Philosophical study of life, death, and nature

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Papers and Essays (including book chapters)


Philosophy of Life / Meaning of Life

Is It Possible to Say ‘Yes’ to Traumatic Experiences?: A Philosophical Approach to Human Suffering (2022)
People who have encountered a tragic event and suffered from traumatic experiences can sometimes achieve, in their later lives, an affirmation of having been born to such devastating lives. But what does this “affirmation” exactly mean in such cases? In this paper, I investigate this problem from the viewpoint of philosophy of life’s meaning.

What Is Birth Affirmation?: The Meaning of Saying “Yes” to Having Been Born (2021)
This is an outline of the concept of "birth affirmation", which means the state of mind in which I can say from the bottom of my heart that I am truly glad that I have been born. In short, it means to be able to say “Yes” to my having been born.

What Is Antinatalism?: Definition, History, and Categories (2021)
Antinatalism is the thought that all human beings or all sentient beings should not be born. In this paper, I briefly summarize the history of antinatalistic thoughts and propose a set of categories on antinatalism and related thoughts.

What Is Antinatalism? And Other Essays: Philosophy of Life in Contemporary Society (Book, 2021, Open Access)

A Solipsistic and Affirmation-Based Approach to Meaning in Life (2019)
In this paper, I make two arguments: 1) There is a solipsistic layer in meaning in life, and 2) the heart of meaning in life can be dynamically incorporated into the affirmation of having been born into this world, which I call “birth affirmation.”

The Trolley Problem and the Dropping of Atomic Bombs (2017)
In this paper, I show that the dropping of atomic bombs was a typical example of the events that contained the logic of the trolley problems in their decision-making processes and justifications, and secondly, I discuss five aspects of “the problem of the trolley problem".

Is Meaning in Life Comparable?
: From the Viewpoint of ‘The Heart of Meaning in Life’
The aim of this paper is to propose a new approach to the question of meaning in life by criticizing Thaddeus Metz’s objectivist theory in his book Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study. I demonstrate that “the heart of meaning in life” cannot be compared with other people’s meaning in life.

Human Dignity and the Manipulation of the Sense of Happiness: From the Viewpoint of Bioethics and Philosophy of Life (2012)
A life with dignity means a life in which we are able to explore our own life, equipped with both happiness and unhappiness, without regret, through relationships with others, without being exploited by the desires of anyone, and without being dominated by our own desires.

Philosophy of Life in Contemporary Society (2017)
An outline of "philosophy of life" as a philosophical discipline.

In Search of a Philosophy of Life in Contemporary Society: An Introduction (2010)
A brief introduction to our "philosophy of life" project. Written in 2008.

Natural Right to Grow and Die in the Form of Wholeness: A Philosophical Interpretation of the Ontological Status of Brain-dead Children (2011)
Growing human beings have the right to grow in the form of wholeness, and dying human beings also have the right to die in the form of wholeness; in other words, they have the right to be protected from outside invasion, unless they have declared their wish to abandon that right beforehand.
I call this the principle of wholeness.

Le principe d’integrite comme droit naturel: Une interpretation philosophique du statut ontologique d’enfants en etat de mort cerebrale (2010)
A French translation of the above paper.

The Concept of Life in Contemporary Japan (1991,2012)
"Inochi" is one of the most important words in the Japanese language. It means "life," "spirit," and "nature." The Japanese grasp the idea of  "human life" in connection with that of "nature." While this paper analyzes images of life and nature among contemporary Japanese, universal imagery and concepts can also be seen in what is examined.
(The file is divided into two parts).

Cross-cultural Approaches to the Philosophy of Life in the Contemporary World: From Bioethics to Life Studies (2004)
The first aim of this essay is to criticize the East/West dichotomy cometimes found in writings on bioethics. The second aim is to briefly outline the scope of "life studies."

Hermitism and Impermanence: A Response to Nagasawa’s Argument on Transcendentalism in Medieval Japan (2022)
Kamo Chōmei lived in a small house in the remote mountains and interacted with the surrounding nature. His lifestyle is considered a good example of reconciling one’s finite life with the impermanence of the world and human sufferings.

Painless Civilization

Painless Civilization: Translation of Chapter 1,2,3 (Book, 2003, 2021, 2023)
The most controversial book Morioka has written. The endless tendency to eliminate pain and suffering causes us to totally lose sight of the meaning of life that is indispensable to human beings. How are we to battle against this painless civilization? A new concept called "painless civilization" is introduced, and fundamental criticisms are made of our contemporary civilization.
Revolutionary ideas concerning the philosophy of desire are also presented. Translation of Chapter One has been published.

Painless Civilization and the Fate of Humanity: A Philosophical Investigation (2023)
In a painless civilization, we are deprived of the joy of life, which is considered a fundamental source of meaning in life, and we are led toward the situation of drowning in a sea of pleasure. This is a kind of dystopia, and we cannot find an easy way to escape from it. A concise and to-the-point description of chapters 1-3 of the book Painless Civilization.

