Lifestudies.org

Philosophical study of life, death, and nature

Home > This page

 

 

Back to home

About this site

Philosophy of Life, and Life Studies

 

Table of Contents

1. What is philosphy of life ?

2. What is life studies?

3. What is a painless civilization ?

*Written by Masahiro Morioka.

 

1. What is philosophy of life?

1. Introduction

Academic bioethics and environmental ethics were imported from the United States and Europe to Japan in the 1980s. At that time I was a graduate student. I started studying the English literature on those disciplines, but I soon developed a huge frustration with them.

The first reason for this was that bioethics at that time lacked deep philosophical investigations on the concept of life and the concept of death, and without having undertaken such investigations they were trying to figure out sound guidelines on difficult ethical issues surrounding advanced medicine. Of course, consensus building is very important, but it seemed to me that pursuing consensus without a deep philosophical understanding of life and death was senseless and fruitless.

For example, in the 1970s and 80s there was a worldwide debate on whether or not brain death is human death, and many advanced nations concluded that a human being that has lost the integrated function of the whole body should be considered dead, and that when the function of the whole brain is irreversibly lost the integrated function of the human being should be considered to disappear permanently. However, in the debate about brain death, the fundamental question of “what is death?” has rarely been investigated from a philosophical point of view. Philosophically speaking, the reason that a human being that has irreversibly lost the function of the whole brain should be considered dead is not so crystal clear. It should also be noted that this question was heavily discussed in the Japanese debate on brain death in the 1980s and 90s.

The second reason for my frustration derived from the fact that bioethics in the 1980s was established in the disciplines of medicine and biotechnology even though the term “bioethics” had been first defined by V. R. Potter in 1970 as the science of survival in the age of global environmental crisis. At its inception, therefore, bioethics was conceived as a kind of “environmental ethics”, and this aspect was stripped away from the concept of bioethics later in the 1980s. I was frustrated because I had the intuition that our moral attitude toward human life should be deeply connected with our moral attitude toward nature and the environment. I believed that bioethics and environmental ethics should never be separated from each other.

On the other hand, I cannot help having a strange feeling when I turn my eyes to the discipline of contemporary philosophy; that is to say, while we have “philosophy of language,” “philosophy of religion,” “philosophy of law”, and so on, we do not have “philosophy of life” as an independent philosophical discipline. This is a very strange phenomenon. Of course we have “philosophie de la vie” and “Lebensphilosophie,” but these terms only mean a series of philosophical theories that appeared in 19th and 20th century Europe, for example, those of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson, and other philosophers. It is clear beyond doubt that philosophies motivated by a keen interest in the phenomenon and concept of life had appeared in the age of ancient Greece, and other parts of the ancient world such as India and China. In Japan, we have many philosophers who contemplated the philosophy of life from the 9th century to the modern period. We have to broaden our eyes to include different traditions, continents and centuries when talking about the philosophy of life.

2. Image of Life

In the late 1980s, I conducted a questionnaire study on the image of life in contemporary Japan. I asked ordinary people and children to write freely about what kind of image they would have when hearing the word “life” (“inochi” in Japanese). I collected more than 1,000 responses from them. In 1991, I published the paper “The Concept of Inochi”, which was republished under the title “The Concept of Life in Contemporary Japan” in 2012 (1). While there were many books on Japanese view of life, what was discussed in those books was the views of life held by famous scholars or religious figures in the past. I could not discover any ideas of life currently held among ordinary people just by reading such books. This was the main reason I conducted the above questionnaire research.

I will show you an example of the image of life found among ordinary citizens. The following is the response from a female Christian in her 30s.

…. I feel that life means something which embraces one’s whole life, one’s mind, one’s way of life, love, and whole human existence. And I think one’s life is something that is entirely given. I think life is irreplaceable because we cannot get it at all by our own will, nor with effort, nor with money…. If my life is irreplaceable, then others’ life must be the same. Others’ lives are connected to mine, and all these are in the stream of a large life. Life is, on the one hand, each individual being, unique and irreplaceable. On the other hand, however, it is one large life of the whole human race.… Aren’t such formless reminders of a deceased person, such as influence, impression, his/her way of life, thought, and religious belief a part of life? In this sense, I think lives could be taken over, be connected, and meet each other beyond space and time. (2)

She says she is Christian, but I do not find any special Christian ideas on life in her response. This is a very well written image of life that is frequently expressed by ordinary Japanese people, and I suppose many people in the world would be able to share her view of life. This might show that the basic views of life are shared by people in various cultures and traditions around the world. The difference is in the way they express their ideas.

