The Structure of the Inner Life of a Philosopher
: The Multi-Layered Aspects of Speech
-- Tetsuo Yamaori (ed.) Nihonjin no Shisô no Jusôsei: Watashi no Shiza kara Kangaeru. Chikuma Shobo. April 1998, pp.77-100.
We are born of the nothingness incomprehensible to each of us individuals and find death in the midst of the limitlessness. I have absolutely no idea why I am living here and now. I don’t know why the world is the way it is. I have been thrust into existence and am coldly surrounded by the limitless space. When humans cannot fully grasp the foundations of existence, we become encumbered by the feeling known as “fear.” I was a young boy when I acquired that fear of death. (....)
The place where young people encounter “death” is in manga. In the last issue of Devilman, the creature was the very image of death, a disembodied torso. In the background angels are dancing on the sea. Also, in the final episode of Joe of Tomorrow, death lies in a ring.
*Original Japanese Title: Aru Tetsugakusha no Naimen Kôzô: Katari no nakano Jusôsei
*Original Japanese Text
*Translated by Ethan Schwalbe
The plan for this paper is to explore the apparent existence of a deep layering of thoughts and experiences that lurk on the inside of what we call an academic. I do not believe any such ‘special’ inner workings reside in me. Rather, for me and those scholastically-oriented young men of my generation, our inner development all followed a similar and familiar pattern. The media’s impression of us led them to term us the generation of “academics with a strange awareness of the world.” A large part of the ‘strangeness,’ however, is simply the strangeness that people in the previous generation feel when they see the particular awareness of our generation.
I was born in 1958. The scholars of my generation include Noriyuki Ueda (Cultural Anthropology), Masachi Osawa (Sociology), Eiji Otsuka (Criticism), Osamu Sakura (Biology), Shinji Miyadai (Sociology), Shunya Yoshimi (Sociology). They belong to the generation that is being termed “The New Human Race.” One of the characteristics of this distinguished group is that they have no experience of the campus disputes that took place in the early 70s. They all began their undergraduate careers after the period of campus disputation had ended. After the exhausted warriors of the previous generation had left the universities, this new generation of scholars came onto their campuses to enjoy a peaceful life.
Intuitively speaking, these new-generation scholars are imbued with a peculiar ethos (sense) of relativism and as such all harbor a habit of keeping their distance from any particular guiding ideology. Furthermore, in debates, a non-confrontational atmosphere in which the idea that “you may say X, but I believe Y” pervaded. They do not believe in any extant ideological power structure or authority to guide their ideas; nor do they believe that they can create any. Basically, if some thing or idea feels right, it must be so.
At this point, I wish to change the topic to that of my own development.
I came on stage in the media world (supposing that such a thing really exists) in the spring of 1988, the same year I turned thirty. Since then, I have assimilated all my articles into the collection, An Invitation to the Study of Life: Beyond Bioethics (Tokyo:Keiso Shobo, 1988), and at the same time coauthored “Ethical Issues Raised by Medical Uses of Brain-Dead Bodies” with Akira Akabayashi, in the May issue of Chuo Koron.
It was at just that time that interest in the topic of brain dead individuals and organ transplantation had begun to gain momentum. In a field in which no young scholars had been publishing, I burst onto the scene with magazine and newspaper articles. The article that appeared in Chuo Koron was very provocative, and we were anticipating intense and critical remarks; however, as the initial response to our article was miniscule, I recall feelings of great disappointment at the paltry public and scholarly reaction. I learned afterwardthat many people with strong interest concerning brain death had read the article, and had been able to grasp all the article’s contentious claims.
Let us now move on to the main idea of this paper.