The Concept of Painless Civilization and the Philosophy of Biological Evolution: With Reference to Jonas, Freud, and Bataille (2022)
A philosophical investigation into the relationship between painless civilization and biological evolution.

Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security: A Philosophical Challenge in the Age of Human Biotechnology (2005)
An outline of philosophical ideas proposed in Painless Civilization (2003). Ideas of a "fundamental sense of security", "the disappearance of belief in love", "preventive reduction of pain" and other important concepts are briefly discussed. This text serves as a good introduction to Morioka's philosophy.

Pleasure, Suffering, and Painless Civilization (Interview, 2022)
Beyza Şen and Ali Tacar's interview with Masahiro Morioka on painless civilization and his recent works.

The Cruelty of Living in a Painless Civilization (Interview, 2022)
An interview with Masahiro Morioka about painless civilization.

The Dark Side of Painless Civilization: A Philosophical Investigation into Human Desire (2022)
In a painless civilization, we are deprived of the joy of life, which is considered a fundamental source of our meaning of life, and we are led to the situation of drowning in a sea of pleasure.

Animated persona

Animated Persona: The Ontological Status of a Deceased Person Who Continues to Appear in This World (2021)
In this paper, I propose the concept of the “animated persona,” a soundless voice that says “I am here” and appears on the surface of someone or something. This concept can bring clarity to the experience of perceiving a kind of personhood on a corpse, a wooden mask, or even a tree.

The Sense of Someone Appearing There: A Philosophical Investigation into Other Minds, Deceased People, and Animated Persona (2023)
In this paper, I employ examples from previous studies, my own experiences, and thought experiments to conduct a philosophical analysis of the mechanism of the emergence of an animated persona. Published in Human Studies.

Contemporary philosophy

Artificial Intelligence and Contemporary Philosophy: Heidegger, Jonas, and Slime Mold (2023)
In this paper, I provide an overview of today’s philosophical approaches to the problem of “intelligence” in the field of artificial intelligence by examining several important papers on phenomenology and the philosophy of biology.

Manga Introduction to Philosophy: An Exploration of Time, Existence, the Self, and the Meaning of Life (Book, 2013, 2021)
This is perhaps the world’s first book in which a philosopher himself illustrates his own philosophical investigation into hard problems on time, being, solipsism, and life, in the form of “Manga.”

What Does Doing Philosophy Mean to Me? (2022)
This is an English translation of a slightly modified version of my Japanese essay of the same title.

Philosophy, Manga, and Ōmori Shōzō (2018)
An examination of Morioka's Manga Introduction to Philosophy and Ōmori Shōzō's philosophical writings. With Pierre Bonneels.

Why Beyond Bioethics?: The Reaction of a Japanese Philosopher to American Bioethics (2015)
-- New Perspectives in Japanese Bioethics, pp.73-86. (You can read some parts of the paper on Google Books. The full paper will be uploaded to soon.)

How a Japanese Philosopher Encountered Bioethics (2013)
I illustrate how a Japanese philosopher reacted to a newly imported discipline, “bioethics,” in the 1980s and then tried to create an alternative way of looking at “life” in the field of philosophy. This essay might serve as an interesting case study in which a contemporary “western” way of thinking succeeded in capturing, but finally failed to persuade, a then-young Japanese researcher’s mind.

Manga and Philosophy
: Why Was the Book “Manga Introduction to Philosophy” Written?
A slightly modified PowerPoint slides presented at the
first conference of the European Network of Japanese Philosophy, Barcelona.

The Structure of the Inner Life of a Philosopher: The Multi-Layered Aspects of Speech (1998, translated from Japanese)
This essay illustrates the development of Morioka's philosophy from his boyhood to the mid-1990s. The roots of his enthusiasm for life studies, bioethics, Wittgenstein, media studies, and manga are explained. Written in 1995 and published in 1998.

>>Ulrike WÖHR, Die Ambivalenz des Lebens und die Unmöglichkeit der Religion: MORIOKA MASAHIRO und Seine SEIMEIGAKU (The Ambivalence of Life and the Impossibility of Religion: Morioka Masahiro and his Seimeigaku(Life Studies))(2001)
In this paper Professor Ulrike WÖHR criticizes Morioka's works published between 1988-1999 from the viewpoint of religious studies and Japanese studies. Published in 2001 in German

Can Artificial Intelligence Philosophize? (2021)
A short essay that discusses whether it is possible for AI to do philosophy
in its true sense of the word.

Reconsidering Brain Death

Reconsidering Brain Death: A Lesson from Japan's Fifteen Years of Experience (2001)
The Japanese Transplantation Law was unique among such laws in that it allowed the individual to choose whether death is to be defined as "brain death" or "traditional death" in his or her own case. In every country 20 to 40 % of the population has doubts about the idea of brain death. This paper reports on the revision process of the law. Published in Hastings Center Report. See also Special Report on brain death.

