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.


Opportunity for Exchange on a Visit to the Foot of Mt. Fuji (2012)

From 21-22 April, 1st year students of the Philosophy Course of the Faculty of Literature, Hosei University attended an overnight study trip at the Fuji Seminar House of Hosei University. They were accompanied by the students from Europe, which provided an opportunity for exchange between them.


The weather unfortunately meant that we were unable to see Mt. Fuji, but we walked through the Aokigahara « Sea of Trees » that lies at the base of Mt Fuji, and viewed the Narusawa ice cave. Students spent their weekend in a rather different way to usual.

Looking out over the Sea of Trees
The Ice Cave

Scene of Classes : Number 3 (2012)

The 3rd member of teaching staff from the EU, Dr. Grégori Jean of the University of Louvain, Belgium, followed on from Dr. Alexander Schnell in giving a series of 6 classes.

The title of lectures was "Metaphysics of Presence, Affectivity, Rationality". (Of Dr. Jean's research, the following paper touches partly upon the content of these lectures: « Histoire et Être. Heidegger et l'esquive du présent », in Phénice, special number : « Le Présent », May 2009, pp. 55-70.)

As far as my limited understanding permitted, the lectures made the main points as below.

- Firstly, attention was brought to the "metaphysics of presence" that is criticized by J. Derrida (1930-2004) in Speech and Phenomena (1967).

- Having thereby become a focus for criticism, M. Heidegger(1889-1976), in Being and Time (1927), attempted discussion centring on the problem of "past" within "presence". Heidegger's discussion, from the aspect of "liberation of the past", shared common ground with M. Henry (1922-2002), and it is fair to say that Henry replaced Heidegger's "Sein-zum-Tode (being-toward-death)" with "phenomenology of birth".

- Henry would then seem to radicalise this further using the concept of "auto-affection". Henry's "auto-affection" differs from the "auto-affection" that concerns itself with "horizon (world)" and that Heidegger presents in Kant and the problem of metaphysics (1967), with what could be described as emphasis by Henry in more striking ways on the direct "affectivity" of "life".

- According to Dr. Jeans's interpretation, however, Henry's thinking reveals "affectivity" understood as the basic dimension within the "past", yet at the same time redefines it as "affectivement" in its link with "subjectivity" and "a priori". It is rather, then, "rationality" that is exposed here. In order to understand the connection between "affectivity" and "rationality" in such a case, Dr. Jean referred back to Kierkegaard (1813-1855).

The central theme handled in Dr. Jean's lectures, then, was Michel Henry. There are still very few research works and papers in Japan on the subject of Henry's thought, and I felt that this was a momentous occasion to have held comprehensive lectures by a specialist of Henry on Japanese soil.

Dr. Jean

Lecture Meeting Given by Grégori Jean (2012)

A lecture meeting was given by Dr. Grégori Jean of the University of Louvain, Belgium, who is a member of teaching staff from the EU on the Hosei program. It was held on 16 April from 3pm in the 2nd floor staff common room of Hobun Building 2 of the Faculty of Letters at the University of Tokyo (Hongo Campus).

The theme of the lecture meeting, that was overseen by Professor Izumi Suzuki of the University of Tokyo, was "Affectivity and the Metaphysics of Pastness of Michel Henry". (Dr. Grégori Jean is known for his editing of the work of M. Henry (1922-2002), and one example of his research can be found in the paper: « L'être-soi et l'être-seul: le problème de la solitude dans la phénoménologie de M. Henry », PhænEx. Revue de théorie et culture existentialistes et phénoménologiques, Vol. 6, n°2, « La solitude », 2011, pp. 109-130.)

The presentation was an attempt at commentary on the main concepts in Henry of «presence», «affectivity» and «pastness», in reference to his representative work, The Essence of Manifestation (1963) and from the standpoint of the controversialists such as E. Husserl (1859-1938), M. Heidegger (1889-1976), and J. Derrida (1930-2004).

As far as I could understand, the lecture made the following main points.

The question raised by Dr. Jean was whether Henry's philosophy fits into the «metaphysics of presence» criticised by Derrida in Speech and Phenomena (1967). In advocating «phenomenology of life», Henry considered intentionality as one with affectivity that is immanent in the self, but that was a result of his redefining self as "an eternal present". Dr. Jean, however, proposed that Henry's so-called "eternal present" does not abolish the past; on the contrary, it is "an absolute past". In other words, present in the affective self is not the present, but the past. Thus, according to Dr. Jean, it was not «metaphysics of presence», but «metaphysics of pastness» that was developed by Henry. Dr. Jean's presentation on this occasion focussed on the issue of time in his commentary of thought by Henry, and I found this of great interest.

A short break followed the hour-long presentation, and after that there was time for a lively question and answer session. There is no doubt that this lecture meeting created opportunity for a re-evaluation of the uniqueness of the thought of Michel Henry, and it greatly heightened interest in Dr. Jean's classes that will commence on 20 April.

Left: Dr. Jean; right: Professor Suzuki
Lecture room

Scene of Classes : Number 2 (2012)

Following on from Arnaud François, Alexander Schnell gave a series of 6 classes. Presently engaged in teaching at University of Paris IV, France, Dr. Schnell specializes in the classical German philosophy of E. Kant, J. Fichte, F.W.J. Schelling, and German and French Phenomenology centring on E. Husserl.

The title of lectures on this occasion was "Introduction to Contemporary French Phenomenology (E. Levinas and M. Richir)". (Dr. Schnell's research to date on the subject of these lectures is presented in the following two works: En face de l'extériorité. Levinas et la question de la subjectivité, coll « Bibliothèque d'Histoire de la Philosophie - Poche », Paris, Vrin, 2010, and Le sens se faisant. Marc Richir et la refondation de la phénoménologie transcendantale, Préface de Guy van Kerckhoven, Bruxelles, Ousia, 2011.)

Below is a simple account of the main argument of the lectures, as far as my limited understanding permitted. (For some parts I received invaluable help from Mr. Kiyama from the University of Tokyo.)

- We might begin by saying that Phenomenology negates traditional ontology that considers primarily the substance lying behind attributes, and focusses solely on the connection, and differences, between attributes: that is, phenomena.

- However, modern French Phenomenology, as observed by H. Maldiney (1912-) and L. Tengelyi (1954-), has made further changes in the understanding of this concept of phenomena. Phenomena, hitherto described as emerging inside the plane of an expanded subjective view: that is, in contrast to the seeing and hearing functions of the subject, are now understood by modern French Phenomenology in the form of events appearing from outside that plane.

- Although not necessarily anything monolithic, several thinkers can be identified within this new current. The examples of E. Levinas (1906-1995) and M. Richir (1943-) in particular are raised here.

- Firstly, Levinas proposed concepts including « face », that describes the appearance of otherness as having absolutely transcended prediction, and « infinity » as transcending totality. In other words, the mutual conditions for existence and thought are described in such a way that existence is not merely a relation of thought, but even forms the basis of thought.

- Secondly, Richir attempted to understand our relationship with the world as « an anonymous and non-subjective process of generating sense ». That is to say, he suggested that « formation of sense » occurred when, out of chaos, fluid things and fixed things act with each other.

The above lectures conveyed in detail the movements in modern French Phenomenology that are hardly well known in Japan except among specialists, and therefore they offered an important experience. For that reason, I expect, each occasion attracted more and more auditors, including those from other universities.

Dr. Schnell
Dr. Schnell giving explanation