- May 2, 2013
On the afternoon of 15 April, Professor Thierry Hoquet of the University of Lyon III gave a one-day lecture series (2 lectures).
Lectures handled the theory of evolution of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), the particular theme being the notion of "sexual selection". Darwin's natural selection is well known, while sexual selection is a notion derived from natural selection that means that males of the same species fight in order to win a female. Among Darwin's works, this notion is only lightly touched upon in Origin of Species (1859), but forms the central theme of his later The Descent of Man (1871).
What are the distinctive features of sexual selection? Natural selection is foremost the "fight for survival", but as survival depends upon adaption to the environment, "fight" here is only meant in figurative terms, and no entity exists that makes that selection. In contrast, in sexual selection, males actually fight with each other.and the female is the one to make the selection of the victorious male. It also differs from natural selection in that the loser does not die, but suffers the disadvantages of being unable to produce descendants.
Today, sexual selection is seen as the most essential form of natural selection, but what Darwin advocated as sexual selection was just a tentative theory in response to difficulties that accompanied the notion of natural selection. For example, there is a bird living in a region with no green areas whose beak is green. The colour of its beak only makes concealing itself difficult, and it is of no particular advantage to its survival. Natural selection can provide no answer as to why it is that colour. It is sexual selection that can explain the existence of such a decorative feature unbeneficial to survival: "in order to attract females". From sexual selection emerged the phenomenon of dimorphism, where the male and female forms are different within the same species. It manifests itself in the development of weaponry or decoration (beak or wing colour etc.). John Bateman (1919-1996) discovered from observation experiments on flies that the male breeding success rate depended on environment, while the female breeding success rate was unrelated to environment. He concluded that the reason was a difference in role of males and females. According to Bateman, males were not picky with whom they bred, yet females took selecting a mate seriously in order to devote all their energy into breeding. This is the reason for sexual selection.
Males fighting each other, and females choosing their males may seem at a glance to be roles for each sex forming a symmetry, but actually this is not the case. Inter-male fighting encourages the development of weaponry in males, and, again, it is the development of decoration in males that encourages selection by females. In other words, sexual selection only works upon males. This way of considering sexual selection was much criticized from a feminist perspective by Antoinette Blackwell (1825-1921) and Sarah Blaffer Hardy (1946-) etc. Reasoning behind this was that to believe in sexual selection would be to allow the idea that women had not evolved. In particular, the notion of gender (sex as formed by society) advocated by Robert Stoller (1924-1991) indicated that social elements are already entangled in what we talk about as (biological) sex. That means that even what we think of as a biological necessity is in fact something that has been structured historically. For example in ancient times it was thought that male and female genitals were the same, but presented in a different form. Thus there was no precise classification between male and female. The "male and female" differentiation itself, then, had already been established through the inclusion of social elements.
Based on the above, the Darwin/Bateman model of sexual selection is insufficient, and needs to be further expanded. The necessity, however, stems not from demands of a feminist perspective, but rather because the old model is simply not truthful. Bateman's proposal that in the large proportion of living species the female expends a large amount of energy in breeding does not necessarily ring true for some groups. In the case of birds, the female may lay the eggs, but it is often the male who incubates and looks after the young.
Finally, having discussed sexual relationships in living things, the lectures raised a number of problematic points. For example, when, in sexual selection, the female chooses the male, what is the basis for the choice? In biology, the "capacity to produce descendants" is generally given as such a basis, but establishing such a universal basis predicts that all individuals of the same sex choose a mate on the same basis, and there is no consideration of individual differences. In addition, the act of sex and the act of breeding are two different things. The fact that many living species show signs of homosexuality indicates that breeding is not the only aim of sexual relationships. The problem in the end lies in anthropomorphism. When we observe phenomena in the natural world, we inevitably apply our own view to the observation. For example, the female of a certain bird leaves the male with whom it first copulated, and then copulates with another male, which we call "cuckold (cocuage)". By calling it by this term we are describing events in the natural world using our own socially structured standpoint. There is a danger here of socializing nature, and at the same time, the reverse: a danger of naturalizing society. If we search for biological origins in the behaviour of human society, the possibility arises of concluding that, for example, rape is no more than a strategy for breeding, and that it is not abnormal behaviour.
How should we deal with this problem? If we are to dismiss biology itself as no more than a social product, then we cannot leave biology only to biologists, says Professor Hoquet. In order to avoid a naturalization crisis we need to take great care in the way in which biology addresses nature.
- May 1, 2013
Professor Rocco Ronchi of the Univerity of L'Aquila, Italy spoke at a lecture meeting held at the University of Tokyo Komaba Campus, Block 18 4F Collaboration Room, from 6pm on Wednesday, 10 April. The title of the presentation on this occasion was «Blind Intuition : the Debate over Psychoanalysis and Phenomenology in Contemporary Thought (L'intuition aveugle : le débat entre psychanalyse et phénoménologie dans la pensée contemporaine) ».
In this presentation, Ronchi mentioned the « unconcious » advocated by S. Freud (1856-1939), and indicated the relationship between that discovery and the later « real » as proposed by J. Lacan (1901-1981). In order to clarify the essence of the « real », Ronchi took us back in era and field to Auflage der Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure Reason ; first edition 1781, second edition 1787) by I. Kant (1724-1804) and the statement « intuition without notion is blind ». He brought our attention to the words « blind intuition », and interpreted that as « to see (un regarder) ». He then traced the notion of « truth (αλήθεια) » in M. Heidegger (1889-1976), « image » in H. Bergson (1859-1941) and the argument of G. Deleuze (1925-1995) in Cinéma 1 (1983), returning to Freud in relation to his « Primal Scene (Urszene) », thereby deepening understanding of « blind intuition ».
This presentation raised the names of a variety of philosophers as controversialists in its span of a wide range of academic fields, including psychoanalysis. As a result it drew participation from scholars of many different specialisations, who exchanged opinions from differing viewpoints during the question and answer session. It proved an extremely significant presentation.