Philosophical study of life, death, and nature
What do We Learn from Japanese Feminist Bioethics?
-- Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 8 (1998):183-184.
I would like to start my talk by explaining the reason why a male philosopher gives a lecture on Japanese Feminist bioethics. I have studied "philosophy of life," including bioethics, for more than ten years, and found out that Japanese bioethics began in the early 1970s as feminist bioethics. This was a surprising fact for Japanese bioethics researchers because most of them have believed Japanese bioethics began in the 1980s influenced by American bioethics. I wrote a paper on the early 70s Japanese feminist bioethics (1). This is why, I think, Naoko Miyaji, a coordinator of today's session, nominated me as the first speaker.
If people call a woman who has an abortion a "killer," I take a defiant attitude and say that yes I am a killer, and then I want to choose abortion. Gazing at the chopped up fetus body, I admit that I am a fetus killer, and then I am going to make every effort to accuse our society that made me kill the fetus.(3)Tanaka thinks that a woman who has an abortion sways between two kinds of consciousness, that is, the consciousness that it is her right to determine whether to have an abortion or not, and the consciousness that she is going to be a fetus killer. Tanaka concludes that women should face this "confused self" swaying between these two kinds of consciousness, because this "confused self" should be the basis of the women's movement and the coming new philosophy of life. She stresses that the most important thing for us is "the sway of confused self" because this sway of confused self leads us to encounter others who are also swaying between another type of dilemma in their own lives. The real encounter is made possible only between people with swaying and confused selves. Hence, what Tanaka was aiming at was not bioethics in the narrow sense of the word, but real philosophy of life through which we contemplate the meaning of life, seek to encounter others who have existential suffering and pain in their hearts, and try to find ways to change this society into better one where people can live their own lives, in other words, society where nobody becomes anybody's victim or slave. Tanaka seems to say that "meaning of life" consists of (1) saying yes to one's own existence and life, (2) living every moment of one's life without regret, and (3) living in good relationship with all living things surrounding us.
In conclusion, let me show four points that I have learned from Japanese feminist bioethics in the 1970s.
First, the question of how to live here and now is most important. And we will have to change this society into one where every one of us can get full self-affirmation in everyday life.
Second, of course the theory of bioethics and the academic discussions are important, but the theories and/or discusions that are not accompanied by any self-transformation of the researchers are nonsense.
Third, when thinking about life in our society we should never forget to take account of power relationship between women and men, minority and majority, and so on.
Fourth, men have to think deeply what is their own "sway of confused self." Men have escaped from facing the fact that men's mentalities are full of grave confusions and contradictions. By "theoretically" rationalizing this, men have turned their eyes away from their inner confusions and contradictions. If men sincerely face this fact, they may find a narrow way leading to a truly meaningful discussion with women who are running ahead of us.
*A paper from The Second Conference of the International Association on Feminist Approaches to Bioethics: Globalizing Feminist Bioethics, at the Fourth International Tsukuba Bioethics Roundtable, Nov.3, 1998, Tsukuba Science City, Japan
1) Masahiro Morioka, 1998, "Women's Liberation and Bioethics in the '70s Japan" (in Japanese) Seimei, Kankyo, Kagakugijutsu Rinri Shiryoshu. Vol.3, Chiba University, p.110-139.
*This paper is a summary of the Chapter 4 of my book, Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics: A New Perspectives on Brain Death, Feminism and Disability. (2001, in Japanese)
*"Disability Movement and Inner Eugenic Thought: A Philosophical Aspect of Independent Living and Bioethics" (2002) deals with similar topics.