By analyzing their responses, I found two key terms: “irreplaceability” and “interrelatedness.” Many respondents use these two words dialectically when thinking about life. I made the hypothesis that there is a metaphysical position among people that “Life is irreplaceable because it is interrelated. Life is interrelated because it is irreplaceable.” I called this “the metaphysical structure of life.”

Another interesting thing found in the replies is that many respondents were thinking about life in connection with nature and the environment. They talked about the life and death of a human being against the backdrop of nature: the rising sun, flowing rivers, singing birds, and breathing wind. They seemed to think that human life and nature are closely connected on a deeper level.

3. Proposal of “Philosophy of Life” as a Philosophical Discipline

I gradually began to think that “philosophy of life” should be a discipline of academic philosophy. In today’s academic philosophy, we have “philosophy of biology,” which deals with creatures’ biological phenomena, “philosophy of death,” which concentrates on the concept of human death, and “philosophy of meaning of life,” which investigates difficult problems concerning the meaning of life and living. However, we do not have “philosophy of life,” which deals with philosophical problems concerning human life and the life of non-human creatures. Hence, I proposed to establish “philosophy of life” as an academic discipline, and started publishing a peer-reviewed open access journal entitled Journal of Philosophy of Life in 2011.

The journal defines “philosophy of life” as follows:

We define philosophy of life as an academic research field that encompasses the following activities:

1) Cross-cultural, comparative, or historical research on philosophies of life, death, and nature.

2) Philosophical and ethical analysis of contemporary issues concerning human and non-human life in the age of modern technology.

3) Philosophical analysis of the concepts surrounding life, death, and nature. (3)

We have published papers and essays on a variety of subjects such as “the ethics of human extinction,” “death and the meaning of life,” “Fukushima nuclear disaster,” “whether or not God is our benefactor,” “Hans Jonas and Japan,” “Heidegger and biotechnology,” and “feminism and disability.” All these topics are considered to be examples of philosophical approaches to life, death, and nature. Some of them are topics in the field of applied philosophy or applied ethics, and others are meta-philosophical and metaphysical ones.

In recent issues of the journal, we have particularly concentrated on the issue of philosophical approaches to “meaning of/in life.” The question of “meaning of/in life” is a central axis of philosophy of life in contemporary society. In 2015, we published a special issue entitled Reconsidering Meaning in Life: A Philosophical Dialogue with Thaddeus Metz, in which philosophers around the world intensely discussed Thaddeus Metz’s book Meaning in Life (Oxford University Press, 2013). And in 2017, we published a special issue entitled Nihilism and the Meaning of Life: A Philosophical Dialogue with James Tartaglia, which deals with James Tartaglia’s book Philosophy in a Meaningless life (Bloomsbury, 2016). In the field of analytic philosophy, there has not been so much philosophical research on meaning of/in life, however, important works are now beginning to emerge and attract readers. Metz is currently looking at East Asia, especially Confucian traditions in China and Japan, and trying to connect some good aspects of Confucianism with Analytic discussions. We might be able to witness the emergence of a philosophy of life that bridges the East Asian traditions and analytic philosophy.

The following is a list of the topics in the field of philosophy of life in which I am strongly interested.

1) Meaning in life in a secular society

Thaddeus Metz classifies philosophical approaches to meaning in/of life into three categories: 1) supernaturalism, 2) subjectivism, and 3) objectivism(4). Supernaturalism thinks that meaning of life is given by a supernatural being such as God. Subjectivism thinks that meaning in life differs from one person to another. Objectivism thinks that we can judge which one is more meaningful, A’s life or B’s life. Metz himself argues that objectivism is the best approach to the question of meaning in life, but I do not think so. I have argued that there is a layer in the meaning in life that cannot be compared with anything, and I have called it “the heart of the meaning in life.” And my approach is different even from subjectivism in that I argue that the heart of meaning in life cannot be legitimately applied to another person’s subjective meaning in life(5). This can be called a “solipsistic” approach to the meaning in life.

2) From anti-natalism to birth affirmation

From Sophocles to Schopenhauer, there has been a line of powerful arguments insisting that human beings should not have been born at all. One of the recent advocators of this thought is David Benatar. In his book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence (Oxford University Press, 2006), Benatar argues that having been born is always wrong. I think his argument is flawed; however, I highly appreciate that he has reintroduced one of the most important issues in philosophy of life into analytic philosophy. Contrary to Benatar, I have long proposed the concept of “birth affirmation,” which means “the state of being able to say “yes” to the fact that I have been born,” and I think this concept should be placed at the center of philosophical discussions of human life. Which should be the basis of our lives, a negative attitude to one’s life or an affirmative attitude to it? And how can we advocate the latter philosophically?

