Hosei Erasmus Mundus Program Euro Pholosophy

Hosei Erasmus Mundus Program, Euro Pholosophy - Over the two academic years 2008-9 and 2009-10 at Hosei University, classes for the first semester of "Euro Philosophy", an EU Erasmus Mundus Master Program, have taken the form of one-month intensive lecture series. This is the first instance in Japan of administering such a large-scale intensive lecture series within the Erasmus Mundus Master Program.


Classes by Professor Osamu Kanamori (2014)

Professor Osamu Kanamori of The University of Tokyo gave a series of two classes. The first class was entitled « Scientific rationality and oriental praxeology », focussing on Kunihiko Hashida (1882-1945). The theme of the second class was « The Bio-politics of contemporary Japanese society ».

Hashida achieved significant results in his research field of biology concerning nerves and muscles. Whilst a scientist, he considered Zen thought to be the ethical stance that scientists should take. Specifically, he called the laboratory the researchers' « dojo (training hall) ». He believed the ideal space to be where researchers could go beyond the conceptually neutral knowledge common in the West, to seek knowledge with an ethical aspect for living life well, in the same way that Buddhist priests accumulate virtues through training in temples. In other words, he saw as important not just the content of research, but also a sense of integrity between scholarship and humans. That is the attitude adopted during « practice » or « training ».

Although the notion of « Physiological holism » is considered an extremely great scholarly contribution of his later years, classes on this occasion sought the originality of his more fundamental thought. For example, he also develops « Gyo (Samskara) » as a methodology for observation. Hashida explains the Oriental term « Busshin Ichinyo (Matter and mind are one) » in a more epistemological way as « Subject and object undifferentiated » in an escape from the Western-style observation based on subject and object dichotomy. As already stated, he did not necessarily stress neutral and universal knowledge; this was in order to understand the true manner of appearance of things. It involved the process of « Yuikan » : seeing how things are in their natural flow, through « Mushin (The Heart of nothingness) », rather than as a rigid subject observing an object. It also meant Gyo itself : seeing something in more detail, without dividing it into parts for observation. Such a style is linked to the originality of his thought, and is what Hashida called « Science as Gyo ».

Hashida contributed research as both scholar and educationalist from the Taisho Era into the Showa Era. During wartime he also served as Minister of Education. Then, after the war, he was convicted as a Class A War Criminal, and committed suicide. As Minister of Education, Hashida was posted at the centre of political power. His notion of « Physiological holism » has an aspect that suggests totalitarianism in prioritising the whole over the individual. His style of observation also abolishes any subjective elements, and as a result, his thought was taken to serve totality. His physiology had been made to function as a type of ideology.

The second class then mentioned SMON (Subacute myelo-optic neuropathy) and the harm caused by radiation following the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant that occurred after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Professor Kanamori asserted that in the two above examples there emerges an either-or situation between prioritising objective knowledge for the sake of those in receipt of harm, or distorting scientific and objective knowledge so as not to lose benefits for upper levels of society. Such aims of maintaining the state and preserving the whole as the reasons and background for choosing the latter, however, are hidden from view. By laying before us the dark side of Japanese society, he suggests the following : unless there is revealed to be a small minority of people who, out of sight of the masses, corrupt knowledge for their own means, objectivity will continue to be shelved, and people will continue to be deceived by scientists without moral values. Professor Kanamori believes that « Bio-politics » are active in the fundamental structure of society itself.

During the second class, I again sensed the underlying flow of Zen thought as ethic that Hashida suggests is necessary for all scientists who search for objective knowledge, as raised in the first class. Even in the present day, « Science as Gyo » has, without doubt, at least partial necessity. In incidents where distortion of scientific objectivity occurs, in terms of numerical ratio, the victims constitute the great majority, whilst, in relation, the perpetrators occupy a very tiny minority. In view of this current state of affairs, all we can say is that unless we overcome the bio-political approach, we cannot achieve a close investigation of the socio-scientific value of Hashida's notion of « Physiological holism » and his application of « Zen » thought.

Professor Osamu Kanamori
Scene from the class

Classes by Professor Kazuyuki Hara (2014)

Four classes were given by Professor Kazuyuki Hara of The University of Tokyo. The title of the classes was "Lacanian elaboration of the notion of 'desire' and a recoining of the Oedipus Complex". (The research by Professor Hara on which these classes were based can be found in the following work: Kazuyuki HARA, Amour et savoir ― Études lacaniennes [Love and knowledge - Lacanian studies], Collection UTCP, 2011).

People are relentlessly in desire of something. According to Lacan (1901-1981), people are desirous when something is lacking. Put another way, because people lack a necessary thing, that thing is desirable. When we think of the notion of desire in terms of a basis for psychoanalysis, the first thing that comes to mind is an ambiguous and vague image, not just one of its fluid nature. Since the postwar 1950s, attempts at Lacanian interpretation have been towards understanding the Other in their desire for something by defining, through language, the notion of a type of mad desire seemingly impossible to capture. In other words, the problem of knowing the desire of the Other overlaps with the problem of knowing the meaning of words; that is, knowing what they are trying to say. Reversely, however, this also means that it is desire that defines the contours of the existence which is language.

Here, language points to the contemporary linguistics used for reference by Lacan. Central to this reference is the well-known notion of « signifiant (signifier) » introduced by the founder of general linguistics, F. Saussure (1857-1913). Lacan, however, looks to an era of general linguistics after the period of attempts to explain the form and structure of language, when, once again, attention focussed on the problem of meaning. We can also see from references in R. Jakobson (1896-1982) that at the fore in Lacan's mind regarding language was the aspect of communication. In every discourse, the one signifier is double-sided: from it is born various meaning, and the ability to freely desire something. According to Lacan's view of language, rather than that someone tries to say something in words, it is words that try to say something. It is as if the intention of the discourse becomes clear through the desiring of the words.

Furthermore, through the notion of a « chaine signifiante (signifying chain) » - the re-working of an idea by É. Benveniste (1902-1976) - it is possible to topologically structuralise language (or desire), and thus to regulate the freedom of desire. As a result regards knowing the desire of the Other, we can see how desire underlying words shifts to orientate itself along a signifying chain spoken by the subject in discourse.

Professor Kazuyuki Hara