March 10, 2007

Administration of pleasure and pain in the future society


I have read an interesting article in The Washinton Post. It's William Saletan's "Shooting Pain," The Washinton Post, Sunday, February 18, 2007; page b02. Acording to Saletan, the US military has invented a new beam gun, which can cause unendurable pain without actually harming the body of a target person. A volunteer reporter said he felt as if he had been surrounded by fire when he experienced the power of the beam gun.

He says it felt like heat all over his body, as though his jacket were on fire. The feeling is an illusion. No one is harmed. The beam's energy waves penetrate just 1/64 of an inch into your body, heating your skin like microwaves. They inflame your nerve endings without burning you. This could be the future of warfare: less bloodshed, more pain. (web)

Imagine a battle field where US troops equipped with the beam guns shoot the enemies, or the terrorists, who do not have such weapons. What does it look like? Isn't it another form of "collective torture"? Actually, this technology can also be used as a useful tool for torture. Saletan, too, talks about the possibility of applying it to torture, and suggests that the use of this weapon on the street by the army won't be a crime under the current law.

People might think that causing unendurable pain in the battle field would be more humane than killing, but is this really true? In clinical settings, the patients who continuously experience unendurable pain sometimes would rather die than survive under such conditions. In the battle field, soldiers have to fight to the point that they cannot continue to fight, and this means that they continue to be exposed to unendurable pain caused by the enemy's beam weapons. Is it any different from a cancer patient suffering from severe pain on the bed?

Michel Foucault used the term "biopouvoir" or "biopower" to refer to the function of modern power in which people are forced to "live" rather than to be "killed." I believe what comes after the era of biopower will be the administration of "pleasure and pain" among ordinary people, and in the above case it appears as the controll of the pain of enemies in the battle field. This is one of the core messages of my book, Painless Civilization, published in 2003. It is a paradox that in the age of painless civilization the military seeks to invent painful weapons, and tries to spread across the world. I have to write a sequel to Painless Civlization in the near future.

Related post: Pleasure seeking, maintainance of stability, and sacrificing others

Photo: A Buddhist temple, Osaka

  -- M.Morioka

August 27, 2006

Pleasure seeking, maintainance of stability, and sacrificing others


It is still very hot in Osaka. I don't recommend you to come to huge cities like Osaka, Kobe or Tokyo in August. It's so humid and hot that you can't go out and see around the city on foot. October and November are the best season to visit Japan.

By the way, the translation of some new paragraphs in Chapter 1 of Painless Civilization was uploaded. In this section I discussed the nature of "desire of the body," which serves as a driving force to develop "painless civilization." "Desire of the body" is something that lurks behind the deep layer of our existence, develops the stream of painless civilization, and gradually kills our deep joy of life.

The five dimensions of "desire of the body" are as follows:

1) Pleasure seeking, agony avoiding

2) Maintenance of stability and the status quo

3) Expansion and Exploitation

4) Sacrificing others

5) Control of One’s Life, Living Beings, and Nature

And this five types of “desire of the body” mentioned above profoundly determine patterns of human behavior. Furthermore, the “desire of the body” has become the set-in-motion driving force of our civilization.

"Desire of the body" is a term I coined. I tried to explain in the translated text the reason why I chose the word "body" for expressing this concept. Please visit and read the details of my speculations.

We are now proceeding to the central discussion of Chapter 1 of Painless Civilization. It takes a lot of time to translate a Japanese book into English. Please be patient and wait for the next part.

Related post: Administration of pleasure and pain in the future society

Photo: Albany, NY, USA.

