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Profile of Masahiro Morioka


On a street, Osaka, Japan, 2008 Licence: Redistribution permitted.

 

Overview

Masahiro Morioka, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Osaka Prefecture University, Japan, is considered by many to be one of the most influential thinkers in Japanese philosophy and sociology, along with Masachi Osawa (formerly of Kyoto University), Shinya Tateiwa (Ritsumeikan University), Shinji Miyadai (Metropolitan University), and Hitoshi Nagai (Nihon University). He is the director of the Research Institute for Contemporary Philosophy of Life , Osaka Prefecture University , and the editor-in-chief of Journal of Philosophy of Life . He specializes in philosophy of life, life studies, bioethics, gender studies, and criticism of contemporary civilization. Although his books and a majority of his papers have been published only in Japanese, you can read his English papers, essays, and some translated excerpts from his books on this website.

In 1988 he coined the phrase "life studies" in his first book as a result of his frustration with the "bioethics" and "environmental ethics" that were prevalent in the US at that time. What was most important, he thought, was to seek the meaning of life and death in a contemporary society in which everyone seemed to be looking for transient pleasure and superficial freedom. He began to believe that along with criticism of contemporary civilization there was also a need for a fundamental reconsideration of the relationship between life and technology. (See What is life studies)

Morioka established the Research Institute for Contemporary Philosophy of Life at Osaka Prefecture University in 2009, and began building a network of researchers and students who are interested in the philosophical study of life, death, and nature. He is the editor-in-chief of Journal of Philosophy of Life.

He is also an associate editor of Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics , a former member of the panel of referees for Global Bioethics , and the editor-in-chief of Japanese Journal of Contemporary Civilization Studies (Gendai Bunmeigaku Kenkyu). His writings include twenty books and more than a hundred papers in Japanese. He is a regular commentator in major Japanese newspapers.

 

Writings

Morioka was born in Kochi Prefecture, Japan, in 1958. He graduated with a B.A. from the University of Tokyo in 1983. His specialization was analytic philosophy, especially the later wrintings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and he became one of the earliest specialists on bioethics in Japan. He worked for the International Research Center for Japanese Studies as a research associate for eight years, a period during which he published several books. Brain Dead Person (1989) is one of the most influential books in Japanese bioethics. Consciousness Communication (1993), a study of the psychological aspects of computer-mediated-communications, won the Telecom Social Science Award . Reconsidering the View of Life (1994) was warmly welcomed as an introductory textbook on applied ethics for high school and college students. How to Live in a Post-religious Age (1996) was written as a reaction to the 1995 Sarin gas attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult on several subway lines in Tokyo. The message of that book was widely supported by young people seeking the meaning of life and death in our chaotic society. He spent one year as a visiting scholar at Wesleyan University , Conncticut, USA, in 1991.

Morioka is now a professor of philosophy and ethics at Osaka Prefecture University. He teaches undergraduate and graduate students at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. In Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics (2001) he examines the fundamental concepts of life studies and applied them to contemporary bioethical issues. The Japanese feminist and disabled people's movements in the 1970s are examined as important early examples of Japanese bioethics. He then published another controversial book on the fate of contemporary civilization, Painless Civilization: A Philosophical Critique of Desire (2003). This has probably been his most important book so far. Many reviews and criticisms of this text appeared in major newspapers and magazines. Morioka then published two books on sexuality. Confessions of a Frigid Man (2005), a philosophical analysis of male sexuality, provoked a variety of emotional reactions from readers. The other, Lessons in Love for Herbivore Boys (2008), is a how-to textbook for timid, gentle-hearted young men. The term "herbivore men" (soshoku kei danshi in Japanese) became a buzzword in Japan and was ranked among the top ten keywords-of-the-year for 2009 (See Special Report on herbivore men). Morioka is now rewriting Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics with publication slated for 2014.