3) The problem of life extension

“Life extension” and “age-retardation” have been among the most ardently pursued goals in human history. Today, some scientists argue that using future technologies we will be able to live indefinitely without aging. Although many people would welcome life extension and age-retardation technologies, some philosophers suspect that those technologies will not bring true happiness and meaning of life to humans. For example, Hans Jonas and Leon Kass argue that in the age of super life extension our lives will become superficial ones, and we will lose meaning of life because our lives can become meaningful only when they are limited and not indefinite in this world. This topic is closely connected to the question of how we can accept our own death in a secular society.

4) The connection of the living and the deceased

In Japan, as well as other countries in East Asia and many other areas of the world, there are ordinary people who do not think that a deceased family member completely disappears from this world. They are inclined to think that a deceased family member continues to exist somewhere in this world and sometimes comes back to the place she died or lived, and that they can meet the deceased family member’s spirit there. Some people say that our society is composed not only by the living but also by the deceased. The topic of “the deceased as an indispensable piece of our society” has not been fully discussed in the field of philosophy.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, local people have said that they sometimes can feel the presence of a missing/dead family member, for example, in the midst of the breeze of the wind at the seashore near their home. Philosophers should think deeply about what those local people were experiencing when they had such unusual experiences. By doing this, we can shed a new light on the concept of personhood from a very different angle.

5) The dignity of the human body

In the debate of brain death in Japan, not a few scholars and journalists argued that the body of a brain-dead patient has its own preciousness although the patient is considered to have lost her self-consciousness. In modern European philosophy, dignity has been considered to be found in a person’s rationality, not a person’s body, and this idea created the personhood argument in bioethics, which insists that only the person who has self-consciousness and rationality has the right to life. I have long argued that the body of a human being has its own dignity that is different from the dignity of the mind of a human person. Interestingly, the French law on bioethics states that the human body is inviolable (“le corps human est inviolable”), which can be interpreted to mean that the human body has dignity. The value or preciousness of the human body is an important theme of philosophy of life in the age of biotechnology.

6) The connection and difference between biological life and human life

Our intuition tells us that biological life is completely different from human life because while the existence of self-consciousness is the essence of the latter, the former lacks this. But if that is correct, why do we apply the same word “life” to biological life and human life? Don’t we see the same essence both in biological life and human life, and call that essence “life”? This is a fundamental question in philosophy of life. Hans Jonas tried to connect these two dimensions. He wrote in his The Phenomenon of Life that “[a] philosophy of life comprises the philosophy of the organism and the philosophy of mind. This is itself a first proposition of the philosophy of life, in fact its hypothesis, which it must make good in the course of its execution.”(6) Jonas also writes that a philosophy of life “must deal with the organic facts of life, and also with the self-interpretation of life in man.”(7) This is the point where philosophy of life parts company with philosophy of biology. Philosophy of life deals with a biological aspect of life, an existential aspect of human life, and the connection between these two dimensions of life.

7) The history of ideas in philosophy of life

As I have said earlier, philosophical thoughts on life, death, and nature can be found in every philosophical tradition and in every area of the world. Philosophy of life should not be equated with Lebensphilosophie or la philosophie de la vie. In ancient India, we can find very interesting philosophies of life in the texts of Upanishad and Buddha’s teachings. In ancient China, we can find them in Analects, Tao Te Ching, and Zhuangzi. In ancient Greece, we find them in the writings of pre-Socratic thinkers and Aristotle. In the 20th century, we find them in philosophy of biology, deep ecology, autopoiesis, biopolitique, and other philosophical thoughts. Of course, bioethics and environmental ethics should be included in this list of thoughts.

The most important philosopher in contemporary philosophy of life is Hans Jonas. His books The Phenomenon of Life and The Imperative of Responsibility are the basic literature for philosophers who are interested in this field.

In Japan, to study philosophy has long been considered to study “Western” philosophy. However, in order to study philosophy of life we have to go beyond “Western” philosophy to include every philosophical tradition in the world from ancient times to the current century. This is truly a practice of studying world philosophy.

1) Masahiro Morioka, “The Concept of Life in Contemporary Japan,” The Review of Life Studies Vol.2 (April 2012):23-62. http://www.lifestudies.org/inochi.html

2) Ibid., pp.33-34.