  -- M.Morioka

July 05, 2006

"La civilizaciĆ³n indolora" and "la fundamental sensaciĆ³n de seguridad"


The Spanish translation of my paper, "Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security," was uploaded to the Polylog website. The Spanish title is "La civilización indolora y la fundamental sensación de seguridad: Un desafío filosófico en la era de la biotecnología humana." The translation was made by María Anabel Cañón. The following is from the Spanish translation:

Tratan de evitar el dolor y el sufrimiento del futuro, y la manera más efectiva de lograrlo es, generalmente, con medidas preventivas. He denominado a esta clase de acción »reducción preventiva del dolor«, o »eliminación preventiva del dolor«. El aborto selectivo y la exploración prenatal son dos buenos ejemplos de la reducción preventiva del dolor, porque al emplear estas tecnologías esperamos reducir, preventivamente, el dolor y el sufrimiento que nos produciría tener bebés discapacitados. Podemos encontrar una gran variedad de acciones de reducción preventiva del dolor en nuestra sociedad, que abarcan desde el cuidado diario de la salud hasta la »guerra preventiva« que llevan adelante las superpotencias. Una sociedad de vigilancia que emplea cámaras de seguridad para prevenir crímenes imprevistos sería otro buen ejemplo. En la sociedad contemporánea, estamos rodeados de numerosos mecanismos para reducir el dolor. Yo llamo »civilización indolora« a aquella en la que el mecanismo de reducción preventiva del dolor se extiende por la sociedad. La sociedad de las naciones muy industrializadas se está convirtiendo gradualmente en una »civilización indolora«. (Web)

This is the first translation of my works into Spanish. I can't read Spanish. What I can do is to imagine the meanings of some Spanish words such as "civilización indolora" and "reducción preventiva del dolor."

Related Post: Translation, publication, and volunteer

Photo: Blue sky.

  -- 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 15, 2006

Sense of happiness and mood-brightening drug (Prozac etc)


The President's Council led by Leon Kass discusses the topic of "happy souls" in their report Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness (2003). This discussion constitutes, probably, the most significant part of this report. I am not sure who wrote this part. I presume that Kass himself wrote it, but other council members might have written or added something.

They talk about the drugs that can delete unpleasant memories, or can provide us with happy feelings. While the former drug has not been developed yet, the latter one already exists, namely, such "selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)" as Prozac, Paxil, etc.

Concerning memory-blunting drugs, Report concludes:

To have only happy memories would be a blessing—and a curse. Nothing would trouble us, but we would be probably be shallow people... In the end, to have only happy memories is not to be happy in a truly human way. It is simply to be free of misery—an understandable desire given the many troubles of life, but a low aspiration for those who seek a truly human happiness. (p.234)

And concerning mood-brightening drugs, Report distinguishes "the sense or feeling of well-being" from "well-being itself," and then concludes that acquiring the former does not necessarily lead to the latter, because these two are completely different from each other. Report admits that this kind of drug sometimes give depressed people the power and courage to live & survive, however:

While such drugs often make things better—they often help individuals achieve some measure of the happiness they desire—taking such drugs may also leave many of the same individuals wondering whether their newfound happiness is fully their own—and in this sense, fully real. ... It is even more pertinent, and more disquieting, should one come to feel happy for no good reason at all, or happy even when there remains much in one's life to be truly unhappy about. (p.255)

I think they have succeeded in pointing out an important philosophical question, that is, "What is the difference between 'the sense of happiness' and 'happiness itself'?" And they seem to conclude that happiness itself needs the (long and winding) "process" through which we can finally reach the state of happiness where we can enjoy the sense of happiness. Intuitively, I believe their idea is right, but I am not satisfied with their explanation in their report.

What if someone says, "I don't need any process. What I need is the sense of happiness, and that's all. Period," then what Kass would reply to that person? Is his answer, "You are a shallow person"?

I don't mean to offend Kass and his colleagues. What I want to do is to think about this important philosophical question more deeply. We need "philosophy of life."

Photo: A house near my apartment, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka

January 08, 2006

Eternity, immortality, and desire to live longer


Leon Kass talks about his philosophy of death and aging in his book, Life, Liberty and the Defence of Dignity (2002). He discusses the future possibility of progress in medical technology that may provide us with long life, for example, a longevity of 200 or 300 years or more. He asks whether such longevity, or immortality actually makes us happy, and he answers negatively. He writes as follows:

I aspire to speak truth to my desires by showing that the finitude of human life is a blessing for every human individual, whether he knows it or not. (p.264)

He urges us to think of an immortal being and says:

Moreover, such an immortal someone else, in my view, will be less well off than we mortals are now, thanks indeed to our mortality. (p.265)

And he seems to distinguish between "immortality on earth" and "eternity."

