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November 23, 2006

To live out one's life without regret


I am still writing a paper on the methodology of "life studies." I have decided to divide "life studies" into two levels, namely, "life studies in general" that functions as the necessary condition for the formation of life studies, and "personal life studies" the content of which is to be defined by a person who practices his/her own life studies. And the life studies Morioka is pursuing on the second level is called "life studies for living out one's life without regret." I know this is too abstract for you to follow. I will try to write more in detail after I finish writing this paper.

At the same time I have been reading papers on life extension and immortality. This is a really interesting topic. Of course, I am eager to live longer, but I also feel that our desire to live longer as much as possible will lead us to a trap we would never want to fall into. It's really difficult to put this into words. Please give me time to clarify my thoughts. Want to live another 20 years? Sure. Want to live another 50 years? Probably. Want to live another 500 years? Hmmm.... Why can't I say "sure!" to this last question? Probably, here lies the central question.

I will post again soon.

Photo: Kudan Kaikan, Tokyo

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

November 13, 2006

Value of life extension and immortality


Today I read the paper, "Immortality, Human Nature, the Value of Life and the Value of Life Extension" by Steven Horrobin, in Bioethics vol.20,no.6, 2006, pp.279-292. Horrobin discusses whether the future life extension technology is morally acceptable. The conservatives tend to deny extreme life extension because it is against human nature and the will of God (Christian God). The liberals are not so clear about such technology. Some are hesitant but others are in favor of it. Leon Kass discussed it in his Beyond Therapy (2003). In his book he rejected the optimistic view about extreme life extension, and persuaded us to taste the meaning of life within one's limited life span.

This is a very interesting topic because it makes us think deeply about philosophy of life questions, such as what is the meaning of life, what is the goal of life, what is life without regret, and so on. These are just the questions I have been tackling in the field of "life studies" or "philosophy of life".

Horrobin, too, tries to give an answer to this difficult question. He criticizes the conservative view, and defends the liberal view, especially the view of life based on the "personhood argument." He expands the standard personhood argument to include one's wishes, hopes, emotions, etc. as necessary elements of the concept of "person." Then he states as follows:

In this way, it would appear that there can be no arbitrary upper limit on the good of the extension of life to a person. (p.291)

And he stresses that a person always desires to continue to be a person.

We cannot effectively will ourselves not to be a person, since that will itself requires us to be a person. Try to imagine a person setting a particular date beyond which she will be free of all desires. Such a picture strikes one as absurd. (p.291)

His conclusion is:

So it does not seem reasonable that a person may even set a limit to the good of their own future extension in time. So long as we are persons, therefore, life extension will be a value without limitation. (pp.291-292)

Well, his argument is really interesting, but I don't think his argument is successful. It is logically possible for a person to desire not to be a person, and it is also possible for a person to desire to set a limit beyond which she will be free of all desires. In ancient Japan, some Buddhist monks tried to reduce their desires to reach the state of enlightenment (satori) by giving up eating food under the ground, and finally died and became mummies (sokushin butsu). They were believed to get into the state of enlightment, and highly respected. Weren't these monks persons when they decided?

My point is that a person can desire to leave the desire to live longer, and this is just what modern people forget in our materialistic society. I am not Christian, or Buddhist, or conservative, but I think like this. What do you think?

Related Posts:
 *Eternity, immortality, and desire to live longer
 *Retardation of aging and fear of death

PS: Some staff members of the Center for Genetics and Society have establied their blog, Biopolitical Times. Why don't you visit and check out?

Photo: Tokyo Tower and Zojoji temple

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

November 08, 2006

Japanese organ transplantation law


I am now writing a paper on the methodology of "life studies" in Japanese. I began writing it in June or July this year but I have not yet completed. I have to finish by the end of this month. I think I can write something about this paper in December's posts.

By the way, two organ transplantation revision bills are presented in the current Diet. One is based on the former Machino proposal, which allows organ transplant from brain dead donors only by family consent, and the other is based on the former Morioka (me) and Sugimoto proposal, which firmly maintains the framework of the current law and lowers the age of donor's prior declaration. The former was presented by Taro Nakayama, LDP, and the latter was presented by Tetsuo Saito, Komeito Party.

An astonishing thing is that both bills have a new additional clause, the clause for allowing the preferential donation of organs of a brain dead donor to his/her relatives, which has not been included in the Machino proposal or the Morioka&Sugimoto proposal. Probably, there is no organ transplantation law in the world that contains such a clause. I strongly object to this clause, but there is no discussion about it in the Japanese media. I am afraid that this clause might pass the Diet in the near future.

I will write about this topic in the next post.

Related post: BBC's biased report on organ transplants

Related page: Brain Death and Transplantation in Japan

Photo: Tokyo Tower and Zojoji temple

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org