In the paper, “Ethical Issues Raised by Medical Use of Brain-Dead Bodies,” the argument took the following form. The primary rationale for why it would be advantageous to consider brain-death as the death of the person is to allow for the transplantation of the organs of the body of brain dead persons; however, once you admit socially that brain death signals the death of the individual, there are other uses of the body than just organ transplantation. For example, the blood of those with rare blood types can be stored; the bodies can be used experimentally for human surgeons as skills on very dangerous and delicate surgical procedures; the bodies can be infected with the AIDS virus so that treatment methods can be researched; they can be used to test the effectiveness of artificial hearts; they can be used to test drug efficacy, etc. In sum, they can be employed in a wide array of valuable venues. And, of course they can also be used as donors for organ transplantation – these are the varying ways in which the bodies of brain dead persons can be used. In the West in the 1980s, they were already using such brain dead bodies in testing out artificial hearts and as experimenting grounds for new medicines. In Japan, even at Osaka University, brain-dead bodies have been used in basic medical experiments to learn about the vital stats of those who suffer from brain death itself.
Once, and if organ transplantations from brain dead persons are accepted in society, the field of possible uses will soon be extended to these mentioned above. The uses besides organ transplantation will give rise to new ethical and societal dilemmas. Before such new uses become general fare, the position we (Dr. Akabayashi and I) took in the article is that we need to determine in which cases and for what reasons brain dead bodies may licitly be used. This was the dilemma we set out to tackle. Currently, in April 1995, the situation remains utterly unchanged. There has been no resolution of the propriety of uses nor has there been any debate within society over the probity of the various possible uses of brain dead bodies. The intent of our work has been widely misunderstood.
For example, the following argument has been proffered by those who support organ transplantation: “While we discuss the moral probity of all the different uses of brain dead bodies, those who need those organs urgently are left hanging. During the time we are debating the possible uses of those bodies, the irreplaceable lives of those who would benefit from the bodies’organs are being lost. Would you say that you are willing to sacrifice the lives of those who would die while we debate?” The implication is that those who believe that a full debate of the issues surrounding the use of brain dead bodies needs to take place prior to their usewant to deny or hinder life-saving treatmentsthose who desperately need organ transplants.
On the other hand, those against organ transplantation, provide the following arguments: “At this stage of not having fully discussed the moral probity of organ transplantation from brain dead bodies, propaganda from all different factions declaring that if we used brain dead bodies, we could do this and that is surfacing. The doctrine that anything that improves our technical capacities should be endeavored is being put into question now. This seems to be the intentional hiding of the organ transplantation issue from the public eye.” It may appear that we (Dr. Akabayashi and myself) are the pawns of the otherside, the one that promotes organ transplantation.
Although, there are two legitimate legal criticisms, apartfrom those two, the critiques leveled at our position are either emotionally-driven or derived from a misunderstanding of our position.
Those who publicly criticized our paper generally understood the paper from a political perspective. It certainly seemed in 1988 that the political atmosphere of the times would only allow the response that we actually received.
However, our true intention lay elsewhere. We aimed at two things. On the one hand, we wanted to use “brain death” as an example of how deeply modern scientific techniques and technology are invading our concepts of human life and our bodies. Secondly we wanted to examine and predict the social problems that would emerge with the new technologies of the 21st century.
My coauthor, Akira Akabayashi, born the same year as me, a doctor and academic himself, has a similar understanding of the issues involved.
Taking brain death as an example, my second work, “Brain Dead Person,” I was able to begin to look at the blending of modern scientific procedures and the essence of civilization. This work, really structured as a primer on issues raised by brain death, was widely read and helped advance the later work Reconsidering the Idea of Life, published in 1994.
As a necessary step in preparing to explore the inner layers of my thinking, it is necessary to write a little more on what Masahiro Morioka has researched to date. I first appeared in the media as an academic specialist on “Brain Death Problems.”
