- Jun 19, 2015
Already we find two months have passed since the Program began, and on 9 June, with the onset of the rainy season, Professor Tetsuya Kono of Rikkyo University (Saint Paul's University) gave a series of three lectures. These lectures, entitled "Phenomenological philosophy of the environment", examined the environment in breadth. Firstly, we were introduced to various notions, leading to explanation, and criticism, of Watsuji Tetsuro's notion of "Fūdo" (climate and culture). Based on this, lastly there was discussion of the role of environmental philosophy.
The first lecture re-questioned environmental philosophy and environmental ethics from their roots, applying the ideas of thinkers such as Emerson, Thoreau, Kumazawa Banzan and Ando Shoeki. Humans sometimes consider themselves as being just one part in the whole of the environment. At other times, they believe themselves to be in a position of special authority. Ethics are born from the relationship between the subject and the other: in environmental ethics this brings into question the relationship between humans and nature. From this emerge the varying standpoints of anthropocentrism, biocentrism and also ecocentrism. These are classified on the basis of how the following three questions are answered: "What is the supreme existence?", "What is the value of nature?", and "Where do humans lie?"
Central to the second session, held after a lunch break, was the notion of "wilderness". Although meaning "virgin nature", the notion here points not merely to nature, but "an environment that has the power to regenerate itself through its own diversity". The example of the novelist, Hino Keizo was raised in connection to this notion of "wilderness". Many people imagine nature as an idyllic rural nature; Hino, however, criticizes this as "giving the feeling of a narrow and stifling over-familiarity". What we imagine as idyllic, rural nature, is, in fact, an environment managed by humans and governed according to human values. On the other hand, Hino reveals a kind of nature in urbanity. The city is a manifold of path-crossing individuals, devoid of any human meaning, yet continuing to maintain a certain order. In Hino, the city marks a return to "wilderness".
The third and last session gave an explanation of Watsuji Tetsuro's "Fūdo" (climate and culture), and re-questioned environmental ethics from that standpoint. The "Fūdo" of Watsuji does not refer merely to land and its environment, but to an environment that emerges from the mutual relationship between humans and nature. Here we learnt that nature and the environment are not static and fixed, but continue to change relentlessly due to their own inherent diversity. We then considered, from this viewpoint, the environmental issues surrounding Isahaya Bay in Kyushu, and Uluru (Ayer's Rock) in Australia. As conclusion, Professor Kono proposed that it is our obligation to respect diversity. Healthy changes in the environment are made possible through the diversity that it possesses, while rapid change that ignores that diversity will bring about destruction. Expansion of the diversity of the ecology and culture rooted in each region enables evolutionary change in environment and culture: this is what maintaining "Fūdo" is about.
I feel that, through EuroPhilosophie, the paths cross between students from Europe and students from Japan, and together we achieve great change. Even in the present day, a clash of cultures occurs on various occasions, but if we try to mutually respect and acknowledge diversity, rather than experiencing a clash we will develop in a way beneficial to us all. This series of lectures was, thus, deeply significant as the final note of this year's EuroPhilosophie at Hosei.