February 02, 2007

An old man and me and life


Several weeks ago, I gave a public lecture in Nagoya City. I talked about the relationship between humans and the natural environment, and pointed out that our attitude toward nature has been deeply influenced by current "painless civilization." Then, I had a lively discussion with other two professors in the panel discussion.

After the symposium, we went back to the staff room just beneath the lecture hall. We were having tea and taking a short rest. Then, a staff member came to me and told that a guest was waiting for me in front of the staff room. I wondered who the person was, but anyway I got out of the room to see the guest. An old man of my father's age was standing just outside the room. He talked to me that my lecture was interesting, and that he had read all my books. I was surprised and said to him thank you.

Then he said, "You wrote in your book that you would publish Introduction to Life Studies someday, but when will it be published?" I replied, "Well, I am not sure when it will be because I have not even started writing." He stared at me and said, "I see, but I don't have much time left." Hearing this I was unable to come up with any words, but I tried to say something and said, "Please live long!" He smiled and we parted.

Today, I suddenly remembered that scene. And I am writing this at midnight.

Related post: *John Harris, Immortal Ethics, generational cleansing
                    *Life Extension, Human Rights, and the Rational Refinement of Repugnance, de Grey

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka

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

October 22, 2006

Yasukuni Shrine and the justification of war


I went to see Yasukuni Shrine on August 14th, a day before the visit of the Japanese prime minister Jun'ichiro Koizumi. Yasukuni Shrine is notorious for its enshrinement of Class-A war criminals. I strongly oppose Koizumi's visit, but I have never been Yasukuni Shrine, so I decided to go there and see how the shrine looks like and what is going on inside.

It was a hot summer day. Yasukuni Shrine was located at the center of Tokyo, just beside the Imperial Palace. In the garden of the shrine there were a number of the members of Japan War-Bereaved Association. Most of them were in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, probably the brothers, sisters or children of dead soldiers who died during World War II. Among them there were young people and couples, who had probably no relationship with the bereaved family.

I went to the main shrine and took a picture. They were selling the bottles of sake (alcohol), the name of which was "Yasukuni -- The God's Alcohol." They were even selling conservative books on the Emperor System and Japanese history. Then I went to the Yushukan MIlitary Musium, which is run by Yasukuni Shrine.

It seemed to me very strange that a Shinto shrine has a huge military musium in their site, but anyway I entered it and saw its exhibition about the history of warfare from Ancient Japan to World War II. There were a number of ancient weapons, modern military goods, personal belongings of soldiers, and the facial portraits of deceased soldiers. There were explanation panels on the walls of the exhibition rooms. The basic tone of the panels were that of "self-justification." It was stressed that there was a necessity to invade China and other Asian countries at that time, and it was also stressed that the main cause of the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States was the economic pressure made by the USA and other European nations. In an audio visual room, they were showing an old film that praises Japanese army's victorious battles in the mainland China. The room was filled with visitors of various ages. They were silently watching the film. There was no exhibition relating to Asian victims or Asian general public in the musium.

In the last room, personal belongings and portraits of killed soldiers were exhibited. Among them, there were a portrait and clothes of a seventeen-year-old girl who committed suicide when she knew the defeat of Japan. Her portrait moved me. Such a thing should never happen again. A great number of people were killed in Korea, China, Taiwan, the Phillippines, Nanjing, Chongqing, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Okinawa, and other cities. These atrocities can never be justified for any reason. This is why I cannot support Yasukuni Shrine, which justifies and praises the Japanese invasion to Asian countries and the Japanese war against the USA. And I cannot support two atomic bombs dropped by the US army, even if they succeeded in reducing the number of deaths of American soldiers.

Photo: Albany, NY, USA

Related post: Parody of the Japanese national anthem, Kiss me Kimigayo

   -- M.Morioka

May 27, 2006

Aims and motives of life studies


I am writing a paper on "life studies" in Japanese. By the way, what impression do you have of the words, "life studies"? A professor replied that this term sounds like a kind of "life history study," that is, the study of a person's life history from birth to the present. This is not wrong because life studies places special importance on a researcher's own life, that is, how the researcher actually live his/her life; however, life studies is not the same as life history studies. Life studies seeks to integrate both the study of a researcher's own actual life, and more general philosophy of life, death, and nature.