However, my research was notlimited to the issues concerning brain death. In fact, up to now, I believe the most important academic achievement I have made is the presentation of “life studies” as a research framework. In my first book, An Invitation to the Study of Life, I defined the term ‘life studies’ with the following provisions. Life studies is the academic field that deals with “how modern civilization and science have changed our relationship to life and how those changes should influence how we live our lives.” The ethical dilemmas that arise with brain death, in-vitro fertilization, etc., and the technological advances with gene manipulation, end-of-life medical treatments and religious issues, the preservation of the environment and global environmental problems, etc. which are all “life” problems emerging in modern civilization. And these problems are so closely connected with one another that it is almost impossible to fully analyze only one special issue apart from other problems. Therefore, I took each of those issues and explored its reciprocal relationships with other issues, established a new framework for examination, and penetrated them as a singular body to understand the particular essence of “life studies.” At this point, I want now to distance myself both from “Death Studies (Thanatology)” that deals with specific research on human death and dying, and from “Bioethics” that is beginning to institutionalize itself as a paramedical academic discipline. At the same time, I want to distance myself from the world that requires academics to become ‘specialists’ in a particular field. In order to grasp “life” comprehensively as field of issues, I propose that we strip ourselves of the restrictive labelof ‘specialists’ and become “lay persons.”
With this in mind, I wrote Brain Dead Person and The Concept of Inochi, which was popular among foreign scholars. As the field of life studies comprises my life’s work, I intend to spend the next ten years or so properly developing the ideas therein. In An Invitation to the Study of Life, although ‘life studies’ was an integral part of the work, I was unable to concretely demonstrate the contents of the field. As I had already introduced Brain Dead Person and Reconsidering the Idea of Life, I was able to demonstrate in what direction the field of life studies was going, but was unable to go further than that. Currently, in 1995, the work entitled A Life Studies Primer, which will outline just the surface of life studies, still seems far from publication.
As ‘life studies,’ the academic field becomes more and more prominent, those who endeavor to study, must thrust themselves into it; when I chose it, I was confident I was up to the challenge. Furthermore, I did not intend to merely break down the walled boundaries of specialization in this field of academia, I wanted to examine my own living and dying in the here and now as an academic enterprise. I have no intention of setting up ‘life studies’ around an abstraction of what my life (inochi) is. I envision life studies as an examination of the different fields of ‘objective science’ and ‘natural science’ that emerge in the abstraction of my life and death.
My exposure to such ethical topics such as brain death, abortion, ecological and environmental ethics was a result and an advantage of having written An Introduction to the Study of Life. In 1988, I was the only young Japanese academic to tie the fields of bioethics and environmental ethics together, so I was often asked in interviews why I had chosen such fields of study.
In general, the story of my formation (which it can truly be called) is in what follows. To begin with, I have always harbored a deep interest in the natural sciences. In college my course of study belonged to the pure sciences department; however, finding the classes dull, I switched over to the liberal arts division. It was at this time when I turned my interest towards the problems that emerged at the points where the natural world and human society meet. For example, I was greatly shocked by the Asilomar Conference, which called for a moratorium on geneticexperiments because of the fear of impending doom inspired by genetic manipulations. I also became interested in euthanasia and what is now called the global environmental problem. Displaying the recklessness of my youth, of the few research institutions tackling these sorts of issues, I contacted Keiko Nakamura at Mitsubishi-Kasei Institute of Life Science. I was also able to learn various things from the still relatively unknown Shouhei Yonemoto. Coincidence and Necessity by Monod, General Systems Theory by Bertalanffy and Limits to Growth by the Club of Rome were all works that were recommended to me and more importantly ones that moved me.
The Ethics Department of the University of Tokyo did not provide an atmosphere in which I felt I could write a thesis or dissertation on bioethics or environmental problems. The only themes that were acceptable for expansion there were ones that explored Western as well as Japanese philosophers – examples of appropriate topics would include ideas such as Kant’s Middle Period works on ‘understanding’ or Heidegger’s latter studies on the concept of ‘existence,’ etc. Professor Yukiyoshi Ogura, who was in charge of the seminar, was always saying that ethics was philology. When I spoke of the intrigue bioethics held for me, I was accused of spewing anathema by a student, words that I shall never forget.
But I wanted to become an academic; I wanted to write a book. Therefore I decided to continue to work on bioethics behind the scenes while outwardly completing works on the acceptable topics.
