Philosophical study of life, death, and nature
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Profile of Masahiro Morioka
Masahiro Morioka, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Waseda University, Japan, is considered by many to be one of the most influential thinkers in the current Japanese philosophical community, along with Hitoshi Nagai (Nihon University), and Motoyoshi Irifuji (Aoyama Gakuin University). He is the director of Tokyo Philosophy Project , and the editor-in-chief of Journal of Philosophy of Life . He specializes in philosophy of life, life studies, bioethics, gender studies, and criticism of contemporary civilization. Although a majority of his books and papers have been published only in Japanese, you can read some of his English papers, essays, and books on this website.
In 1988 he coined the phrase "life studies" in his first book as a result of his frustration with the "bioethics" and "environmental ethics" that were prevalent in the US at that time. What was most important, he thought, was to seek the meaning of life and death in a contemporary society in which everyone seemed to be looking for transient pleasure and superficial freedom. He began to believe that along with criticism of contemporary civilization there was also a need for a fundamental reconsideration of the relationship between life and technology. (See What is life studies)
Morioka established the Research Institute for Contemporary Philosophy of Life at Osaka Prefecture University in 2009, and began building a network of researchers and students who are interested in the philosophical study of life, death, and nature. He is the editor-in-chief of Journal of Philosophy of Life.
He was also an associate editor of Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics and the editor-in-chief of Japanese Journal of Contemporary Civilization Studies (Gendai Bunmeigaku Kenkyu). His writings include twenty books and more than a hundred papers in Japanese. He is a regular commentator in major Japanese newspapers.
Morioka was born in Kochi Prefecture, Japan, in 1958. He graduated with a B.A. from the University of Tokyo in 1983. His specialization was analytic philosophy, especially the later writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and he became one of the earliest specialists on bioethics in Japan. He worked for the International Research Center for Japanese Studies as a research associate for eight years, a period during which he published several books. Brain-Dead Person (1989) is one of the most influential books in Japanese bioethics. Consciousness Communication (1993), a study of the psychological aspects of computer-mediated-communications, won the Telecom Social Science Award . Reconsidering the View of Life (1994) was warmly welcomed as an introductory textbook on applied ethics for high school and college students. How to Live in a Post-Religious Age (1996) was written as a reaction to the 1995 Sarin gas attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult on several subway lines in Tokyo. The message of that book was widely supported by young people seeking the meaning of life and death in our chaotic society. He spent one year as a visiting scholar at Wesleyan University , Conncticut, USA, in 1991.
In Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics (2001) he examines the fundamental concepts of life studies and applied them to contemporary bioethical issues. The Japanese feminist and disabled people's movements in the 1970s are examined as important early examples of Japanese bioethics. He then published another controversial book on the fate of contemporary civilization, Painless Civilization: A Philosophical Critique of Desire (2003). This has probably been his most important book so far. Many reviews and criticisms of this text appeared in major newspapers and magazines. Morioka then published two books on sexuality. Confessions of a Frigid Man (2005), a philosophical analysis of male sexuality, provoked a variety of emotional reactions from readers. The other, Lessons in Love for Herbivore Boys (2008), is a how-to textbook for timid, gentle-hearted young men. The term "herbivore men" (soshoku kei danshi in Japanese) became a buzzword in Japan and was ranked among the top ten keywords-of-the-year for 2009 (See Special Report on herbivore men). In 2013 he published Manga Introduction to Philosophy. In this book he drew all the original cartoons himself. This book is now considered to be a unique and original introduction to contemporary philosophy and its hard problems.
Morioka moved to the School of Human Sciences, Waseda University in 2015. He established Tokyo Philosophy Project in 2016, and launched Tokyo Philosophy Lab, a series of philosophical lectures for the general public, with Saori Tanaka . He edited two collections of papers Reconsidering Meaning in Life: A Philosophical Dialogue with Thaddeus Metz in 2015 and Nihilism and the Meaning of Life: A Philosophical Dialogue with James Tartaglia in 2017. The English translation of his controversial book Confessions of a Frigid Man was published in open access PDF in 2017.
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