On this blog I often talk about issues in bioethics (medical ethics). This is because those issues have a special importance in life studies in the age of contemporary scientific civilization. I have not talked about environmental issues so often, but some of my books dealt with environmental ethics as a key issue in life studies, hence I think of writing about environmental issues here from now on. Another characteristic of life studies is the criticism of current civilization. Our life is molded by contemporary materialistic civilization and our view of life is heavily biased by it. This is the reason life studies have to criticize contemporary civilization. My criticism can be found in the book Painless Civilization. I am thinking of advancing this criticism.

Isn't it important to advance this kind of study worldwide? Anyway, I have to clarify the idea of life studies, and try to provide an explanation that makes it easier to understand the aims and motives of life studies. I am going to completely rewrite the life studies page after I finish the paper.

It is getting warmer and warmer here in Osaka. This year I want to go abroad at least twice, and if possible three times.

Photo: Restaurants at OPA, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka

May 12, 2006

Method of combining living and studying


My 1997's book, An Intellectual Method of Facing Oneself, was republished today from Chikuma Shobo publishers as a handy edition. This is a collection of essays on life, death, sexuality, novels, movies, etc. The first and second chapters are dedicated to an outline of "life studies." I believe this will be a good introductory book for college students and/or teenagers who are interested in philosophical thinking.

I don't have time to translate this book into English. Instead I am now writing a long paper on life studies in Japanese, and I think of translating it after it is published in an academic journal.

I am often asked whether "life studies" is a new version of "bioethics." The answer is no. Life studies is a new method of combining "living and studying" that was found in the process of criticizing current bioethics. Life studies is a methodological mixture of philosophy of life, way of living, and criticism of contemporary civilization. Not only academic research but also various life-study activities outside an academic context constitute life studies. Anyway, the image of life studies has changed a lot since I created "What is life studies" page. My recent paper "Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security" might serve as another introductory essay to life studies.

Today I had a chat with Kaori Sasaki, who has just finished writing her Ph.D. thesis at Lancaster University, UK. We discussed about the academic atmospheres in the UK and Japan, and the difference between Queen's English and American English. Every time I "do" philosophy I use Japanese, and then put it into English. English is not a good language for me to do philosophy. This is mainly because my native language is Japanese, but this difficulty might also come from the nature of English language (and culture).

Photo: A bookstore near my apartment

 -- M.Morioka

April 14, 2006

Human cloning in Japan and Korea


I have uploaded the paper, "The Ethics of Human Cloning and the Sprout of Human Life," in Heiner Roetz (ed.), Cross-Cultural Issues in Bioethics: The Example of Human Cloning, published from Rodopi this year. This is probably the first paper in English that deals with the process of legislation of human cloning in Japan, and the ethical issues raised by the discussions. You will understand that the situation is very complicated.

In Japan, the transfer of a human somatic clone embryo into the uterus of a woman has been prohibited by the law established in 2000. However, the making of a human somatic clone embryo was not prohibited by the law, and instead the government established a guideline that prohibited the production of a human somatic clone embryo.

But just after that, the government started a discussion, in their Commision of Bioethics, about whether to lift the prohibition or not. After a series of fierce debates, the commision suddenly decided, in 2004, to approve the production of a human somatic clone embryo, with a certain period of moratorium.

It is very interesting that this was the year when ES cells were reported to be successfully produced from human somatic clone embryos by a Korean scientist. (Later, it became known that this was a forgery.) I suspect that there must have been some connections between the Korean "success" and Japanese government's decision to approve research on human somatic clone embryos with some restrictions.

By the way, in this paper I analysed the notion of "the sprout (or bud) of human life" used in the law. The final version of the law includes this term when refering to a human embryo. It is interesting to know the reason why this concept came to be included. I don't know who first started to use this term, but I suspect this term might have been invented by the influence of the German Embryo Protection Law. Or it might be a remnant of the traditional Japanese concept of life (See my paper "Concept of Inochi (life)").

Comparative studies should be done on this topic in terms of not only ethics but various social sciences and philosophy of life.

