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December 24, 2005

Domesticated animals and humans


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

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

December 16, 2005

Jürgen Habermas, The Future of Human Nature


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

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

December 06, 2005

Retardation of aging and fear of death


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.

Related post: Value of life extension and immortality

Photo: Doutonbori, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org