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 Vincent Giraud (2013)

Three classes were given by Professor Vincent Giraud over two weeks from 3 June.

Lectures handled the writing of Saint Augustine (354-430), father of early Christianity, and shed light on existential aspects of his thought. The central text was Confessions, with particular focus on the discussion of time found in Volume 11. According to Augustine, although time is something we all understand, nobody can explain what it is. Time has three forms: past, present and future, yet past contains an element of "no longer", and future, "not yet". This means that past and future do not exist, and the only one that we have is present. What, however, is the present? For example, over the period of a year, whilst we are living through one month, the other months are either in the future or the past. It follows that only one month of the year is the present, but then there is a single day within that month, and a single hour within that day... Time that can be called the present shrinks down without limits, until it ultimately becomes nothing. Consequently, the only time that is in existence - the present - has no length, and is hard to capture. We feel the passing of time, however, and we judge its length. Herein lies the difficulty of explaining time.

According to Augustine, time is something sensed by us, and so it is related to the mind. When we talk about events in the past and future, those events are already in our minds, so that the three forms of time - past, present, and future - are actually "the present about the past", "the present about the present", and "the present about the future", Augustine states. The present about the past is memory (memoria), the present about the present is intuition/sight (contuitus), and the present about the future is expectation (expectatio). These three are behind the functioning (intentio) of the mind, while time is a distention/stretching out (distentio) of this functioning of the mind.

Understanding the world in the form of a distention, that is, time, is a fundamental condition of humanity in Augustine. Yet at the same time, when humans are conscious of something they also usually add an explanation to it. Understanding the pure reality of something, without the engagement of time, is possible only by God, although humans - the created - seize reality through their original sin. The word distentio is in fact used in places in Confessions with the meaning of "dispersion". Human consciousness that can only operate within the diversity of time (past, present and future) indicates our sin and incompleteness since we distanced ourselves from the one and only God. Human existence therefore is inevitably set to disperse its own life. For this reason Augustine grasps time - the structure of human consciousness - as an existential method.

The above explanation of the working of time is described as "inauthentic" in the thought of Augustine. However, the contrasting "authentic" working does not transcend time, and exists through a method different from distentio. It reconsiders the individual events in a human life, and by interpreting their meaning, reassembles a dispersed life into one whole. Confessions is moreover an exploration of Augustine's own life; an attempt to uncover the significance of "the search for God" in his life full of doubt. The existential problem of time in Augustine, therefore, can be understood as an ethical issue of how to live life.

Professor Vincent Giraud

Student Workshop (University of Tokyo) (2013)

On Saturday, 15 June, a workshop centring on the students was held at the University of Tokyo: in the staff room of Hobun II Building in the Faculty of Letters of Hongo Campus. Six students - three from overseas and three from Japan - gave presentations, and students also took a central role in leading the proceedings. The diverse range of themes from different fields of philosophy that were collected together for the workshop as are below:

・ "Two modes of consciousness in Bergson's Essay: 'Subjective' and 'Objective' (Deux modes de la connaissance dans l'Essai de Bergson. « Le subjectif » et « l'objectif»)"
・ "Heidegger and the myth of interiority (Heidegger et le mythe de l'intériorité)"
・ "The phenomenal field in the early thought of Merleau-Ponty (Le champ phénoménal dans les premières pensées de Merleau-Ponty)"
・ "Christian philosophy that opposes 'vital imanence'. The response of Saint Pie X to a modern philosophical aberration (La philosophie chrétienne contre 'l'immanence vitale'. La réplique de Saint Pie X à une aberration philosophique moderne)"
・ "Lyotard's reading of Freud : the strategy of 'figure' (Lyotard lisant Freud : la stratégie de la « figure »)"
・ "The sublime and teleological reflection in Marc Richir and Edmund Husserl (Le sublime et la réfléction téléologique chez Marc Richir et Edmund Husserl)"

Each theme was of great interest, and provided the workshop with a cross-section of differing specialist fields. Of great inspiriation was how we helped each other to understand the content of research in specialisations other than our own. It also felt like an international conference, its small scale even facilitating this in the sense that colleagues, usually separated by their research environments East and West, were able to develop discussion under their mutual understanding of philosophy. After the presentations there was opportunity to socialise as a reward for everybody's efforts and in praise of their academic achievements.

Scene of the hall

Student giving presentation

Students engaged in question and answers

Classes by Professor Kazuyuki Hara (2013)

A series of three classes was given by Professor Kazuyuki Hara over the three weeks from 24 May.

Classes were entitled "l'analyse et le désir (Analysis and desire). In psychoanalysis, the word "analysis" is commonly used to refer to psychoanalysis, but these lectures were based on the origin of the general notion of "analysis" and its historical changes. They aimed at revealing how the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) is positioned within the general notion of analysis, and also how newness in the notion of analysis is brought about in particular by Lacan's theory of desire.

In order to set up a firm foundation for psychoanalysis, Jacques Lacan conducted a reexamination of Freud's work. These lectures, however, discussed the new theory that Lacan brought to psychoanalysis, and drew comparison with the "analytic revolution (révolution analytique)" that occurred in the mathematical world of late 18th century France. The analytic revolution refers to developments in mathematical education that saw the beginnings of an educational programme for a new generation of theorists, producing mathematicians such as Joseph-Louis Lagrange (1736-1813), Sylvestre-François Lacroix (1765-1843), and Gaspard Monge (1746-1818). As a result, analysis, that had been hitherto a mere technique for calculation in geometry, became an academic discipline in its own right, and gained much greater significance than simply as a calculation method.

Analysis is of course not the same thing as psychoanalysis, yet both share the essence of analysis. There have always been two origins to the notion of analyis: one is in Euclidean geometry, and the other, Aristotle's Logic. In the former, analysis is the element of supposition that comes before the prediction of a conclusion, while in the latter it is the element of decomposition (décomposition) of an argument into simpler parts. The analytic art (art analytique) systemized by François Viète (1540-1603) combines these two elements to create a method of algebraic calculation. The psychoanalysis of Freud also employs the two elements of analysis, making a supposition on unconscious desire behind the words and actions of a neurosis patient, and then analyzing and considering the words and actions of the patient in order to support that supposition.

The distinctive feature of Lacan's theory of desire was its show of seemingly applying the structure of analytic behaviour to human existence in general, based on a detailed examination of Freud's analytical method. These lectures discussed the plan of "postulate of desire (postulat du désir)" that Lacan set out in an early thesis, as well as reexamination of the Oedipus complex advocated by Freud, to find that Lacan revealed through his theory the existence of an "analytic moment (moment analytique)" of "supposition and decomposition" that we necessarily encounter when we try to understand someone else. In this way, Lacan expanded the notion of analysis beyond neurosis patients to cover universal human essence. We can say, then, in that sense, that psychoanalysis is another form of "analytic revolution (révolution analytique)".

Professor Kazuyuki Hara