Photo: Lighthouse, Sakai, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka

April 02, 2006

The 8th World Congress of Bioethics


I have sent the abstract of my oral presentation to the secretariat of The 8th World Congress of Bioethics, which will be held this August in Beijing, China. The abstract is similar to my post on March 28. The following is the summary of my presentation. I have not decided the content of the actual presentation. Probably I will make PowerPoint presentations just before the conference.

Ethical Issues in the Age of Painless Civilization: “Preventive Reduction of Pain” and “Fundamental Sense of Security”

Masahiro Morioka

Today is the age of “painless civilization.” We are trying to eliminate pain and suffering by using advanced technologies. Biomedical technologies, such as prenatal screening and selective abortion, are good examples. Painless civilization means a society where this kind of “preventive reduction of pain” is found everywhere around us. Our society in advanced countries is marching toward a painless civilization.

One of the most serious problems raised by painless civilization is that it deprives us of the “fundamental sense of security” that is indispensable to our existence and meaningful life. Then, what is “fundamental sense of security”? It is a sense of security that allows me to strongly believe that even if I had been unintelligent, ugly, or disabled, at least my existence in the world would have been welcomed equally, and even if I succeed, fail, or become a doddering old man, my existence will continue to be welcomed.

In this presentation, I am going to show that today’s advanced biomedical technologies are guided by the principle of painless civilization, and as a result, we might gradually come to lose the opportunity of experiencing the joy of life that comes from encountering an unwanted situation and being forced to transform ourselves to find a new way of thinking and being we have never known. The concept of “painless civilization” was first introduced in my book “Painless Civilization” (2003, in Japanese). I believe ethical issues in the age of advanced biomedical technology should be examined from this perspective.

By the way, I happened to find that the PDF file of my former paper, "Reconsidering Brain Death" (Hastings Center Report, 2001), was published on the web by Hastings Center & Georgetown University. This is the PDF file. You can see the photo-image of the actual pages of the journal. Great!

I am now planning to write two papers on life studies in Japanese and in English. The first one is "What is life studies?" (in Japanese) and the second one is "A Life Studies Approach to Abortion and Brain Death" (in English).

Photo: My office, Osaka Prefecture University

 -- M.Morioka

March 28, 2006

Prenatal diagnosis, sense of security, and bioethics


I have uploaded the entire text of my paper, "Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security: A Philosophical Challenge in the Age of Human Biotechnology," Polylog 6, (2005). This paper is, in a sense, a summary of my thoughts for these five years. If you are interested in my recent philosophical discussions, I would strongly recommend to read it.

In this paper I discussed the concept of "fundamental sense of security" in the age of human biotechnology. I concluded that if prenatal diagnosis is "wrong," it is because it systematically deprives us of this fundamental sense of security.

Then what is the "fundamental sense of security"? In this paper I wrote:

This is the feeling that one’s existence is welcomed unconditionally.

That is to say,

This is a sense of security that allows me to strongly believe that even if I had been unintelligent, ugly, or disabled, at least my existence in the world would have been welcomed equally, and even if I succeed, fail, or become a doddering old man, my existence will continue to be welcomed.

Or put in other words,

This is a sense of security with which we can believe that we will never be glanced at by anyone with unspoken words, “I wish you were not born” or “I wish you would disappear from the world.”

Ok, imagine prenatal diagnosis or other technologies for selection of life. To use these technologies and "destroy" unwanted fetuses or fertilized eggs is equivalent to declare that "we wish you were not born" to existing disabled people. And even if you are not disabled person now, someday you might be considered to be an unwanted person by the majority people, and glanced at with unspoken words, “I wish you were not born.” And the progress of technologies for selection of life and the accumulation of this kind of unspoken consciousness gradually deprive us of the sense of security described above. This is the subtle but most important issue concerning prenatal diagnosis.

What do you think? You may not be persuaded by the above logic. Then please read the whole paper and give me a comment. In my book, Painless Civilization, the entire Chapter 2 is dedicated to this topic. It is really hard to summarize the discussion on this kind of issue.

See related post: Fundamental sense of security, disappearence of conviction of love (February 18, 2006)

Related External Links: Prenatal diagnosis and termination (A discussion from a different angle)

(To be continued...)