The decisive inference is clear: none of these longings can be answered by polonging earthly life. Not even an unlimited amount of "more of the same" will satisfy our deepest aspirations. ... Mere continuance will not buy fulfillment. Worse, its pursuit threatens -- already threatens -- human happiness by distracting us from the goals toward which our souls naturally point. (p.270)

It is clear that he discusses this topic from the perspective of the Judeo-Christian tradition, however, the core of what he wanted to say reaches my mind directly (though I am agnostic). I think one implication of his words is that we cannot acquire "eternity" in the pursuit of "immortality." Eternity cannot be acquired in an extension of an immortal life. This is one of the most important philosophical questions, I believe, that should be discussed in the field of bioethics or "philosophy of life" in the 21st century. Of course, I don't agree with his opinion about abortion and the value of the family, but nevertheless, I am still very attracted to Kass's philosophy on life and death.

At the same time, I am not satisfied with Kass's philosophy. He seems to underestimate our desire to become healthy and live longer if some existing medication or operation provides us with them. This kind of desire must be shared by Leon Kass himself. We have to think about the nature of this kind of desire and our contemporary social system that incessantly stimulates our desire to live longer, become healthy, and avoid pain & suffering as much as possible. This is exactly what I tried to do in my book Painless Civlization. Kass's works should be complemented, I believe, with the perspective of painless civilization.

(Continues on the next entry...)

Related post: Value of life extension and immortality

Photo: A building near my apartment, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka

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

October 04, 2005

Happiness and advanced technology


Today I will write again about Bill McKibben's Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Times Books, April 2003. The previous post about this book will be found in the entry of Sep.26). McKibben talks about the enhancement of the IQ of children. Supporters of such technology say that even if it becomes available, parents still have the freedom to choose the enhancement, or not to choose, hence, no one's freedom will be violated.

McKibben objects to this idea. He stresses that some few people who starts to use this technology might have freedom of choice, but the majority of the followers will not be able to enjoy such freedom. For the followers, the enhancement of their children will become "compulsory." If the IQs of many children in your neighborhood are enhanced genetically, what do you feel when you give birth to your baby? Are you strong enough to refuse it? McKibben concludes that in the age of genetic enhancement, all we can do is "enhance" our own children.

Then, what happens to a genetically enhanced child? McKibben predicts that the child will lose " joy of life", or "the meaning of life", in exchange for some genetically enhanced abilities and long&healthy life. I believe his analysis is correct. I wrote the same thing in the book, Painless Civilization, Chapter 1.

In his book, McKibben does not deny the progress of science and civilization. His point is that we have come to the stage, in the beginning of the 21st Century, for the first time, where we should say "Enough!" to the further progress of some advanced technologies, at least in highly industrialized societies such as the US and European countries. Bill McKibben is an ecologist, and he does not seem to be a Christian fundamentalist. The problem of happiness in the age of advanced technology cannot be solved solely by religion or politics.

Photo: Kawachi ondo (Kawachi dance song) in Autumn festival, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka

September 26, 2005

Bill McKibben, Enough


Today I wrote another book review, a review of Bill McKibben's Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Times Books, April 2003). The book review will be delivered by the Kyodo Tsushin press agency to many local newspapers around Japan. This book was very interesting. This is my first time to read Bill McKibben's book. A reviewer on writes as follows:

Unlike McKibben, who seems to view human beings as a fixed endowment (perhaps from a Creator), I think we can view ourselves as ever changing, ever evolving beings, constantly in the process of becoming. I welcome the excitement and prospect of our accelerated evolution. Yes, there are dangers ahead, so it is important to proceed with caution and full deliberation.

This is a shallow idea about technology and humanity. Mckibben's aim is to criticize the philosophy that lies behind this kind of thinking. Of course it is not so easy to criticize this "mainstream" ideology of contemporary scientific civilization, but some of Mckibben's arguments ought to be persuasive even to those who firmly believe in the progress of science and technology.