The theme I chose was a work by the philosopher Wittgenstein. As perhaps the 20th century’s most representative philosopher, he deftly explored how our understanding of words serves as a clue in understanding more complex issues such as ‘otherness,’ ‘action,’ and ‘certainty.’ I was able to complete both my graduation thesis and master’s thesis on his works. Once I became a Ph.D. candidate, I jumped into a bioethics translation project that was led by Professor Nobuyuki Iida and Professor Hisatake Kato. Using that project as an opportunity, I wrote articles on bioethics for Gendai Shiso and Chuo Koron. I gathered all of those writings and published them together as my foray into the field of bioethics.
When I tell this story, people usually react with understanding. They empathize, telling me things like, “That must have been really rough.”As I speak of these things, there are a few important items we should look at individually. For example, it hasn’t been explained why I would cling to “life” studies so fervently, nor why I would choose to leave the sciences for the liberal arts. It is also unclear why I chose Wittgenstein.
Here I sincerely wish to plunge the reader into the layers of my inner development one by one.
First, why Wittgenstein? Basically I chose him because I read the piece which really is representative of his early period, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. When discussing the philosophy coming out of Europe in this century, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is unfailingly included. First delivered in German in 1921, it was then translated to English (with an introduction by Bertrand Russsell) and is referred to as the “Bible” of logical positivism by fanatics in that field.
As I was moving towards the liberal arts, I maintained a lingering affection for both mathematics and logic, and became absorbed in the classic writings of this logician who started out in the engineering field. On my first read of this book, I was completely befuddled by its theoretic structure/style and my mind was merely filled with incomprehensible fragments. For beginning readers he has an extremely unfriendly writing style.
Nonetheless from the unwieldy bits that I was able to grasp clearly every so often, the scales of incomprehension gradually began to fall off my eyes. In that work, he explains
5.62 For what the solipsist means is quite correct; only it cannot be said, but makes itself manifest.
5.63 I am my world. (The microcosm.)
6.431 So too at death the world does not alter, but comes to an end.
6.4311 Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits.
6.44 It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.
6.522 There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.
7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
When I read these famous snippets hidden in the latter half of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, a difficult treatise in the field of logic on the relationship between proposition and logic, Wittgenstein became the most influential philosopher on my scholastic development. I desired to find what remains once the logic of arguments has been exhausted, what is found on the other side of that which is said, “that inexpressible beyond.” I believe that depending only on what remains unsaid, one will find something there. “Solipsism,” “death,” “the world’s existence,” and “mysteriousness” – what the philosopher ultimately discovers after thoroughly examining a thing or an idea through logic, the part that remains when it can no longer be expressed using logic, what naturally appears after such an examination, that mysterious “kernel of existence.”
One of the reasons I was shocked at these items described by Wittgenstein was that he stuck with the same problem as I have and continued with since my teens. Also, I suffered terribly being unable to communicate my ideas in written from. I was shocked in finding out that the problem that plagued my mind for so long had been so clearly elucidated by someone at the beginning of this century.
Why does this world exist? Why do I exist? Why do I have a distinct way of living? (solipsism) How can I reach other people? (The philosophical dilemma of ‘other minds’)
Heidegger was confronted with the same question, but Wittgenstein took a different route to answer it.
For these questions I had to trace back into my own memory of the past.
I vividly recall the first time I read Pascal’s Pensees as a high school student. In order to understand even fragmentary portions of this Christian apologist’s work, one must understand the fundamentals of the Christian religion. But even an immature young man harbors enough cognitive capacity to comprehend the sadness of those without God that Pascal depicts:
72 For, in fact, what is man in nature? A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean between nothing and everything. Since he is infinitely removed from comprehending the extremes, the end of things and their beginning are hopelessly hidden from him in an impenetrable secret; he is equally incapable of seeing the Nothing from which he was made, and the Infinite in which he is swallowed up.
205 When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant and which know me not, I am frightened and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then. Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been allotted to me? Memoria hospitis unius diei praetereuntis.
206 The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.
Unable to comprehend either the vastness or the minuteness of this universe, the human being remains suspended somewhere in the space between. We are born of the nothingness incomprehensible to each of us individuals and find death in the midst of the limitlessness. I have absolutely no idea why I am living here and now. I don’t know why the world is the way it is. I have been thrust into existence and am coldly surrounded by the limitless space.