Brain Dead Person, Translation of Chapter 1, 2, 5, 7 (Book, 1989)
This is a book that helped shift the Japanese discussion on brain death from "brain-centered analysis" to "human relationship oriented analysis." Brain death is redefined in terms of the human relationships between a comatose patient and the people surrounding him/her. Special attention is paid to the emotions and inner reality of the family members of brain dead people, because sometimes the family members at the bedside, touching the warm body of the patient, express a sense that the brain dead person still continues to exist as a living human being. This approach, published more than 20 years ago, has deeply influenced Japanese bioethics, and would presumably have the capacity to influence the discourse on bioethics in other countries as well were it to be made available in other languages. (Commentary on "Brain Dead Person" Chapter 1 by Robert D. Truog, MD)

Is it Morally Acceptable to Remove Organs from Brain-Dead Children? (2007)
Children have the right not to be exploited by the desires of adults. When a child has said nothing about what should be done in the event of their own brain death, we must affirm that he or she has a right to live and die peacefully, fully protected against the interests of others. Published in The Lancet.

A Proposal for Revision of the Organ Transplantation Law Based on A Child Donor’s Prior Declaration (2001)
This is a translation of the Morioka and Sugimoto proposal on brain death and transplantation. It proposes that the prior declaration of a brain dead child should be respected, and that when a child does not have a donor card organ removal should be prohibited. This is an important document for those looking to understand the unprecedented bioethics debate. See also Special Report on brain death.

Current Debate on the Ethical Issues of Brain Death (2004)
An overview of debate on child brain death in Japan.

Two Aspects of Brain Dead Being (2000) This paper summarizes the essence of Morioka's "brain death as a form of human relationships" theory. We should never overlook the discrepancy between scientific reality and our emotional/spiritual reality. Written in English but has not been edited or corrected.

Gender and Sexuality

Confessions of a Frigid Man: A Philosopher’s Journey into the Hidden Layers of Men’s Sexuality (Book, 2005)
A philosophical analysis of male sexuality, especially men's sexual frigidity, their rejection of their own bodies, and their attraction to girls in their early teens and school uniforms. This book has provoked a variety of emotional reactions from readers, scholars, and the mass media. One of the most important books in Japanese men's studies.

A Phenomenological Study of “Herbivore Men” (2013)
"Herbivore men" is a term that became a buzzword in Japan in 2008-2009. It refers to gentle young men who are not very assertive in love and sex. This paper illustrates the outline of this phenomenon from the viepoint of gender studies.

What do We Learn from Japanese Feminist Bioethics? (1998)
Japanese grassroots bioethics was launched as feminist bioethics in the early 1970s, and until the 1990s the development of this field was quite different from that of bioethics in the English speaking world. This essay is a brief outline of Chapter 3 of Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics.


Feminism, Disability, and Brain Death: Alternative Voices from Japanese Bioethics (2015)
In this paper, the ideas of “the swaying of the confused self” in the field of feminism, “inner eugenic thought” concerning disability, and “human relationship-oriented approaches to brain death” that appeared in Japanese bioethics are discussed.

Why is It Hard for Us to Accept Moral Bioenhancement?: Comment on Savulescu’s Argument (2013)
This paper criticizes Julian Savulescu and his colleagues’ argument on moral bioenhancement. Our personality ought to be constructed upon our inner foundation, which should not be tampered with by outside intervention or control, and I dare say this belief is a healthy one that should not be overturned.

Narrative Responsibility and Moral Dilemma: A Case Study of a Family's Decision About a Brain-dead Daughter (2011)
An analysis of the responsibility that drives us to tell, retell, and coauthor the (often unfinished) narratives of loved ones. First author: Takanobu Kinjo.

The Ethics of Human Cloning and the Sprout of Human Life (2006)
In Japan, not only those who object to human cloning but also many of those who seek to promote research on human cloning admit that a human embryo is the sprout of human life and as such should be highly respected. Why?

Disability Movement and Inner Eugenic Thought: A Philosophical Aspect of Independent Living and Bioethics (2002)
Criticism of eugenic thought from the perspective of "self-affirmation" and "the fundamental sense of security." What did disabled people think about life and technology in the 1970s? Written in English but has not been edited or corrected.

Bioethics and Japanese Culture (1995)
This paper illustrates how modern medical technology and traditional culture and religion can clash in an industrialized, high-tech society, such as Japan. The debate on brain death and organ transplantation in Japan is examined from the point of view of comparative cultural analysis.

Toward International and Cross-cultural Bioethics (1994)
We need "an international, cross-cultural, more feminist, more environmentally oriented study of life, science and society."


List of papers and essays in Japanese
A collection of Morioka's papers and essays written in Japanese