Photo: My office, Osaka Prefecture University

 -- M.Morioka

March 17, 2006

Unit 731 and medical ethics in Japan


I have received the Second Announcement of the 8th World Congress of Bioethics, which will be held at Beijing, 6-9 August this year. I am not a member of International Association of Bioethics, but the names of my friends and scholars I met at conferences before are listed in the list of organizers and commentators. I have to decide by April 15 whether to participate or not. I have never been to China. This might be a good opportunity to experience culture and society out there.

The most interesting program, for me, is the one entitled "Ethical lessons from Unit 731's Human Experiments" (morning, 8 August) and Sepecial Symposium "Japanese Wartime Atrocities" organized by Jin-Bao Nie, University of Otago (afternoon, 7 August). This topic was once presented by Takashi Tsuchiya in the 5th World Congress of Bioethics, 2000. The Unit 731's human experimentation was carried out in China during the WW2. More than 3,000 Chinese people were tortured and killed by Japanese doctors. This human experimentation included vivisections for medical training, intentional infection, and learning tolerance of the human body. I don't know how many Japanese participants will be participating in these sessions because the issue of 731 is still a kind of taboo in Japanese bioethics. I would like to join and see what kinds of topics will be discussed there.

Takashi Tsuchiya concluded in his important paper on Unit 731's human experimentation as follows:

I believe it is the Japanese and East-Asian values, such as respect for authority and harmony, in the Japanese medical profession that not only made possible the massacre by human experimentation in China during the period of 1933-1945 but also prevented a public investigation after the war. That is why I entirely disagree with Japanese proponents of "the East-Asian Bioethics" who have never mentioned the past conduct of the Japanese medical profession. For Japanese bioethicists, it is dangerous, shameful, and outrageous to discuss a "moral community" among East-Asian countries without serious reflection on the past acts of Japan. (Takashi Tsuchiya, "Why Japanese doctors performed human experiments in China 1933-1945," Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 10 (2000), 179-180.)

Tsuchiya implied that Japanese authoritarianism shared by the Japanese doctors worsened the problem. In Japan and other East Asian countries, authoritarianism and the pursuit of harmony among people have been considered to be the highest virtue, but this mentality often leads people not to criticize their bosses even when they are performing an apparent act of injustice.

It is shocking that doctors who performed those human experimentations came back to Japan after the war and gained good positions, and some of them became important figures in Japanese medical circles. Wikipedia says as follows:

Many former members of Unit 731 became part of the Japanese medical establishment. Dr Kitano Masaji led Japan's largest pharmaceutical company, the Green Cross. Others headed U.S.-backed medical schools or worked for the Japanese health ministry. (Wiki)

The reason why this was possible was, according to Wikipedia,

At the end of the war however, he [MacArthur] secretly granted immunity to the physicians of Unit 731 in exchange for providing America with their research on biological weapons. The United States believed that the research data was valuable because the allies had never publicly conducted this type of human experimentation, due to potential political fallout. Also, the U.S. did not want any other nation, particularly the Soviet Union, to acquire data on biological weapons.

As a result, the topic of "human experimentation" became taboo in the Japanese medical profession, and in Japanese bioethics as well until recently. It is worth noticing that Green Cross Pharmaceutical (Mitsubishi Pharma Corporation) led by a 731 doctor caused the notorious HIV scandal (the blood products made by Green Cross was contaminated with HIV and killed more than 400 patients) and the hepatitis C scandal (the one similar to the above).

This should become one of the most important topics of Japanese medical ethics.

Photo: My office, Osaka Prefecture University

Related post: Unit 731 and atrocities in China during World War II

 -- M.Morioka

February 18, 2006

Fundamental sense of security, disappearence of conviction of love


The paper, "Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security: A Philosophical Challenge in the Age of Human Biotechnology" has just been published in the web journal, Polylog. I discussed some philosophical problems raised by recent&future human biotechnology, and then I proposed four concepts, such as "problem of disempowerment", "fundamental sense of security", "disappearence of <conviction of love>", and "painless civilization."