3) http://www.philosophyoflife.org/

4) Thaddeus Metz, Meaning in Life (Oxford University Press, 2013).

5) Masahiro Morioka, “Is Meaning in Life Comparable?: From the Viewpoint of ‘The Heart of Meaning in Life,’” Journal of Philosophy of Life Vol.5, No.3 (2015):50-65. (http://www.lifestudies.org/meaninginlife01.html)

6) Hans Jonas, The Phenomenon of Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology, (Northwestern University Press 1966, 2001), p.1.

7) Jonas, p.6.

*This text was reprinted from my talk "Philosophy of Life in Contemporary Society" at China-Japan Philosophy Conference, Kyoto, September 9, 2017.

Philosophy of life has a close connection with "life studies" below.

 

2. What is life studies?

Overview

Life studies is an interdisciplinary approach to life, death, and nature. We have gender studies, disability studies, and peace studies. I would like to propose one more interdisciplinary-oriented approach, life studies.

Life studies is a study method that can only be accomplished by "never detaching oneself from the subject being investigated".

In order to achieve that goal, we need to explore a new field in philosophy, the humanities, and the social sciences. With our program we seek to promote research on the meaning of life, the essence of contemporary industrialized society that makes us lose sight of the fulfillment of life, and scientific technology that can result in the exploitation of human life and the environment. Life studies is an open research program any person concerned with these issues can join.

The ultimate goal of life studies is to help people to live their own lives without regret. We aim to connect philosophical wisdom, academic research, and researchers' own lives.

> See the description of "life" and "meaning of life" in Wikipedia.

Essence of Life Studies

The following are the "methodology" and "guiding concepts" that constitute the essence of life studies.

<The Methodology of Life Studies>

1) One's own life as a starting point and ultimate end
The most important thing is that one's own life should be the starting point and the ultimate end of life studies. In life studies we should never detach ourselves from the problems we are tackling, and should never think of ourselves as exceptions. Knowledge or discussion completely separated from one's own life should not be included in life studies. Mere analysis of ethical concepts or social structure does not constitute life studies. A good starting point for the life studies analyasis of human psychology and ethics, for example, would be a private narrative of one's own experiences. I followed this approach in How to Live in a Post-religious Age and Painless Civilization. Subjective knowledge is as important as objective knowledge in life studies. We need to explore ways to share subjective knowledge among people with different backgrounds. Recently translated book Confessions of a Frigid Man: A Philosopher's Journey into the Layer of Men's Sexuality shows a good example of a life study approach to one's sexuality.

2) Pursuit of "a life without regret"
The pursuit of a life which is not regretted is the ultimate end of life studies. In life studies, all intellectual activities, for example, reading, research, analysis, contemplation, discussion and writing, are connected and integrated toward this end. We should be aware of the fact that our life in this world is limited. We are all going to die sooner or later. Hence, as mentioned above, life studies should be 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. In Painless Civilization I presented the idea of a "central axis" that exists at the very core of ourselves, and can enable us to live our lives without regret if we learn how to follow it.

3) Confrontation with our own desires and evil
Life studies encourages us to keep our eyes on our own "desires" and the "evil" that are deeply engraved in hearts. We cannot entirely escape from our own desires and the evil within us. What is needed is not to unconditionally accept them, but to forgive those of us who cannot escape from these parts of ourselves and to constantly seek ways to overcome our tendency to return to them. We need to explore the wisdom and social systems that can aid us in these efforts. Moral imperatives alone cannot change our fundamental attitudes. In the book Painless Civilization I presented the possibility of transforming "the desires of the body" into "the desires of life" and in the book Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics I presented the idea of "retroactive method from the evil."

4) Criticism of contemporary society, civilization, and scientific technology
A search for the meaning of life usually tends to aim at personal healing and self-realization, but we must also go on to the next important step, the criticism of contemporary society, civilization, and scientific technology, because contemporary civilization cleverly takes away from us the meaning of life and the possibility of living life without regret (See Painless Civilization). This criticism should lead to a reconsideration of existing scientific methodology and social systems. We should make clear what kind of society is most desirable in order for all of us to be able to fully pursue lives without regret, and we should make clear how we can create these sorts of social systems. A transformation of the self without any social reform is not the goal of life studies.