The main theme of the book is the "enhancement" of humans by the manipulation of human genes in fertilized eggs. It is not possible to manipulate human genes at present, but many scientists believe that it will become possible in the near future. That is to say, in the future we will be able to enhance our own children's IQ, physical abilities, looks, and so on, by manipulating the genes of the fertilized eggs of our child. Mckibben quotes various words of scholars who are saying that genetic enhancement is considered not only morally acceptable but also the necessary outcome of the progress of science.

Mckibben thinks that the introduction of enhanced abilities into children's genes will deprive them of the possibility of attaining their own happiness. People's happiness and deep fulfilment can only be achieved by going through suffering and limitations they experience in the voyage of life. Genetic enhancement gradually deprives us of happiness and human dignity. I think this is what Mckibben tried to stress in his book.

I believe what he wants to say is completely right, because I said the same thing in my book Painless Civilization in a different way. Both Mckibben's book and mine were published in 2003, the same year. I am very pleased to know we share the same perspective on contemporary society and civilization.

After reading his book, I start to think that I will have to write a paper on genetic enhancement from the perspective of painless civilization in English. What do you think of this idea?

(Topic to be continued...)

Photo: Trash cans.

 -- M.Morioka

August 15, 2005

Huge mall and civilization


The other day I went to Rinku-town, a vast suburban area near Osaka Bay, south to Sakai-city, to visit AEON Sennan shopping center. This is an American style huge mall, like Kahala Mall I visitied this June at Honolulu. I have never seen such a big shopping mall before in Japan. It is a brand-new building with a variety of equipments for disabled people and senior citizens.

It was a really hot day, but the inside was perfectly air-conditioned, so I was comfortable throughout the day. I thought this was another good example of "painless civilization" that is gradually spreading around Japan and other countries. The inside was very clean and neat; no dust on the floor, no graffiti on the wall. This is like a shopping mall in a huge hospital. I remember a passage from my book, Painless Civilization.

Aren’t the activities of contemporary civilization nothing but to create, on a social scale, this kind of human being sleeping peacefully in intensive care units? Isn’t contemporary civilization systematically trying to create humans, in the intensive care units named cities, the humans who look at first sight to be working cheerfully and playing merrily, but in fact just sleeping peacefully in the deep layer of their life? If that should be the case, then, who set the trap? Why has civilization progressed in this direction? (Painless Civilization, p.4.)

I got out of the mall and went to the beach. There I saw a beautiful sunset. A lot of jellyfish were on the sea, and I could see a big fish jumping from the water. People were jogging along the seashore. Everything was fine and peaceful. But if you take a close look at the seashore, it was clear that this area was artificially created by sand and stones brought in from the outside. I found traces of construction here and there.

What is nature? What is technology and civilization? And what is the relation between them? I think I have to translate Painless Civilization as soon as possible (I don't know how many times I repeated this at this blog.......). This book was published in Japan in 2003, and keeps on influencing Japanese philosophy and sociology. I would like you to read it, too.

Photo: Ryukoku University, Kyoto

 -- M.Morioka

July 11, 2005

Peter Berg's ecology


In the entry of July 5, I talked about Peter berg's lecture at Kyoto Seika University. Today I want to talk about the continuation of the story. He showed us some pictures of bioregionally sustainable life in an island. He showed a slide and said (the following is from Montana lecture but he said almost the same at Kyoto):

This is photo of a boy standing in a boat in the river holding up a fish he's just caught. The house behind him is made out of bamboo that's been split and pounded out flat. Making a building like this doesn't involve using money.

I understand what he wanted to say. However, I couldn't help wondering if the boy would have wished to go to the cities and enjoy an urban lifestyle, if he had had a chance to do it. In Japan, there are a lot of young people who love city life. They like to be surrounded by the artificial environment and various commodities. They love cafes, buildings, clubs, Internet, portable phones, shops, etc. They sometimes drive along the coast, but they seldom think of living in a far countryside. Today, most young women don't want to marry men who are living in rural areas.

My question is this: is it really possible to persuade them to leave the urban, energy consuming cities and lead an ecological life in a rural area? I have a pessimistic view. At the meeting, a student and I asked similar questions to Peter. He replied that it is possible to teach the splendor of nature to youngsters, and the important thing is to "go outside" into nature.

