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 Shin Abiko (2014)

Professor Shin Abiko, Professor of Hosei University and Japan coordinator for this program, gave a series of three classes.

Classes focussed on the dynamics between science and philosophy during the 19th century through the eyes of Auguste Comte (1798-1857). He was a solitary thinker, yet in his later years provided us with the monumental contributions of La loi des trois états (The Law of Three Stages), Sociologie (Sociology), Positivisme (Positivism) and Religion de l'humanité (Religion of Humanity).

Comte believed there was an urgent need in human society for the birth of sociology, to lead on from mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology, and to constitute a generalisation of them all. We can easily suppose that a great motif for him was the progress made by the human intellect, and, in relation, by the scientific unanimity, away from the instability felt in civil society since the French Revolution. Also, since the scientific revolution of the 17th century, Natural Philosophy could not help but have its position usurped by the positive sciences. An easily understood example of this is that astronomical discoveries made by the likes of Nicolaus Copernicus did not agree with the Aristotelean and teleological view of the cosmos. The Christian view of the world of heaven and earth was also overturned. Natural Philosophy had to hand over the jurisdiction of observing natural phenomena to the natural sciences of physics and biology mentioned above.

Here we should note the following point. Even forgetting the lack of technical observational capability had from the theological and metaphyiscal points of view, the former, theological, is guilty of using mythical imagination, while the latter, metaphysical, of assuming transcendental principles. Put another way, even if they were to conduct a more or less effective observation of a phenomenon, both would prove too self-centered in methodology, and lack relational viewpoints. The newly sought subjectivity is not a shut-away, absolute and internal subjectivity, but must be open to society as well as historical in its contiguity to other subjectivities past and future.

This non-internalist approach to phenomena of Comte that is found in his Law of Three Stages can be understood in terms of positive sciences rather than in theology or metaphysics. In other words, in Comte, sociology is a positive science concerning the understanding of humans whose most eminent activities are sciences, and positivism is the epistemological methodology in sociology. He would probably say that unless philosophy itself conformed to this methodology it is a meaningless discipline. He would also be likely to say that sociology as a generalised discipline is befitting as the root of Descartes' « Tree of Philosophy ».

As we know, philosophy was introduced to Japan by Nishi Amane (1829-1897). The last class confirmed that what Nishi referred to as philosophy meant, in the majority of cases, the positivism of Comte. This means that positive-stage philosophy was introduced to Japan without its history of theological and metaphysical stages.

The question, « What is philosophy ? » is a fundamental question that remains from the age of the birth of philosophy to the present day. When we talk of philosophy today, what is it that we are pointing to ? These classes enabled us, foreign students and Japanese alike, to see directly the inevitable present-day significance of the acceptance of philosophy in Japan that was brought about by Nishi.

Scene of Professor Abiko's Class

Classes by Professor Yasuhiko Murakami (2014)

Four classes were given by Professor Yasuhiko Murakami of Osaka University, the theme of which on this occasion was "Phenomenology of psychiatric care in Japan". Professor Murakami uses a phenomenological standpoint to interpret scenes of medical care and the results of direct interviews with nurses and patients. Through an analysis of conditions in a psychiatric clinic, then, these classes put forward a more practical approach to philosophy and its methods. Below introduces some of the discussion.

Every organisation has its regime. At a psychiatric clinic we see that the regime is spatialised, built into the facilities themselves, in the aim of looking after and managing its patients. This spatialised regime could be considered as protecting the patients as an extension of the physical body. Considering this a type of "isolation", we could even call it the ultimate realization - in the form of spatial shackles restraining the body - of "le pouvoir disciplinaire (disciplinary power)" that Michel Foucault (1926-1984) described in Surveiller et punir, naissance de la prison (Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison; 1975). In this sense, in a psychiatric clinic there exists a regime of visible space whereby physical restraints are used for protection. Furthermore, such spatialisation of the regime does not stop at a physical level: the clinic is organised, and the regime mobilised, based on the rules between senior nurses who give instructions to junior colleagues, and those between the nurses and the patients assigned to them. However, the rules described here between nurses and patients are not of a coercive kind, but are voluntary and spontaneous and for the purpose of maintaining the community. Although nurses might be strict with the patients assigned to them, they are gentle with other patients, and in such ways they keep an affective distance from patients that helps to spatialize human relations within the ward, and give balance to the regime.

An important issue concerning nursing care is how to create a free and voluntary system within this functioning regime. In other words, despite the given authoritative regime, how can a free space be created that differs from it? For example, whilst a patient is observed by a nurse and they become familiar with each other and they walk and enjoy time together, a different space emerges that is not aligned with the regime. It could be called "play space" that serves to rattle the regime space. In this way, the clinic ceases to be merely a space to manage the visible regime. For many of its patients it becomes a secure "home" that is separate from complicated society. British psychiatrist, Donald Winnicott (1896-1971), stated on the same issue that for patients on long-term admission, the clinic is an isolated environment, but at the same time, paradoxically, it is "my own home that I cannot leave".

Nevertheless, more important than any stage of stay at the clinic, there is a method by which patients go "outside" the clinic. That is, they do not just come into contact with the outside world on a walk, but they even break with the regime of the clinic and mix in the regime of society: patients are able to come and go between the inside and outside of the clinic. In this sense, present-day treatment aspires to a clinic that is a so-called preparation for patients to enter society. In such a set-up, patients repeat the admission and discharge process, and nurses transfer to different wards in rotation so as to prevent the entrenchment of human relations within the clinic. An environment with easily provided care, accompanied by space for free play, then ensues.

Professor Yasuhiko Murakami