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 Arnaud François (2014)

A series of six classes was given by Professor Arnaud François of University of Toulouse II.

Professor François heads the EU side of the Hosei Program, while back in France he is a leading young scholar of Henri Bergson (1859-1941). The theme of classes on this occasion was a search for scientific (particularly biological) sources in L'évolution créatriceCreative Evolution ; 1907), one of Bergson's four great works. (The following is an example of Professor François' research relating to this theme : « Les sources biologiques de L'évolution créatrice de Bergson » (2007), in Frédéric Worms and Anne Fagot-Largeault (eds.), Annales bergsoniennes, vol. IV : L'évolution créatrice (1907-2007) : épistémologie et métaphysique, Paris, PUF, coll. « Épiméthée », 2008, pp. 95-109).

The issue of mechanism and teleology raised in the lectures made a great impression upon me. The second half of Chapter 1 of Creative Evolution considers each of the evolutionary theories of Charles Robert Darwin(1809-1882)and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck(1744-1829). During Bergson's era, neo−Darwinism, of the former's lineage, upheld the theory of mechanism by which the evolution of living things is necessarily influenced by the relationship of physical cause and effect. Meanwhile, neo−Lamarckism, of the latter's lineage, advocated the theory of teleology which identifies the source of evolution in the effort and will exerted by a living body in order to achieve a specific goal. Darwin's original theory of evolution, widely known as "natural selection", described how an individual with properties advantageous to survival leaves a greater number of descendants. It emphasized external environmental factors: a giraffe with a long neck, for example, can reach the leaves of tall trees, which is advantageous for producing offspring. Lamarck's theory of evolution, on the other hand, searched the evolution process for individuality exhibited by a living thing in order to adapt to an environment: for example, moving to a warmer area or growing extra hair when it is cold. We might call these internal, psychological, environmental factors. According to Bergson, both arguments err in their understanding of the evolution of living beings as a determined thing, for whichever reason. For Bergson, the essence of life is the infinite change towards the new; furthermore it is a "creative evolution" that comes from undetermined freedom. From this emerges the notion of élan vital that is central to Bergson's philosophy of life.

The above is just a part of the lectures given by Professor François. I felt strongly, however, that Bergson's argument that transcends the mechanism-teleology debate, and develops to span science and philosophy, has great relevance to us today.

Professor Arnaud François

Study Camp at the Foot of Mt. Fuji (2014)

The usual study camp for freshers of the Hosei University philosophy course took place at the foot of Mt. Fuji in the Hosei University Fuji Seminar House. This was over two days from 19-20 April - early on in their first semester at university. The camp was also attended by the three students from Europe on the Europhilosophie Program who have likewise started studying at Hosei University from April. Unfortunately the weather meant we were not able to see Mt. Fuji ; however, the camp got off to an enthusiastic start with self-introductions, which led to lively group discussions on a variety of subjects in a mixture of Japanese and English. In particular, discussion surrounding the question « Is it possible to really understand other cultures ? » generated several astute statements from the Europhilosophie students. The welcome party that took place that evening definitely provided an opportunity to put into practice the understanding of other cultures.

Everyone together !
An instance of « cross-cultural exchange »
Inside a room in Seminar House

Classes Given by Dr. Sara Guindani (2014)

A series of four classes was given by Dr. Sara Guindani from the University of Paris VIII.

Dr. Guindani specialises in research of the relationship between art, aesthetics and philosophy, and is also a scholar of Marcel Proust (1871-1922). The theme of classes on this occasion was a consideration of the significant influence that Proust, in his great work, À la recherche du temps perdu (In search of lost time; 1913-1927), had upon later 20th-century philosophers. Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961), Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995), Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005) and Roland Barthes (1915-1980) were named among the philosophers in receipt of such influence. (The following is an example of Dr. Guindani's work relating to Proust: Lo stereoscopio di Proust. Fotografia, pittura e fantasmagoria nella Recherche [The stereoscope of Proust. Photography, painting and phantasmagoria in research], Milan: Edizioni Mimesis, 2005.)

The most interesting part of the classes for me was the relationship between Proust and Deleuze. For example, in his early work, Proust et les signes (Proust and Signs; 1964), Deleuze attempts a commentary on In Search of Lost Time, in which he raises the issue that Proust's famous description of madeleine cakes that he used to represent "la mémoire involontaire (involuntary memory)" is in fact no such thing. In other words, Deleuze believes that the basis of Proust's work lies in "l'apprentissage des signes (learning of signs)" rather than the past memory recall that is more widely acknowledged. "Les signes" can be translated in various ways, but according to Deleuze, everything produces a sign, and explaining it is linked to "learning". Deleuze's viewpoint is that the central theme in In Search of Lost Time of the workings of memory is also a method for learning, and that this narrative of learning is what gives the work its unity. According to this viewpoint, In Search of Lost Time consists of four elements that produce signs; they are the empty "society signs", the insincere "signs of love", the materialistic "sensory signs", and the essential "signs of art". According to Deleuze, Proust's book thus stimulates the learning of signs, producing signs and passing that effect onto the reader.

The above is just one part of Sara's classes that spanned four sessions. Deleuze's commentary that overturns the general reader's image of In Search of Lost Time as seeking the past through memory is, however, revolutionary, and the classes made us think deeply about this and Deleuze's own later philosophy that was greatly influenced by Proust's work.

Dr. Sara Guindani
Class in progress

Europhilosophie 2014 Start (2014)

With the cherry blossom in full bloom, the 2014 Hosei Program of the Erasmus Mundus Master's Program "Europhilosophie" made a start on 1st April.

The day began with an orientation session and tour of the library on the Hosei University Ichigaya Campus for teaching staff and students from Europe visiting Japan on this occasion. The three students, having just arrived in Tokyo for the first time, were not yet familiar with the geography of the city and way of life here, and they listened attentively to International Center staff on how to adapt to living in Japan - somewhat different from their own countries. Afterwards, they moved on to the library, where they were shown how to search for and borrow the books they would need for their studies, and they looked around the book stacks.

Scene of the Orientation
In the library
In the book stacks

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