5) Inquiry into the world of life
All living things on Earth are closely connected with one another. Humans are no exception. We cannot live without killing and eating other creatures. Our life is supported by fresh air, water, crops, and domesticated animals. One of the most important features of life studies is to think about the meaning of human life in relationship with other creatures on the earth and nature as a whole -- the matrix of life. After we die, our bodies return to the earth and the air. All of the materials that constitues our bodies return to the matrix of life, and the meaning of human life and death should thus also be considered from the point of view of our relationship with nature and the environment. All creatures on the earth, including humans, share both a lot of their genes and the process of evolution by which they are formed, and thus a life without regret cannot be separated from our relationships with other creatures and the natural environment. (See The Concept of Life in Contemporary Japan , and Life Torn Apart).

6) A third way between religion and science
Life studies deals with the journey of our irreplaceable life, which cannot be scientifically replicated, because we cannot live any moment of our life twice. At the same time, life studies says nothing about the existence of God, transcendent beings, and the afterlife, because these are things about which we cannot have certain knowledge. Life studies does not deny science or religion. Life studies simply follows a different path from both science and religion. Life studies seeks a post-religious spirituality of life, death, and nature, without using the language of religion. It is important have a dialogue between life studies and religion. In other words, we need both religious approaches to life studies and life studies approaches to religion.

<Guiding Concepts in Life Studies>

1) Painless civilization
The endless drive to eliminate pain and suffering in our society makes us totally lose sight of the meaning of life that is indispensable to human beings. I refer to this as the emergence of a "painless civilization" in my book of the same title >> See section 3.

2) Fundamental sense of security
In the book Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics I presented the idea of "the fundamental sense of security" as a key concept for future research in life studies.This is "a sense of security that allows me to strongly believe that even if I had been unintelligent, ugly, or disabled, my existence in the world itself would have been equally welcomed, and whether I succeed or fail, and even if I become a doddering old man, my existence will continue to be welcomed." (quoted from this paper). I believe that this will be an important concept in the coming age of new eugenics.

3) The central axis
I introduced this concept in Painless Civilization. I conceived of personal identity as having three layers: a surface identity, a deep identity, and a central axis. The central axis is the most basic layer, but in everyday life many people forget that it exists. The central axis is a path that, if followed, enables you to say at the end of your life that you are happy to have been born. One's central axis can be found by dismantling his or her deep identity. This concept is closely connected with that of "a life without regret."

4) The desires of the body and the desires of life
In the book Painless Civilization I distinguished two kinds of desires, namely, "the desires of the body" and "the desires of life." While the desires of the body seek to protect things such as pleasure, pleasantness, and vested interests, the desire of life tries to discard such things, dismantle the current self, and open oneself to an unexpected future. It is our "desires of the body" that engender the drive towards a "painless civilization." These desires of the body take away from us the deep "joy of life" that can visit us in unexpected ways when we transform ourselves by going through pain and suffering.

5) The reality of a deeply shaken self
When we encounter a situation we have never wanted to experience, especially one that contains a profound self-contradiction, we are emotionally shaken by it, and wish to avert our eyes from what disturbs us. Japanese feminist Mitsu Tanaka calls this kind of experience "the turmoil of the shaken self." But paradoxically, only people in this state of distress can truly understand the deep suffering of others and enter into relationships of mutual support with other suffering people. "The reality of a deeply shaken self" is a concept I introduced in the book Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics in order to enlarge Tanaka's idea. "The reality of a deeply shaken self" is closely connected to "the advent of an absent being."

6) Relationship and irreplaceability
All beings in the universe, especially all living things on the earth, are incorporated into a web of “relationships.” They cannot exist without these relationships. At the same time, every being in these relationships is fundamentally “irreplaceable” to each other. Life studies urges us to view everything from the perspective of the correlation between "relationship" and "irreplaceability." (see The Concept of Life in Contemporary Japan .)

7) Three natures of human life
In a series of essays in Life Torn Apart, I argued that there are three fundamental qualities which are deeply embedded in human beings: "the nature of connectedness (with all living things)," "the nature of self-interest," and "the nature of mutual support." Some of the time these qualities are in harmony, but at other times they come into conflict with each other. I believe that it is important to see the relationships between humans and other living creatures from this perspective.

Research Programs

I would like to propose the following research agenda.

1) Philosophy of life
Philosophy of life deals with such questions as: "What is a life without regret?" and "Why must we live while we all die in the end?"

