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.

Report

Classes by Professor Hisashi Fujita (2015)

A series of three classes was given by Professor Hisashi Fujita of Kyushu Sangyo University. The title of the lectures was "Ricoeur and the shadow of Bergson". The lectures concerned the two philosophers, Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005) and Henri Bergson (1859-1941).

Discussion during the class

A thinker always has a shadow. The shadow is not an enemy, nor can it be confronted, yet it follows one around like a ghost. Attempts to distort or conceal it are in vain as it can still be recognised. For Ricoeur, was that shadow not Bergson? - Professor Fujita's lectures had this hypothesis as their starting point.

The philosophy of Ricoeur can be divided into three main periods. In all three periods we can detect the shadow of Bergson, be it in differing ways in each. Our lectures were conducted in relation to the inner dialogues that take place between Ricoeur and his shadow, Bergson, on time, and also on metaphor and memory.

The first class focussed on Ricoeur's phenomenological period of the 1950s and 60s, and referred to Bergson's Time and free will: an essay on the immediate data of consciousness, and Ricoeur's Freedom and nature: the voluntary and the involuntary. In the second class that turned to Ricoeur's hermeneutic period of the 1970s and 80s, we read Bergson's The creative mind: an introduction to metaphysics (La Pensée et le mouvant) considering it alongside Ricoeur's The rule of metaphor: the creation of meaning in language (La métaphore vive), and in the third class, on Ricoeur's notions of memory and time of 1990s and 2000s, Bergson's Matter and Memory with Ricoeur's Memory, history, forgetting.

Professor Fujita gives clear explanations using simple words in a rhythmical way, so that the classes were most enjoyable despite their difficult content. I very much wished I could master French in the same way. During the second class, in a discussion about language, he repeated the example of "Tu es mon âme (You are my soul)" many times. His words, "We cannot explain everything that we want to say in normal language. So that is when we use metaphor." stayed in my memory.

Professor Fujita took every opportunity to seek the impressions, and encourage an exchange of opinions, of the Japanese students participating in the lectures, as well as of the students from Europe. Thanks to this, the classes were attended in a positive way by all those present, and proved a valuable experience.

All together at lunch

Classes by Professor Peter Szendy (2015)

Three classes by Professor Peter Szendy, of Paris West University Nanterre La Défense, were held from 1-3 June. The theme of the lectures was "The underside of images: proposals for an 'iconomy'". "Iconomy" is coined from a combination of icon (image) and economy, the flood of images in present-day society being likened here to money. The lectures developed their arguments in reference to several texts by Gilles Deleuze, Walter Benjamin, and Marie-José Mondzain, as well as footage by Robert Bresson and Brian De Palma.

"Money is the underside of all the images that cinema shows and sets in place, so that films about money are already, if implicitly, films within the film, or about the film.'' (Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2, The time image, Minuit, 1985, p. 104). The class began with consideration of this quote from Gilles Deleuze's Cinema 2, and continued to be steered by it throughout. If a sheet of paper is a film image on its upper side, then the underside of it is money. (Implying, films cost money). Following in this strain, in the case of films about money, the side of the film image is folded inwards and the money side shows outwards: this enables us "to see the underside of the image".

We were shown various film images to illustrate this. I will introduce two scenes from among them that made a lasting impression upon me. The first was one scene from "The Sopranos" (HBO). Mother and son are in the kitchen; the son, Tony, having avenged his father's death, stands in front of the refridgerator with a banknote in his hand, while the mother sits looking at her deceased husband's photograph. There are many bits of text and pictures stuck to the fridge door with magnets; over one of these, "One day at a time", he places the banknote so that only "time" is visible. This scene suggests that "Time is money": that the son's actions imply money, namely time. Just then the mother turns over the photograph frame on the table, hinting at "seeing the underside of the image". On the underside of this image is time.

The second was one scene from "Pickpocket" (Bresson). The is staged inside a train just about to depart from Paris-Gare de Lyon. A gang of pickpockets uses smooth techniques to steal valuables undetected by the people on the train. In this scene, the passing round of a stolen purse between the gang members suggests money going round - money only has worth when in circulation. It is the same with film images. Furthermore, here, the stealing of a watch in fact signifies the stealing of time. Thus, in films about money, the underside of the image of visible, yet obscure money reveals the invisible, yet clear object of time.

In this way, the three days of lectures made a spectacular exposition of the difficult "time image" as advocated by Deleuze.

Class scene

Classes by Professor Ondrej Svec (2015)

A series of six lectures was given by Professor Ondrej Svec of Charles University, Prague. The theme of the lectures was "The pragmatic turn in phenomenology". Lectures began with the founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), and then focused on each of those who succeeded Husserl phenomenology from their own differing perspectives: Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961), and Jan Patočka (1907-1977). An examination was conducted from the point upon which they all stand; that is, an emphasis on practice over theory.

Firstly, Husserl, with the aim of knowing the universal nature of an event, used consciousness as a means towards a conceptual understanding of the world. Husserl phenomenology emphasises subjectivity, regarding external existence as transcendence. His later thinking, moreover, called for a stand against modern science's attempts at theorisation of nature. He proposed a suspension of judgement ("epoche [bracketing]") on all objective learning, and a return to "Lebenswelt (lifeworld)" that, prior to any learning, is intuitive to everyday practice.

Critical successor to Husserl, Heidegger, in his Sein und Zeit (Being and time), advocated the supremacy of practice versus logic within a framework differing from Husserl: that of "Dasein (being-in-the-world)". In his book, by proposing "knowledge" precede "act", Heidegger was returning to the meaning of practice as defined by the Ancient Greeks, and was attempting a confrontation with modern metaphysics - which connected with the post-Descartes' modern consciousness. Professor Svec, however, expressed reservations against the commentaries of Hubert Dreyfus and others that treat this pragmata as being totally ante-predicative.

On the other hand, Merleau-Ponty also adopted the thought of Husserl, but here it was the Husserl who laid importance upon a perceptive "Lebenswelt" and physical experience, rather than the Husserl who saw the physical body and world as transcendence and excluded them from consideration. Although Heidegger's influence upon Merleau-Ponty through the term "Dasein" is clear, as the title of his most famous work, Phénoménologie de la perception (Phenomenology of perception), suggests, we can say that his interests lay not in Heideggerian phenomenological ontology, but in the life that is us that has already been cast into the real world through our physical bodies. It is worth noting how Merleau-Ponty perceived phenomenology as a movement rather than as a theory.

Lastly, the case of Jan Patočka was raised who learned from Husserl and Heidegger and took influence from them, yet was set to surpass them as leading Czech philosopher. Although Patočka was fascinated by Husserl phenomenology, he harboured doubts over the fact that the said thought - rooted in the subjectivity of consciousness and self - should distance itself from the real world, and not reflect on physical and practical actions. He also believed that Heidegger ontology, despite regarding humans as "Dasein", did not sufficiently understand the human uniqueness implied therein. The phenomenology that Patočka subsequently developed was a phenomenology of movement within a world and society upon which humans, together with their Others, have been cast.

The lectures outlined above showed how phenomenology, with the viewpoint of practice as its axis, has closed in on human reality. They did this following the passing of time and in dynamic fashion, allowing us lecture attendees a full appreciation of the history of thought.

Professor Ondrej Svec
After classes, at an Izakaya pub