When humans cannot fully grasp the foundations of existence, we become encumbered by the feeling known as “fear.”
I was a young boy when I acquired that fear of death.
Pensees grabbed a hold of that young boy’s heart firmly and guided him alongthe road of philosophy. I was haunted by the almost unbearable discovery, “my own death.” I averted my eyes from it, only to find myself confronted with it again over and over. This relentless fear preoccupied my early development. I believe it was when I resolved that I would never be able to flee the idea of my own death that I truly became a philosopher. The ultimate basis for why I continue to pursue my current academic endeavors lies here.
At the same time I discovered the concept of “my own death,” I also realized (in not so many words) that my way of being is unique in this universe (solipsism). Soon after these discoveries, I was drawn to fundamental questions of metaphysics and existentialism such as the apparent irrelevance of our own or the world’s existence, why randomly we exist now, and the questions of what “other” people of this world are (Again we are faced with the philosophical dilemma of ‘otherness.’)
I don’t recall exactly when I was suddenly struck by these ideas, but it must have been at the end of my elementary school days or in junior high school. I know that I tried to forget the more terrifying of the questions because, first of all, there was nobody with whom I could seek counsel, but more importantly, it had become an obsession that I felt could not be disclosed. As I watched the adults around me, I would tell myself that once one becomes an adult, these problems would naturally disappear.
“I’m afraid of dying;” “What happens after you die?” It is almost inconceivable that junior high school boys will have such conversations about death. At that age, their main interest becomes of girls and sex. As for my inner development, as I grew I developed somewhat of an aversion to sexual impulses as the haunting notion of “my death” would not leave my mind. The memories I have of my junior high days are of a depressing, painful period.
Whenever I would solve math problems, become absorbed in a novel, or listen to music, I could forget about this world. Math, novels and music encompassed my entire psychological life. The pleasure I derived from solving math puzzles set the foundation for how my intellectual personality would develop. That foundation was the excitement that accompanies the surprising flash of knowledge that penetrated my confused mind. This is one of the periods of my life in which I truly felt satisfied.
The place where young people encounter “death” is in manga. In the last issue of Devilman, the creature was the very image of death, a disembodied torso. In the background angels are dancing on the sea. Also, in the final episode of Joe of Tomorrow, death lies in a ring.
A work that fills young boy’s hearts with dread is Firebird by Osamu Tezuka. The Firebird is one of the few special beings that transcend space and time and have eternal life, but have taken shape (for us humans to perceive). The human races, in their particular histories, and in each their own way, have encountered the Firebird and have tried to acquire its immortality. Each also continues to fail. Humans have a limited existence (are mortal), and while we all fear death, in the end too, we all die. The Firebird is a symbol of the undulating flow of how each individual comes to understand and ultimately to embrace death in the “life” of the eternal. Each one of us is born into our mortal existence from that eternal life and are absorbed back into its flow at our death. Tezuka somberly paints a picture of how mortal humans, in various ways, try and are perpetually frustrated in their attempts to grasp eternal life. At the same time, however, those frustrating attempts at immortality can be seen as precisely one of the aspects that make human beings human beings.
The limitlessness of space in eternity that allows for only silence in Pascal’s Pensees degenerates into the warm existence into which each death is absorbed in Tezuka’s Firebird. (Of course, in Pensees, the role of the cause of this state of events is played by “God.”)
Thinking about it now, I would assert that Tezuka’s Firebird can serve as a sort of progenitor/prototype for what I propose as “Life Studies.” The firebird, the continuous flow of life, embracing everything, salvages people who are trembling with fear, being suspended in the midst ofthe universe, and gives them meaning in life. On the other hand, Tezuka depicts people who reject this salvation, choosing to remain irreplaceable individual humans living here and now, and trying to obtain immortality by using technologies. “Civilization” and “History” are merely the tracks of human beings in their strenuous efforts and perpetual frustrations in trying to return to eternal existence from which they have been born as mortal beings.
I believe we can credit Osamu Tezuka with the true genesis of Life Studies.