2) Criticism of contemporary civilization
Life studies should include a fundamental reconsideration of our society which is driven by capitalism, materialism, and scientific technology. The question to be addressed here is whether people can live a life without regret in a contemporary society in which they are obsessed with pleasure and pleasantness. >> See section 3

3) Research on ideas of life
One of the most important research areas within life studies is the study of the ideas of life, death and nature held by ordinary people in different areas of the world. It would be of great help to researchers in life studies if they could find out what ideas and conceptions people have in contemporary society. My paper, "The Concept of Life in Contemporary Japan," describes the results of preliminary research among people in Japan. This research is still going on. In the future research comparing the results of this kind of investigation in different countries will also be needed.

4) Criticism of bioethics
Criticism of "bioethics" is needed because it often lacks insight into the meaning of life, and it also lacks a critical view of the essence of the contemporary civilization that has created bioethical problems. As bioethics research is expanding around the world, now is the time to restructure it by introducing the perspective of life studies. I attempted to do this in Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics (2001) and other writings, some of which (1 2) were written in English. It is also important to connect bioethics to "environmental ethics" because our attitudes toward life are closely connected to our attitudes toward nature. I have written a series of papers in Japanese addressing this issue.

5) Research on human nature and social factors that interfere with our attempts to change
We seek to live a good life and create a good society, but we almost always fail. I suspect there might be aspects of human nature and/or social factors that interfere with our attempts to change our society and ourselves. I propose to research these factors that interfere with positive change from the viewpoint of various disciplines including biology, psychology, history, and the social sciences. This is the sort of research we are going to carry out in the future and we intend to implement a totally interdisciplinary approach in doing so.

6) Research on the fate of social reform movements
This research has a close connection to the approach discussed above. We have had various social reform movements arisen in the past, for example, Marxism, totalitarianism, American capitalism, various religious communities, etc., but there have been few movements that succeeded in creating a sustainable community where severe oppression against minorities did not occur. We need to understand the end results of these movements in order to think seriously about the limitations of "life studies." Future research should also be conducted in this area.

7) Criticism of science from the viewpoint of life studies
The aim of science, especially natural science, is to increase objective knowledge. However, as science progresses, a set of questions that science has avoided asking are starting to emerge before us as unavoidable, such as the question of "the meaning of life", the methodology to be employed in handling "qualitative data", the interpretation of the inner emotions or values of other persons, and so forth. We need a new methodology to handle this kind of "subjective knowledge." As a first step towards attaining this goal, I propose that we begin by criticizing science from this perspective. We can then go on to the second step, the creation of a new methodology for dealing with subjective knowledge. This is another area of potential future research.

8) An untouchable area in regard to human life
In the near future various advanced technologies are expected to invade the human body, DNA, and the brain much more deeply in the near future than they ever have before. It may be time to set up an "untouchable area" in regard to human life where technological interventions are prohibited. We need to protect this untouchable area from our own desires. (But we do not necessarily need to be conservative to support this idea).

9) Life studies approaches to various disciplines
I think it would be an interesting idea to introduce some basic concepts of life studies to various other disciplines or movements, such as psychology, nursing, sociology, religion, ethics, cultural studies, and so on. Life studies would presumably be able to stimulate these disciplines, and as a result lead to engagement in fruitful dialogue. I tried to do this in Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics (2001), a book in which I criticized the framework of contemporary bioethics from the viewpoint of life studies. I am thinking about taking a similar approach to ecology. Many similar initiatives should be possible in future.

10) Connection of academic research to the researcher's own life
The most important thing in pursuing life studies is that a researcher him or herself live his or her own life without regret. In this sense,
academic research that will not help transform the researcher's own life should not be called "life studies." Life studies encourages a researcher to rethink his or her actual life and transform it, and then express this painful process in some form in order share it with the rest of us. I tried to depict this process in Painless Civilization (2003). Following this approach should lead to the transformation of both our social systems and our intellects.

 

3. What is a painless civilization?

Life studies urges us to rethink the whole system of contemporary civilization because it doesn't seem to provide us with a sufficient opportunity to live lives without regret both in developed and developing countries. Criticism of contemporary civilization is required in life studies.

In Painless Civilization: A Philosophical Critique of Desire (2003), I presented fundamental criticisms of the negative aspects of contemporary civilization, particularly in the USA and Japan, in terms of life studies. The endless tendency in our civilization to eliminate pain and suffering makes us totally lose sight of the meaning of life that is indispensable to human beings. I examined our desires, and divided them into two categories, "the desires of the body" and "the desires of life." I am planning to translate the whole book and publish it in English in the near future. For the time being, the essence of the book can be gleaned from a shorter paper entitled Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security (2005). I have recently begun to think that I will have to write a second book continuing my discussion of the topics addressed in Painless Civilization.