Philosophical study of life, death, and nature
Philosophy, Manga, and Ōmori Shōzō
Masahiro Morioka and Pierre Bonneels
-- European Journal of Japanese Philosophy Vol.3 (2018):245-262
Why would a philosopher choose to convey his ideas in the form of Manga? This discussion between Masahiro Morioka, author of Manga Introduction to Philosophy, and the translator of its French edition, Pierre Bonneels, shows how philosopher and artist Morioka became acquainted, through images, with fundamental abstract notions. After a short historical analysis of the aesthetic advantages of Manga, consideration is given to this unique way of provoking thought. On this basis, theoretical aspects of “time” and the “I” proposed by Ōmori Shōzō are compared with Morioka’s Manga presentation. Although the questions raised are universal, the authors note that the use of Japanese metaphors enables these two thinkers to draw on a concrete understanding of notions like temporality and identity.
To address the question of why a philosopher would choose Manga as a medium to express abstract ideas, and to show how this can be done effectively, we begin with an account by the Manga artist himself on our capacity to draw images that have philosophical content, and how that conceptual content is related to the image itself. In the second part, Morioka’s translator Pierre Bonneels take up that argument and confronts it with a more classical way of doing philosophy, focusing on the thought of Ōmori Shōzō. His aim is to demonstrate that the use of metaphor as a means of explaining “time” produces a different result, a result directly related to the medium chosen to express one’s thinking.
Let us take a couple of examples from English books. The Cartoon Introduction
to Philosophy, published in 2015, is co-authored by philosopher
Michael F. Patton and cartoonist Kevin Cannon. In this book, Patton
Morioka and Terada’s Manga Introduction to Philosophy is completely different.
This is perhaps the world’s first book in which a philosopher himself
illustrates his own philosophical investigations, many of which deal with
Second, I had a keen interest in the visualization of philosophical ideas.
In my own case, philosophical thinking first emerges as a picture. When I
think about philosophical topics, I first start to visualize the concepts or
images in my head and make them move, stretch, press, and modify as if
The following figure is an example of this effective conveying of ideas
in the form of Manga (Illustration 1). Sensei (the teacher) asks Manmarukun
(the boy’s name on the left side) “Where is your ‘I’?” The boy points
to his head and answers, “It’s right here!” After that, suddenly, the teacher
approaches him, opens the boy’s head and takes a look inside his brain, saying, ‘I’ is nowhere to be found.” Then Sensei points out that the situation is
the same in his own case by showing the inside of his own brain to the boy