This paper is a kind of a summary of my recent studies on life studies and bioethics, so if you are interested in Morioka's philosophy, I would recommend reading this paper first, then you can get an outline of my recent thoughts. Most topics in this paper have been discussed in my former Japanese books, such as Painless Civilization and Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics, hence, by reading this paper you might be able to get a glimpse of the discussion in those Japanese books.

The following is the summary of the paper:

This paper discusses some philosophical problems lurking behind the issues of human biotechnology, particularly prenatal screening. Firstly, prenatal screening technology disempowers existing disabled people.

The second problem is that it systematically deprives us of the »fundamental sense of security.« This is a sense of security that allows us to believe that we will never be looked upon by anyone with such unspoken words as, »I wish you were never born« or »I wish you would disappear from the world.«

Thirdly, we argue that the loss of the fundamental sense of security is connected with the disappearance of »conviction of love« in the age of human biotechnology.

And finally, all these issues are examined from the viewpoint of »painless civilization.« Our society is filled with a variety of »preventive reduction of pain,« of which prenatal screening is a good example. By preventively reducing pain and suffering, we lose the chance to transform the basic structure of our way of thinking and being; as a result, we are deprived of opportunities to know precious truths indispensable to our meaningful life.

Hence, it is concluded that what is most needed is an academic research on »philosophy of life.« (Web)

I believe the concepts of "fundamental sense of security" and "preventive reduction of pain" will probably become key terms when discussing philosophical problems that will be caused by high-tech medicine, such as "preinplantation genetic diagnosis" and "genetic enhancement." And I think these concepts will cover not only medical ethics but also the problem of, for example, a surveillance society that uses security cameras to prevent unforeseen crimes. Because contemporary society is deeply influenced by "painless civilization," we can find similar problems everywhere in our society. This is what I have repeatedly stressed in my papers and books.

In the conclusion section of this paper I talked about the importance of "philosophy of life." I am planning to start the "philosophy of life project" in a year or two with my colleagues. I am going to write an outline of the project soon on this blog.

See related post: Prenatal diagnosis, sense of security, and bioethics (March 28, 2006)

Photo: The entrance of National Museum of Art, Osaka

Related external links:

 -- M.Morioka

January 21, 2006

Whale in Thames, eating whale meat, and whaling


From yesterday the incident of a stray whale in the river Thames in London has been heavily reported live on BBC "world" news. Last week they reported the collision between a Japanese whale catcher boat and Greenpeace boats protesting whaling. It seems to me that the British people are very conscious and sensitive about the issue of whaling. From the BBC site:

The 16-18ft (5m) northern bottle-nosed whale, which is usually found in deep sea waters, has been seen as far upstream as Chelsea. A rescue boat has been sent to protect the whale and rescuers have been trying to keep it away from the river banks.

By the way, Japan is one of the few countries that continue whale hunting in the name of "scientific research," and Greenpeace accuses the Japanese of selling and eating whale meat acquired from such scientific researches. I feel that Greenpeace may be right because we can eat whale meat at some restaurants in Tokyo or Osaka. It is reasonable to protect them if the number is decreasing.

What I can't understand is why the British (and people in other countries) are so enthusiastic about whales and dolphins. For example, they eat lamb (child sheep) and veal (child cow), but isn't it cruel to kill small child sheep and cows only to eat them? They might reply that it is ok because they are domesticated animals, but if so, it means to imply that if we succeed in domesticating whales it is also ok to eat whales.

Have you ever eaten whale meat? When I was a child, boys and girls of our age used to eat whale meat at school because it was the Japanese government's policy to feed children cheap whale meat to nourish them with abundant protein. Whale meat was delicious. Today, I don't eat the meat of whales, cows, pigs, or chickins. Do you eat beaf or poultry? What do you think about eating whale meat?

A researcher from Norway once said to me that every county has its own sacred animals. This is an interesting idea. In India cows are sacred animals. Whales and dolfines might be sacred animals in some countries. In some areas of Japan, deer are considered to be sacred animals (particularly at Nara prefecture). Whales and dolphins are cute and intelligent, but of course, pigs, chickins, and deer are also cute and intelligent. Let me hear your ideas on this topic.

Related post: Is it cruel to kill animals?


 -- M.Morioka