I did not realize this until extremely recently, though; rather I had completely eliminated any recollection of the Firebird from my consciousness. I was diverted from the path of bringing philosophical meditations inspired by the thought of “my death” together with the notion of the Firebird’s “life” at some point in my teens.
Instead I began to concentrate on the idea of what my existence and that of other people was.
Although I will not go into detail about this, I realized that I would, at some point, have to deeply examine this fundamental problem in philosophy, that I would have to confront the solipsist thesis sooner or later. Some people are inclined to think that it might be only “me” that actually has an inner consciousness because it is totally unclear whether you have “consciousness”=“another I”=“the other mind” inside your body.
As I have already introduced above, the early period of Wittgenstein’s work took the stance that the “the unspoken aspects of solipsism are absolutely true.” However, “that is not something which comes about through the spoken word, but something that just naturally makes itself manifest to us.”
Shozo Omori, whose philosophy itself is unique and who has been greatlyinfluenced by Wittgenstein also affirms solipsism. He states, “I believe that the coherent solipsism is not solipsism any more.” (Language, Knowledge, The World, Iwanami Shoten, p. viii)
There is no way to really deny that the world is composed in a way that corresponds with solipsism. While affirming this and careful not to fall into a weak form of solipsism, we must ask how it is possible for us to grasp this solipsistic world in a publicly understandable way. Resolving this was my most pressing dilemma.
I wrote my Master’s thesis on Wittgenstein, and the reasons I scrutinized his theory of otherness were enumerated above. Of course, as taking a look back at one’s old papers now would be excessively trivial, I will not do so here. However, having opened the proverbial can of worms, I will now briefly outline my ideas. Since the age of 25, I would set myself the task of writing some number of pages per day on a manuscript doomed never to be published, called “The Philosophy of a Personal World” until it was finished. Even now I become nostalgic looking back on those days, before my first word processor, sitting in a small 6-tatami room at a cramped table starting at the right-hand corner of each A-4 page, laboring with a black ball point pen. Recently married, I would wake up early in the morning, turn on the table lamp, and as I watched my beloved sleep out of the corner of my eye, I would slowly fill the pages with my thoughts. Ah, those were the days, not having started work officially, I set out to write an uninspired and uninspiring manuscript by myself and the dawn slowly would arrive with the chirping of small birds.
For this reason, in this period of my life, during late-night and dawn writing sessions my projects on “The Philosophy of a Personal World” progressed while during the day, I focused on my manuscripts in “Bioethics.”
During this period, I met the philosopher Hitoshi Nagai, a lecturer at Housei University (now a professor at Shinshu University). Right after that, he published a philosophical treatise, The Metaphysics of “I” (Keiso Shobo, 1986), which contained an original expansion of solipsism. This work will certainly live on as a masterpiece in the annals of Japanese philosophical history. At the time the work was published, the concept of “I” brought up by Nagai in his development of solipsism had not become a topical subject in the field of philosophy; now, however, the new generation of young Japanese philosophers are paying much attention to that idea and a workshop has even been established at meetings of scientific philosophers.
Though Nagai and I are looking at the same field of philosophical issues, his superiority in understanding these issues and his publications have truly astounded me. At the time it was clear that he had the linguistic capabilities that I lacked, and the ideas in the 200 some odd pages that I had written would have to be rethought from their very foundation.
Nagai knew that I was writing a manuscript, and so he introduced me to Keiso Shobo Publishing. After talking with the editors at Keiso, and seeing that “The Philosophy of a Personal World” was still far from completion, they requested that before finishing that work, I should write a piece on “bioethics;” the result was the publication of An Invitation to the Study of Life.
Even after that I continued to write on “The Philosophy of a Personal World.” Masao Kurosaki made it possible for me to deliver a presentation on it at a PIN Philosophy Seminar. Shortly after that, however, I stopped writing on it, and it has sat sleeping on my bookshelf for quite some time.
