Philosophical study of life, death, and nature


Summer, seaside


Last Updated
July 15, 2015



About this Site was established in 1999 to promote discussion on life studies, philosophy of life, environmental ethics, bioethics, gender studies, and criticism of contemporary civilization. This site contains papers, essays, and other materials written by Masahiro Morioka and other authors.

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Masahiro Morioka, the administrator, is a professor of philosophy and ethics at Waseda University , and the editor-in-chief of Journal of Philosophy of Life .

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Life Studies and Philosophy of Life

The administrator's main research fields are "life studies" and "philosophy of life." Life studies is an attempt to acquire the intellectual capacity, wisdom and systematically organized knowledge from a variety of disciplines needed to live our limited lives without regret. Philosophy of life is an academic discipline that deals with philosophical issues surrounding life, death, and nature.

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Papers and Essays

List of papers and essays
You can read Morioka's papers and essays published in English.

> Recently Uploaded Texts

Feminism, Disability, and Brain Death: Alternative Voices from Japanese Bioethics (2015)
In this paper, the ideas of “the swaying of the confused self” in the field of feminism, “inner eugenic thought” concerning disability, and “human relationship-oriented approaches to brain death” that appeared in Japanese bioethics are discussed.

Why Beyond Bioethics?: The Reaction of a Japanese Philosopher to American Bioethics (2015)
-- New Perspectives in Japanese Bioethics, pp.73-86. (You can read some parts of the paper on Google Books. The full paper will be uploaded to soon.)

A Phenomenological Study of “Herbivore Men” (2013)
"Herbivore men" is a term that became a buzzword in Japan in 2008-2009. It refers to gentle young men who are not very assertive in love and sex. This paper illustrates the outline of this phenomenon from the viepoint of gender studies.

How a Japanese Philosopher Encountered Bioethics (2013)
I will illustrate how a Japanese philosopher reacted to a newly imported discipline, “bioethics,” in the 1980s and then tried to create an alternative way of looking at “life” in the field of philosophy. This essay might serve as an interesting case study in which a contemporary “western” way of thinking succeeded in capturing, but finally failed to persuade, a then-young Japanese researcher’s mind.

Why is It Hard for Us to Accept Moral Bioenhancement?: Comment on Savulescu’s Argument (2013)
This paper criticizes Julian Savulescu and his colleagues’ argument on moral bioenhancement. Our personality ought to be constructed upon our inner foundation, which should not be tampered with by outside intervention or control, and I dare say this belief is a healthy one that should not be overturned.

Human Dignity and the Manipulation of the Sense of Happiness: From the Viewpoint of Bioethics and Philosophy of Life (2012)
A life with dignity means a life in which we are able to explore our own life, equipped with both happiness and unhappiness, without regret, through relationships with others, without being exploited by the desires of anyone, and without being dominated by our own desires.

Natural Right to Grow and Die in the Form of Wholeness: A Philosophical Interpretation of the Ontological Status of Brain-dead Children (2011)
Growing human beings have the right to grow in the form of wholeness, and dying human beings also have the right to die in the form of wholeness; in other words, they have the right to be protected from outside invasion, unless they have declared their wish to abandon that right beforehand.
I call this the principle of wholeness.

Narrative Responsibility and Moral Dilemma: A Case Study of a Family's Decision About a Brain-dead Daughter (2011)
An analysis of the responsibility that drives us to tell, retell, and coauthor the (often unfinished) narratives of loved ones. First author: Takanobu Kinjo.


The Review of Life Studies
A collection of articles written by Masahiro Morioka and his friends.




List of books (20 books)
Selected chapters of some of Morioka's books in English.

> Recent Books

The Cartoon Introduction to Philosophy (2013, in Japanese)



Confessions of a Frigid Man: Miniskirts, Lolicon, and Male Sexuality (2005,2013 An English translation is now available)

A fascinating book on male sexuality, especially men's sexual frigidity, their rejection of their own bodies, and their attraction to young girls in their early teens and school uniforms. This book has provoked a variety of emotional reactions from readers, scholars, and the mass media. One of the most important books in Japanese men's studies.


The 33rd Stone: A Philosophy for a wounded age (2009, in Japanese)

A collection of essays on suicide, restorative justice, religion, nationalism, sexuality, etc. that present a discussion of pain and hope in our wounded society. The title comes from the chapter on the 2007 incident at Virginia Tech. A good introduction to Morioka's thought.



Audio/Video Recordings

Brain Death, the Concept of ‘Persona,’ and the Principle of Wholeness
At the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, Michigan State University, September 28, 2012.




Journal of Philosophy of Life
A peer-reviewed academic journal specializing in the philosophy of life, death, and nature, published by the Research Institute for Contemporary Philosophy of Life.



Blog, Twitter, Facebook

Life Studies Blog

Facebook - Masahiro Morioka

twitter - masa_morioka







Special Reports

Special Report: No.1
Brain Death and Transplantation in Japan

Special Report: No.2
Japanese Responses to the World Trade Center Attack

Special Report: No.3
Bioethics around the World

Special Report: No.4
Herbivore Men



Other pages

Japanese website
Japanese version of LIFESTUDIES.ORG.

French website
French version of LIFESTUDIES.ORG.

Life Studies Press
A private publisher founded by the administrator.

