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.


A German Class (2015)

Almost all of the Erasmus students who are spending this semester at Hosei University will continue their research next semester in Germany.

In response to their request for an opportunity for some German language experience whilst in Japan in preparation for next semester, on 23 April we all participated in a class at the Faculty of International Communication: German Application. It was held in combination with Japanese students returning from short-term study abroad, and involved discussion in German under the guidance of Professor Keiko Yamane. We read texts relating to German society which included stories of immigrants that showed the differences between societies of other countries. We talked about issues relating to each of the countries: Germany, Japan, France, Belgium, and Poland. The discussion lasted one hour, and led to topics of life-expectancy and food culture.

During the second half of the class given by Professor Yamane, who also specializes in film, we watched Ingmar Bergman's "Persona" and the similar Josef Vilsmaier dir., "Charlie & Louise - Das doppelte Lottchen". We then each exchanged our opinions and thoughts.

The Erasmus students had not been in a German-speaking situation for a while, and at first some could not speak as freely as they wished. Once they settled down, however, they all contributed enthusiastically to the debate in fluent German.

Even the International Communication Faculty students who had just returned from St. Gallen, Switzerland must have been impressed by their ability to swap between several languages, both before and during the class.

After the class, each undertook a "film resumé" that had been set as homework. Their fluency in both French and German was quite awe-inspiring.

Classes by Professor Jean-Marc Levy-Leblond (2015)

The end of the "Golden Week" holiday marked the halfway point through the EuroPhilosophie Program. The three days beginning from 11 May saw a series of lectures from Professor Jean-Marc Levy-Leblond, physicist and Professor Emeritus of the University of Nice. The lectures, entitled "Epistemology", were true to their name in reaffirming the basic notions and methods of physics from a philosophical perspective, and finally they ventured beyond the rudiments of the philosophy of science with a discussion of the theory of relativity.

The first session, by way of introduction, disussed the "negative philosophical discoveries of physics" (Merleau-Ponty). Modern physics, from its outset, made numerous discoveries of new phenomena, These, at the same time, negated previous philosophical explanations about the world such as heliocentricism. From the end of the 19th century, however, the reach of modern physics extended further, to shake up even the general categories of human thought. In other words, it forced a reexamination, from a basic philosophical viewpoint, of the substantiality of time and space, and materiality.

The second session, on the following day, began with a quotation of well-known words from Galileo. In his The Assayer (1623), Galileo compares the world to a book that is written in the language of mathematics; it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language. What, then, is the language of mathematics? The problem of the relationship between physics and language was central to this second lecture. In the classical period of physics, and indeed in the 19th century, much serious effort was put into devising an annotation for physics, whereas, since the 20th century, this has become a simpler matter (an example given was the term "Big Bang"). We were shown how this trend has also exerted influence over the attitude towards research itself.

The session on the third and last day used a geometric handling of time-space to discuss the theory of relativity. The outcome of theorisation on n-dimensional space, that goes beyond the fourth dimension, was explained using spherical geometry and Euclidean geometry. On top of this, the approach was used to explain Einstein's building of his theory of relativity by treating the speed of light as a measure of time, Bergson's critique on the theory of relativity: the theory of time, and the twin paradox. As conclusion to the lectures, it was shown that this theory - taking a geometric approach to time-space - should, then, be called "chronogeometry" rather than "theory of relativity".

Scene in the class
Professor Levy-Leblond

Classes by Professor Yasuhiko Murakami (2015)

Lectures given by Professor Yasuhiko Murakami of Osaka University were divided into three sessions over the morning and afternoon of 16 April. Their content was "The Phenomenology of Home Care for Schizophrenia Sufferers in Japan". The lectures looked at people with schizophrenia, particularly those giving medical treatment, based on consideration of the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl.

The first lecture was titled "History of Psychiatric Hospitals in Japan", and took an historical view of the methods of treatment of psychiatric patients carried out in Japan after the Second World War. At that time, patients with the potential for making a disturbance underwent treatment in conditions that were secluded from the outside world. However, such restriction of patients' freedom, in some cases, escalated into violence, and even incidents of death occurred. Herein, then, lurks a very dark history. These incidents marked a turning point, and in the present day (1987 onwards) the use of violence is prohibited, and laws have been put in place to protect the human rights of psychiatric patients.

In the second lecture we learnt about the ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) in practice today, from a viewpoint based on Husserl's phenomenology. ACT is a treatment method that emerged in America in 1970. Unlike the treatment used previously that restricted patients' freedom, it is a program that accepts patients' conditions as they are, and that offers all-encompassing support for both treatment and everyday life in the local area. It was implemented in Japan in 2003. A comparison with the former phenomenological psychopathology revealed to us the distinctive features of ACT.

The third and last lecture on this occasion was based on actual interviews that Professor Murakami had conducted with nursing staff involved in the care of schizophrenic patients. In the case of schizophrenia, if symptoms are severe, the patient gradually constructs their own rules within themselves. Particularly memorable was the story of the carer who said "When dealing with such conditions, there are times when I have to respond to the needs of a person in my charge by pretending we are on an imaginary date". The carer thus confronts each patients' inhibitions by relating to their conditions. This method of contact is not mere psychiatric treatment, but can be seen as relating to the reform of phenomenology itself. I thought that this method was something that could also be put into practice in everyday life.

The lectures progressed in a matter-of-fact tone, with everyone listening keenly to what Professor Murakami had to say. Those who attended the lectures did so over three class periods spanning more than six hours, so that the day proved one of much deep content. The classes rose as topic of conversation when the attendees met for dinner on a following evening. We found ourselves involuntarily using such Japanese expressions as "Yappari..." "Nanka..." that had featured in the interviews used as the class text.

(Content of these lectures can be found in the forthcoming paper by Professor Yasuhiko Murakami: "An imaginary date with a recluse: ACT-led home support for severe schizophrenia sufferers, and psychopathology reversed", La revue de la pensée d'aujourd'hui 43 [12], May 2015).

Scene from the class