Two years after having come to Kyoto, I suddenly remembered Osamu Tezuka’s Firebird, and realized that both my work “The Philosophy of a Personal World” and “Life Studies” shared the same motives and objectives. Furthermore, at that time, after pondering for a while, I gained a new perspective on how best to grasp Nagai’s solipsism theory and connect it to my own life studies research. As I was thinking about these things, I came across a certain type of mistake in Nagai’s solipsism, wrote and presented a critical paper on it. That paper, “The meaning of the uniqueness of one’s form of existence in this universe,” which was included ina collection of essays edited by none other than Nagai (Etica Lectures “Self and Others.” Showado, 1993). Though authors such as Yoshimichi Nakajima have started even referencing this debate between Nagai and myself (Morioka) (“Philosophy Textbook,” Kodansha, 1995), we still have to work together to determine how the debate should be interpreted (Motoyoshi Irifuji and Asaji Hirayama are already developing the ideas in a unique manner). Anyway, I still need to reexamine the 200 pages sleeping on my bookshelf and revise them in a particular area of life studies.
Above I have indicated that my main research topic was bioethics, and Wittgenstein was, in a sense, pursued out of necessity. Now, having disclosed my development more fully, it may be difficult to say which of those interests supercedes the other.
Though I have talked of the story of how the new levels of my development have come into being, I still feel that there are some layers that we have not come close to reaching yet. If we were really to try to reveal the inner layers of my being forthe reader, who perhaps has no interest in such a topic, I must elaborate on my inner world as a child and some fearful experiences I had as a college student. The layers of those experiences have not only provided a spring of energy for my creative endeavors, but have also shaped the contours of what was possible for my life.
Of course I want to allow some of my heart to remain hidden.
Though it is certainly flattering to discuss the layers of my inner development, it is somewhat distressing at the same time.
To begin with, it is important to point out that if one wants a simple, schematic story, talking about my life will not do. For example, for four years after the publication of Brain Dead Person, I spent most of my research time examining the debate surrounding electronic media. As I had secretly worked on that topic, when my Consciousness Communication (Chikuma Shobo, 1993) came out in 1993, and I sent it to my acquaintances and friends, they were certainly surprised (After that, the collection of dialogues, Cyber Social Walfare (Gakuensha, 1994), ended up appalling them). In that work, I analyzed the effect that the telephone and computer networks were having on us human beings, our relationships, and our psychological makeup in modern times. For that, I performed a logical and “science-fiction” thought experiment on what possible worlds will materialize when the fictional, electronic world where people come into contact with one another becomes fully operational. In order to search the possibilities of communication through personal computers, I engaged in a collaborative research project with a computer networking company called Nihon Telenet. While at an American university, I read all about the theories concerning electronic media, and while I feigned on the surface to be researching bioethics, I was in fact writing about electronic media.
People who came to interview me about Consciousness Communication certainly said things along the following lines. “Why is Mr. Morioka, who has heretofore been a specialist (!) in the field of bioethics now turning his hand to media theories?” I respond with the following: My lifework is “life studies;” it is my intention to continue such work for the rest of my life. I have never switched the focus my research from life studies to media theory. Even while writing Consciousness Communication, however, I continued to give presentations on life studies.
In my understanding of them, “Life Studies” and “Electronic Media Theories” are intertwined. For example, in modern civilization, a new consciousness is developing as a result of the new problems emerging from the effects of the most recent technologies on our lives, our bodies, our society, and our hearts. Both fields are playing a role in the examination of how life is changing. Furthermore, one can only understand them fully if one attempts to look seriously at the essences of both new scientific technical capabilities and modern civilization.
If I explain it in these terms, the coherence of my argument may be clearer.
Nonetheless, the reader may still not fully understand why I chose“electronic media” as a new object of study.
Actually, electronic media has not been chosen as a new topic of research. It became an object of my intense interest when I left for Tokyo as an eighteen year-old. To tell the truth, I have been ruminating over this topic since my late teens. When my job took me to Kyoto and my life became a bit more settled, I was able to concentrate more on my studies and firm up my thinking on issues, leading, finally, to a more productive output. I was also struck by the thought in my early thirties that if I did not produce something on this issue, I would never be able to do so. As one gets older and more mature, he can no longer write on these topics. Furthermore, I needed to write while still moved by the impulses of Eros.
