Life Studies Blog (Old)

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 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. (

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

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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

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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

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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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