List of websites made more than 5 years ago.

Older pages


From a reacently uploaded article

. . . My basic idea was that growing human beings have the right to grow in the form of wholeness, and dying human beings also have the right to die in the form of wholeness; in other words, they have the right to be protected from outside invasion, unless they have declared their wish to abandon that right beforehand. I called this the principle of wholeness.

In contemporary bioethics, living human beings have the right to be protected from outside invasion, but dead human beings do not necessarily have such a right, hence it is possible, in many countries, to remove organs from brain-dead persons even when they have not declared their wish for organ donation. In this context the decisive line is drawn between being “dead” and “alive.” In contrast, the principle of wholeness requires us to protect growing or dying human beings from outside invasion, whether they are dead or alive. This is to say, regardless of being “dead” or “alive,” human beings in the process of growing or dying ought to be equally protected from outside invasion unless they have wished otherwise. This means that in our theory the determination of death or the determination of the stage at which a human embryo becomes an independent human being does not play a decisive role in the context of the justification of outside invasion. This is one of the important implications of the principle of wholeness in bioethics.

The principle of wholeness insists that the bodies of growing humans or dying humans are holy beings, and they should be considered inviolable. This is a very strong proposition, which is comparable to the concept of unalienable rights found, for example, in US Declaration of Independence. The modern version of unalienable rights was first introduced by Thomas Hobbes, in the name of “right of nature,” and then developed by John Locke and others. I would like to take a brief look at their arguments and reconsider the principle of wholeness from the viewpoint of modern natural rights theories.

Hobbes writes in Leviathan:

The right of nature, which writers commonly call jus naturale, is the liberty each man hath to use his own power as he will himself for the preservation of his own nature; that is to say, of his own life; and consequently, of doing anything which, in his own judgement and reason, he shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto (Leviathan Ch.14).

He says the right of nature means the liberty we have for the preservation of our own life, and this liberty is exercised by our own judgment and reason. And this right includes the right to defend ourselves. We cannot lay down the right of resisting people who are aiming to take away our life. Hobbes regards the right of defending our own life as an inviolable fundamental right in the natural condition. And in his theory, it seems that only living persons who have the ability of judgment and reasoning are entitled to have the right of nature.

John Locke writes in Two Treatises of Government:

Whether we consider natural reason, which tells us, that men, being once born, have a right to their preservation, and consequently to meat and drink, and such other things as nature affords for their subsistence. … (Two Treatises of Government, Book II, Chapter 5, Section 25)

Locke regards the right to preservation as a fundamental natural right, that is, something which is given unconditionally to everyone when we are born. And people have power (or a right) to preserve their lives against “the injuries and attempts of other men.” (Chapter 7, Section 87)

Both Hobbes and Locke stress that people have a natural right to preserve their lives against violation or invasion from other people. The problem is that they seem to think that this right of preservation is given to rational adults, not babies or brain-dead persons. Lock, referring to the status of children, argues that parents “have a sort of rule and jurisdiction over them” (Chapter 6, Section 55) because children do not have understanding. Hence, parents must govern their children, and make a decision on their behalf. However, it is not still clear whether parents have a right to allow other people to invade the bodies of their children when they become brain-dead.

Anyway, we have to keep in mind that in the age of Hobbes and Locke, there were not brain-dead patients in a hospital or fertilized eggs in a clinic. Lives were given to human beings when they were born from their mothers, and they lost lives when they were deceased or killed to become cold dead bodies. The situation surrounding human life and death was completely different from our age. We have to keep in mind also that while in their age almost no value can be found in dead bodies, in our age dead bodies came to possess much value, that is to say, they can be used as a resource for transplantation, and their tissues are utilized to create materials originating from human bodies for medical operations. In order to protect peripheral human lives, such as brain-dead patients and fertilized eggs, from the desires of outside people, we have to think a little differently from Hobbes or Locke, and try to figure out what kind of natural right is to be ascribed to such peripheral human beings. What is needed is to create a new way of thinking about the irreplaceable value of silent and vulnerable human beings in the age of science and technology.

Natural right is inviolable right, which is given to all human beings when they are born. According to contemporary knowledge, a biological human being is born when a fertilized egg comes into being. Hence, we have to think that a natural right to grow in the form of wholeness is given to a fertilized egg when it comes into being. A dying human being also has a right to die in the form of wholeness, whether their brain is dead or alive, until all the activities of bodily cells stop functioning, because their each and every active bodily cell, which constitutes the integral function of the dying body, comes from the cells of a single fertilized egg to which a natural right to grow in the form of wholeness was given when it came into being. Just as the total sum of activities of living cells of a fertilized egg constitutes the wholeness of the egg, the total sum of activities of living cells of a dying person (including a brain-dead person) is also considered to constitute the wholeness of the person that should be protected from outside invasion. It is a known medical fact that the body of a long-term brain-dead patient maintains a kind of biological integrity without brain function.

In my opinion, natural rights have to be extended to include the right to grow and die in the form of wholeness in the age of scientific civilization, where peripheral human lives are being threatened by aggressive biomedicine and other advanced technologies. This is what I have learned from the debate regarding brain death and organ transplantation over the past 25 years in Japan.

- Natural Right to Grow and Die in the Form of Wholeness
: A Philosophical Interpretation of the Ontological Status of Brain-dead Children