found in the entry of Sep.26). McKibben talks about the enhancement of the IQ of children. Supporters of such technology say that even if it becomes available, parents still have the freedom to choose the enhancement, or not to choose, hence, no one's freedom will be violated.

McKibben objects to this idea. He stresses that some few people who starts to use this technology might have freedom of choice, but the majority of the followers will not be able to enjoy such freedom. For the followers, the enhancement of their children will become "compulsory." If the IQs of many children in your neighborhood are enhanced genetically, what do you feel when you give birth to your baby? Are you strong enough to refuse it? McKibben concludes that in the age of genetic enhancement, all we can do is "enhance" our own children.

Then, what happens to a genetically enhanced child? McKibben predicts that the child will lose " joy of life", or "the meaning of life", in exchange for some genetically enhanced abilities and long&healthy life. I believe his analysis is correct. I wrote the same thing in the book,
Painless Civilization, Chapter 1.

In his book, McKibben does not deny the progress of science and civilization. His point is that we have come to the stage, in the beginning of the 21st Century, for the first time, where we should say "Enough!" to the further progress of some advanced technologies, at least in highly industrialized societies such as the US and European countries. Bill McKibben is an ecologist, and he does not seem to be a Christian fundamentalist. The problem of happiness in the age of advanced technology cannot be solved solely by religion or politics.

Photo: Kawachi ondo (Kawachi dance song) in Autumn festival, Osaka

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September 26, 2005

Bill McKibben, Enough, genetic enhancement (by M)


Today I wrote another book review, a review of Bill McKibben's Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Times Books, April 2003). The book review will be delivered by the Kyodo Tsushin press agency to many local newspapers around Japan. This book was very interesting. This is my first time to read Bill McKibben's book. A reviewer on Amazon.com writes as follows:

"Unlike McKibben, who seems to view human beings as a fixed endowment (perhaps from a Creator), I think we can view ourselves as ever changing, ever evolving beings, constantly in the process of becoming. I welcome the excitement and prospect of our accelerated evolution. Yes, there are dangers ahead, so it is important to proceed with caution and full deliberation."

This is a shallow idea about technology and humanity. Mckibben's aim is to criticize the philosophy that lies behind this kind of thinking. Of course it is not so easy to criticize this "mainstream" ideology of contemporary scientific civilization, but some of Mckibben's arguments ought to be persuasive even to those who firmly believe in the progress of science and technology.

The main theme of the book is the "enhancement" of humans by the manipulation of human genes in fertilized eggs. It is not possible to manipulate human genes at present, but many scientists believe that it will become possible in the near future. That is to say, in the future we will be able to enhance our own children's IQ, physical abilities, looks, and so on, by manipulating the genes of the fertilized eggs of our child. Mckibben quotes various words of scholars who are saying that genetic enhancement is considered not only morally acceptable but also the necessary outcome of the progress of science.

Mckibben thinks that the introduction of enhanced abilities into children's genes will deprive them of the possibility of attaining their own happiness. People's happiness and deep fulfilment can only be achieved by going through suffering and limitations they experience in the voyage of life. Genetic enhancement gradually deprives us of happiness and human dignity. I think this is what Mckibben tried to stress in his book.

I believe what he wants to say is completely right, because I said the same thing in my book
Painless Civilization in a different way. Both Mckibben's book and mine were published in 2003, the same year. I am very pleased to know we share the same perspective on contemporary society and civilization.

After reading his book, I start to think that I will have to write a paper on genetic enhancement from the perspective of painless civilization in English. What do you think of this idea?

(Topic to be continued...)

Photo: Trash cans.

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