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 Tetsuya Kono (2015)

Already we find two months have passed since the Program began, and on 9 June, with the onset of the rainy season, Professor Tetsuya Kono of Rikkyo University (Saint Paul's University) gave a series of three lectures. These lectures, entitled "Phenomenological philosophy of the environment", examined the environment in breadth. Firstly, we were introduced to various notions, leading to explanation, and criticism, of Watsuji Tetsuro's notion of "Fūdo" (climate and culture). Based on this, lastly there was discussion of the role of environmental philosophy.

The first lecture re-questioned environmental philosophy and environmental ethics from their roots, applying the ideas of thinkers such as Emerson, Thoreau, Kumazawa Banzan and Ando Shoeki. Humans sometimes consider themselves as being just one part in the whole of the environment. At other times, they believe themselves to be in a position of special authority. Ethics are born from the relationship between the subject and the other: in environmental ethics this brings into question the relationship between humans and nature. From this emerge the varying standpoints of anthropocentrism, biocentrism and also ecocentrism. These are classified on the basis of how the following three questions are answered: "What is the supreme existence?", "What is the value of nature?", and "Where do humans lie?"

Central to the second session, held after a lunch break, was the notion of "wilderness". Although meaning "virgin nature", the notion here points not merely to nature, but "an environment that has the power to regenerate itself through its own diversity". The example of the novelist, Hino Keizo was raised in connection to this notion of "wilderness". Many people imagine nature as an idyllic rural nature; Hino, however, criticizes this as "giving the feeling of a narrow and stifling over-familiarity". What we imagine as idyllic, rural nature, is, in fact, an environment managed by humans and governed according to human values. On the other hand, Hino reveals a kind of nature in urbanity. The city is a manifold of path-crossing individuals, devoid of any human meaning, yet continuing to maintain a certain order. In Hino, the city marks a return to "wilderness".

The third and last session gave an explanation of Watsuji Tetsuro's "Fūdo" (climate and culture), and re-questioned environmental ethics from that standpoint. The "Fūdo" of Watsuji does not refer merely to land and its environment, but to an environment that emerges from the mutual relationship between humans and nature. Here we learnt that nature and the environment are not static and fixed, but continue to change relentlessly due to their own inherent diversity. We then considered, from this viewpoint, the environmental issues surrounding Isahaya Bay in Kyushu, and Uluru (Ayer's Rock) in Australia. As conclusion, Professor Kono proposed that it is our obligation to respect diversity. Healthy changes in the environment are made possible through the diversity that it possesses, while rapid change that ignores that diversity will bring about destruction. Expansion of the diversity of the ecology and culture rooted in each region enables evolutionary change in environment and culture: this is what maintaining "Fūdo" is about.

I feel that, through EuroPhilosophie, the paths cross between students from Europe and students from Japan, and together we achieve great change. Even in the present day, a clash of cultures occurs on various occasions, but if we try to mutually respect and acknowledge diversity, rather than experiencing a clash we will develop in a way beneficial to us all. This series of lectures was, thus, deeply significant as the final note of this year's EuroPhilosophie at Hosei.

Class scene
Professor Kono

Keynote lecture by Professor Chiara Mengozzi (2015)

On 25 May, a keynote lecture was given by Professor Chiara Mengozzi of the University of Hradec Králové. It was held at the Boissonade Tower, 25th floor, on Ichigaya Campus. The title of the lecture was "The usefulness, and the disadvantage, of the concept of 'World Literature' in literary studies". Acting as discussants for Professor Mengozzi's keynote lecture were Professor Asako Nakai of Hitotsubashi University, and Professor Kensuke Kasahara of Hosei University, and Professor Nao Sawada of Rikkyo University who also provided interpretation. The role of Chair was filled by Professor Shin Abiko of Hosei University.

Professor Mengozzi's presentation began with an explanation of the concept of "World Literature" as advocated by Goethe in the 1820s. At that time, Goethe asserted that the human race was heading towards a universal age, with the way opening towards a "world literature". It would start life within individual countries, and manifest itself through an increase in exchange with other countries, for which translation would prove important. According to Goethe, cultural distinctiveness and difference of each country were the factors that evoked interest in countries other than one's own, therefore achieving a universal value that transcended national borders. Professor Mengozzi commented on the modernity of this thinking, but went on to indicate that what Goethe termed "universality" is unlikely to be found today, and that in literature, without elements such as "the marketplace" or "hegemony" today, there can be no discussion of them.

Following on from this debate, Professor Mengozzi firstly focussed on the definition of the notion of what was originally meant by "world literature", showing it to be a corpus that included a basis of values. It was deemed necessary for "world literature", along with that basis, to extend from a Western European centre to as far as Asia, Africa, and South America. Secondly, in relation to this, Professor Mengozzi criticised the Pascale Casanova/ Franco Moretti way of thinking that a world system of literature has a centre from which the periphery spreads, asserting, rather, the need to observe multi-centres and multi-directional movements. Thirdly, in accordance with this diversity, also in the research of "world literature", we find there is no over-emphasis of "distant reading", but a continuing importance attached to "close reading". As practical examples of this, Professor Mengozzi mentioned two works by two famous authors: (Maps by Nuruddin Farah, and The remains of the day by Kazuo Ishiguro). We saw clearly how close reading can reveal universal elements hidden in their unique detail.

The discussion that took place after the presentation included the issues of "world literature" in Marxism, the impossibility of translation, the disparity of context between the situation during the 19th century and today, and the issue of the language of translation and hegemony. A lively debate developed over these issues. The theme of this keynote lecture - to what extent can the best works of literature, that transcend era and nation, achieve universal value? - is, in fact, reminiscent of the idea behind EuroPhilosophie of "crossing borders". The fact that the participants here have crossed national borders in order to debate these issues could be considered to hold its own global, universal value.

Professor Mengozzi giving presentation
Scene of the hall
Scene from the discussion