His recent English papers include:

Human Dignity and the Manipulation of the Sense of Happiness: From the Viewpoint of Bioethics and Philosophy of Life (2012)

Natural Right to Grow and Die in the Form of Wholeness: A Philosophical Interpretation of the Ontological Status of Brain-dead Children (2011)

In Search of a Philosophy of Life in Contemporary Society: An Introduction (2010)

and The Concept of Life in Contemporary Japan (1991,2012)

 

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Curriculum Vitae

Masahiro Morioka

First Name: Masahiro
Last Name: Morioka
Year of Birth: 1958
Place of Birth: Kochi Prefecture, Japan
Citizenship/Nationality: Japanese
Languages: Japanese, English
Sex: Male
Address: Osaka Prefecture, Japan

Education:
1988 Ph.D. candidate at Graduate School of Humanities, the University of Tokyo
1985 M.A. (Ethics) at Graduate School of Humanities, the University of Tokyo
1983 B.A. (Ethics) the University of Tokyo

Current Positions:
Professor of philosophy and ethics at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan (2005-)

Previous Positions:
1998-2004 Professor of philosophy and ethics at the College of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan
2001-2003 Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, the University of Tokyo
1997-1998 Associate Professor at Osaka Prefecture University
1988-1997 Research Associate at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Japan
1991 Visiting Scholar at Wesleyan University, U.S.A.
1988 Research Associate at the University of Tokyo

Award:
1994 Telecom Social Science Award (for Consciousness Communication)

Major Publications (Listed below are books only. Complete list of publications can be found here (in Japanese only) English papers can be found here.)
2009 The 33rd Stone: A Philosophy for a wounded age (Shunju Sha, in Japanese)
2008 Lessons in Love for Herbivore Boys (Media Factory, in Japanese)
2005 The Insensitive Man: A Philosophical Essay on Male Sexuality (Chikuma Shobo, in Japanese)
2003 Painless Civilization: A Philosophical Critique of Desire (Transview Publications, in Japanese)
2001 Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics: A New Perspective on Brain Death, Feminism, and Disability (Keiso Shobo, in Japanese)
2001 Life Torn Apart (kinokopress.com, in Japanese)
1997 An Intellectual Method of Facing Oneself (PHP Publications, in Japanese)
1996 How to Live in a Post-religious Age (Hozokan, in Japanese)
1994 Reconsidering the View of Life (Chikuma Shobo, in Japanese)
1993 Consciousness Communication  (Chikuma Shobo, in Japanese)
1989 Brain Dead Person: Human-relationship-oriented Analysis of Brain-death
(Tokyo Shoseki, in Japanese)
1988 An Invitation to the Study of Life (Keiso Shobo, in Japanese)

 

Essay in Lifeline

A short profile of Morioka (including a brief interview) was published in the column "lifeline" in the medical journal Lancet Vol.356, No.9239, Oct.21, 2000.

Lifeline
Masahiro Morioka
Lancet, Issue: Oct. 21, 2000

Masahiro Morioka studied medical ethics at the University of Tokyo. He is absorbed in "life studies", a transdisciplinary research field concerning life, death, and nature. He is a professor of philosophy at Osaka Prefecture University, and the director of the International Network for Life Studies.

Who was your most influential teacher, and why?
The Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, because he taught me the essence of philosophy.

What is your greatest regret?
I was born and brought up as a male. This is my greatest regret.

What complementary/alternative therapies have you tried? Did they work?
Ki-ko, traditional Chinese martial arts. It worked to an extent.

Do you believe there is an afterlife?
If there is afterlife, it must be life after this life, hence it is not real afterlife.

What are you currently reading?
Papers on brain death.

What books are you not reading?
"One hundred ways to save this planet".

Do you believe in capital punishment?
Never.

What do you think is the most exciting field of science at the moment?
Brain sciences.

Do you apply subjective moral judgments in your work?
Yes, of course.

What do you think is the greatest political danger to the medical profession?
Capitalism and its temptation to make money out of medical inventions.

If you had not entered your current profession, what would you have liked to do?
I wanted to be a sculptor and create very experimental three-dimensional works.

Where were you in your sibling order, and what did you gain or lose as a result?
The eldest brother. I gained mother's love and lost all my adolescence.

Do you believe in monogamy?
Yes I believe in it, but the truth is sometimes a heavy burden.

COPYRIGHT 2000 The Lancet Ltd.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group