I love the idea of bioreginalism, however, we have to add "something" to it in order to make it a tool to persuade Japanese young people to become bioreginalists. The students who gathered to listen to his lecture were exceptions. I am sure that they will become real ecologists in the future. But what about the majority of young people who love contemporary city life? Of course they know that we are facing a global environmental crisis. They understand it intellectually. We need something more attractive to them in addition to what Peter stressed in his lecture.

(To be continued...)

Photo: Cafe at Umeda, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka

May 27, 2005

Pain and Civilization


The book, Painless Civilization was published in 2003, and lots of comments and criticisms appeared in Japan since then. The Korean translation was published this year. I don't know how it has been accepted there, however, several book reviews appeared in Korean newspapers, and we can see some comments on Korean blogs. I translated Preface and the first section of Chapter 1 a year ago. I couldn't continue translating because I had to write another book in Japanese last year, but I think I have to start translation again this summer.

By the way, Haruka Miki, a former college student at Hitotsubashi University (she was there until this spring), published her BA thesis on the web, and in her paper she discussed "painless civilization" and capitalism from the perspective of risk management. This is probably the first serious commentary on Painless Civilization written in English. Please see her page for details. I don't know her personally, but it is good news that young people like her have an interest in this topic and think about it seriously at college. She seems to have been a student in Tetsuro Kato's class.

Photo: A cafe near my apartment

 -- M.Morioka

April 06, 2005

Korean Painless Civilization


The Korean translation of Painless Civilization was published on Feburary 25, 2005, from a Korean publisher. To the left is the photo of the cover of the translated book. You can see the Chinese characters representing "painless civilization" and Korean characters (Hangul) at the bottom.

It is surprising that they translated the whole book only for a year. Of course Japanese and Korean share similar grammars and vocabularies, but I was surprised at their speed. Comparatively, it is a pity that I have translated only "Preface&Section 1 " of the book into English! I have to resume translation soon.

I searched through Korean internet resources and found that at least two very long book reviews appeared in Korean nation-wide newspapers. I read them using a web translation service. The book reviews were interesting. They interpreted the main points of the book correctly. There seems to be lots of commentaries on Korean personal blogs, but I can't read Korean, so I don't know how this book is being accepted by Korean readers now. (See the page for this book in a Korean online bookstore's website.)

If you are interested in the translation of this book into your native language, please send an email to me. Probably readers of your country will have an interest in the topics discussed in Painless Civilization.

 -- M.Morioka

December 10, 2004

Three faces of desire


I happened to visit the website of the book, Three Faces of Desire, by Timothy Schroeder (his website) at I skimmed the first several pages on that webpage and found that he distinguished among "desire","want", and "wish", and went on to talk about three faces of desire, namely, "motivation", "reward", and "pleasure". I have not read his book, so I am not sure what he wants to say in detail, but I think philosophy of desire is an interesting philosophical topic. Probably, the author's philosophical background is "philosophical analysis," or philosophy of language in Anglo-Saxson philosophy, so the emphasis may be placed on the analysis of the use and meaning of the words.

There are many philosphical traditions in the world, including European-Continental philosophy, British-American philosphy, Indian philosophy, Chinese philosophy, Japanese philosophy, Islamic philosophy etc. And in each we would probably be able to find important phisophy(ies) of desire, for example. These days I am so curious about those philosophical traditions, and what they have been thinking about various philosophical topics. Fortunately, many important philosophical works are translated into English and/or Japanese (except for those in Islam, Africa, Latin America, and South East Asia), so I want to read them and think with them.

In my book, Painless Civilization, (2003), I distinguished between two forms of desire, namely, "desire of the body" and "desire of life." The desire of the body is a desire that makes us keep pleasure and comfort, and the desire of life is a desire that seeks to dismantle the desire of the body from within one's life. I believe this idea is new and stimulating to those who are interested in this topic. I want to write the essence in English in the near future.

Anyway, I have modified the whole design of the website, International Network for Life Studies.

Photo: A poster of Kyoto.

 -- M.Morioka