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 Masato Goda (2013)

Professor Masato Goda of Meiji University gave a series of three lectures. The précis below introduces a part of the lectures concerning commentary on E.Lévinas (1906-1995), which is Professor Goda's specialisation, and that is of particular interest to the writer of this report. (Professor Goda's first work on Lévinas is the following: Lévinas no shiso: kibo no yoran [The thought of Lévinas: the origin of hope], Kobundo, 1988.)

The main theme of the lectures was a commentary on "conatus" found in Lévinas and the mention of Spinoza. As is well known, Lévinas makes reference to Spinoza as early as his first-period essay, La théorie de l'intuition dans la phénoménologie de Husserl (The theory of intuition in Husserl's phenomenology; 1930), while later, in Part I of his Totalité et Infini (Totality and Infinity; 1961) Lévinas criticises spinozisme (spinozism). The question arises here of why Lévinas refers to "spinozism" rather than to "Spinoza". There is evidence that Lévinas' teacher, L. Brunschvicg (1869-1944) was also conscious of this differentiation. In order to clarify this issue we considered Lévinas' commentary and critique on "conatus essendi (the effort of being)" that was deeply conscious of Spinoza's Ethica (Ethics; 1677), and also the notion of "hypostase (sub-stance)" that points to the creation of "self-interested I" or "ego" from "il y a (there is)", and how it disappears in the argument of Totalité et Infini to be replaced by "jouissance (enjoyment)" and "bonheur (happiness)". Results indicated that, despite being viewed as anti-conatus, the ethical thought of Lévinas takes on the genealogy of the notion of conatus throughout philosophical history, as well as the spirit of générosité (generosity) of Descartes, etc. Moreover, we saw the possibility that Lévinas himself was conscious of that which is called spinozism as not being Spinoza. As is widely known, Lévinas made clear his anti-Spinoza standpoint, but we understood through these lectures how unusually complicated is the relationship between the two. (Below is an example of a study by Professor Goda concerning Lévinas and Spinoza: "Conatus and ethics: Lévinas' interpretation of Spinoza", Spinozana: Spinoza Society Annual Report No. 2, Gakuju shoin, 2000.)

Professor Masato Goda

Classes by Professor Osamu Kanamori (2013)

Professor Osamu Kanamori of the University of Tokyo gave a series of two lectures.

The first lecture had as its theme "Rationalité Scientifique et Praxéologie Orientale (Scientific rationality and Oriental behavioural science [Praxeology])". It centred on Kunihiko Hashida (1882-1945), Japanese physiologist representative of the Taisho Era (1912-26), and introduced his scientific works such as Seirigaku yôkô (Principle of Physiology; 1923). Hashida had great reverence for Zen master Dôgen (1200-1253) and was also annotator of his Shôbô Genzô (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye); the lecture gave an explanation of the relationship between science and Zen in Hashida, and of the notion of "Zenkisei (physiological holism)". We then focussed on the behavioural science of Hashida, and his "Science of Gyô". Based on his particular way of thinking that sees a laboratory as a "dôjô" (martial arts hall), we shed light on the relationship between moral behaviour and the physiology found in Hashida. (The following published work by Professor Kanamori brings together Hashida's theories: Shizenshugi no rinkai [The Critical Point in Naturalism], Keisô shobô, 2004.)

Theme of the second lecture was "Un cas du darwinisme social au Japon moderne (A Case of darwinism in modern Japan)". A commentary was given on the thought of the Meiji-period Japanese bureaucrat and politician, Hiroyuki Katô (1836-1916). Early on in his career Katô wrote the major work Tonari gusa (Neighbouring grasses; 1861) which proposed in precise terms a constitutional government for China. As an enlightenment thinker he advocated equality, writing Shinsei Taii (Outline of True Governance; 1870) which explained the thought behind a superior constitution. Later, however, Katô was influenced by Darwin (1809-1882) and E. Haeckel (1834-1919), and began a change in direction towards Darwinism. In Jinken Shinsetsu (New Theory on Human Rights) of 1882 he made clear criticism of civil rights' ideology from the point of view of social evolution, and this gave rise to conflict. Our lecture brought attention to the notion of "yûshô reppai (survival of the fittest)" that appears in this work as part of "seizon ronsô (the struggle for existence)". As an example of Katô's philosophical work of his later years we were introduced in particular to Shizen to Rinri (Nature and Ethics; 1912), and the arguments therein of "shakai yûkitairon (theory of social organism)", "riko (egoism)" and "rita (altruism)". A consideration of these revealed an image of Katô as biological materialist. (A piece on Hiroyuki Katô by Professor Kanamori can be found in the following: Dictionnaire du Darwinisme et de l'Evolution [Dictionary of Darwinism and Evolution], F-N, Paris, P.U.F., January 1996, pp.2434-2442.)

Professor Osamu Kanamori

Classes by Professor Tetsuya Kono (2013)

Professor Tetsuya Kono of Rikkyo University gave two lectures on the theme of "Towards an Ecology of the Mind (Vers une écologie de l'esprit)".

The first dealt mainly with the American psychologist, J.J. Gibson (1904-1979). We were introduced to the work of Gibson until the scholarship of his last years, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception (1979). Then we heard an explanation of the notion of "affordance", a term central to his Ecological Psychology. "Affordance" is a word coined by Gibson by making a noun from "afford", and points to the character of the environment in connection with how animals can act and how they should act. Ecology is the Bioscience of research into the mutual functions of animals and environment, and it was from this idea of ecology that Gibson attempted to reveal a new psychology. This is in stark contrast, for example, with the solipsistic interiority of Descartes philosophy. In other words, according to Gibson, the mind exists in the relationship between body and environment. Gibson's psychology has been introduced and applied to art and architecture, industrial design, education etc. (An example of Professor Kono's work published on this subject is the below: "Mind" Exists Outside the Body, NHK Books, February 2006.) Furthermore, we heard commentary on a notion following Gibson's thinking of "The Extended Mind" proposed by A. Clark and D. Chalmers.

In continuation, the second lecture considered "pain" in a form applicable to Gibson's thought. We can say that all the suffering we experience in our everyday lives is something difficult to define in a single word. For example, physical pain is generally considered to be a personal thing, but in an intersubjective or social context this might not be the case. Based on this point, examples were raised of chronic suffering in real scenes of medical treatment, with quotes from arguments by medical anthropologist A. Kleinman, sociologist J. Cole, and the discussion of the "phantom limb" in M.Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception (Phénoménologie de la perception) (1945). These provided varied interpretations surrounding "pain".

These lectures gave the blogger the opportunity to realise the inner truths of Gibson's thought, and how well it applies to real life in various fields.

Professor Tetsuya Kono