While living in Tokyo for 12 years, I became convinced of the idea that the field of electronic media was something especially appropriate for Tokyo, a “Tokyo-like” phenomenon. I came to Tokyo from the countryside to begin life on my own. I had no real desire to make friends at university, and what’s more I had no money with which to play around. Soon after arriving, I stopped attending class. Before long, I was staying up late in my room, gnawing on bread, laughing by myself at the late-night TV and radio shows. I used to hit the movie houses, PIA movie magazine in hand, out until dawn, when at last I would sleep the days away. I lived in poverty and solitude. However, the city called Tokyo possessed an atmosphere that would soothingly envelope the loneliness of the college student. Tokyo was a gentle city. That gentleness is the facility of an “information” metropolis. Late-night television, radio, news magazines, movie houses, the convenience stores that, even in the wee hours of the morning, don’t sleep, the melodious sound of the trucks on Loop Seven, the porn-selling vending machines, the white, floating telephone booths. It is like a lively flood of “information” into which you can thrust yourself, and ever since I started living in that fanciful world, the city of Tokyo has never failed to kindly welcome me.
Also, I used to make long phone calls all the time.
Late at night, I sometimes would blather on for almost three hours. In the middle of my conversation, I would get hungry, make myself some ramen, and then keep on talking. My telephone was located in the center of my six-tatami room. When I was on the phone, I would lose sight of my small, dirty room, and it would be as though the person I was on the phone with and I were floating somewhere inside of that fanciful space.
In my own room, with my isolated solitude and one telephone line, I am connected with another solitary human being. I lived at a distance where I could easily have met that other person; however, we chose to speak over the phone. If it started to rain here, it would soon be raining there as well. As we shared the same city, Tokyo, we wanted to remain connected electronically.
What can this be?
I have always been turning this question over deeply in my soul. When I think about bioethics or the philosophy of a personal world, this question continues to linger and reverberate deep in my heart. After passing thirty years of age and moving to Kyoto, my thinking on this topic suddenly began to crystallize and I produced a book on it.
This might confuse the reader, but at the current time, 1995, the topic of research that is occupying my mind is feminism. Like other topics discussed, I have to trace back to my university days to find the first time I became struck by feminism. I believe the men in the generations after mine must have sensed a certain bitter taste of defeat from the women of their same generation in a variety of areas. However, those women themselves complain that they have continued to feel the same sense of defeat within a male-dominated society. What can this be, this situation where both women and men are feeling a sense of defeat? Throughout the 1980s, this has been an issue for me. After coming to Kyoto, meeting Chizuko Ueno became at once a means to a greater self-consciousness about this issue. Having been able to discuss issues with such members of Tetsuo Yamaori’s research group as Etsuko Yamashita and Emiko Ochiai, was huge. Reading Rieko Matsuura’s novel also opened my eyes a fair amount, and Yukari Fujimoto’s research series on sexuality was quite stimulating (Ms. Ochiai and Ms. Matsuura were also born in 1958, and Ms. Fujimoto in 1959. No wonder they had such an effect on me). For these reasons, I am currently writing a book called “The Idea of Life in Feminism.” I believe it will become one of the first attempts at an honest set of remarks by a male to deal with modern contemporary Japanese feminism.
Having tried to write about my inner development, I have come to understand one thing clearly.
I have been able to talk about my inner being through several stories. Each of the stories reminds me in its own way of the experiences and events of my youth. This trip through stories, after having allowed me to attribute some meaning to those experiences and events, brings me back to the present. Sometimes the stories I have relayed preserved their consistency; sometimes it seemed that they contradict one another. Some portions of the stories I have been able to faithfully recount as I still, even now, vividly remember them, while others are little fictitious memories narrated by the present author.
This piece-by-piece method of recalling my inner development has opened my eyes to the various cross-sections that lie therein. All of those cross-sections, by revealing each their entirely different contexts, have created a fictional world.
“My inner layers” do not exist as different strata within my heart piled prudently one upon another. Rather, “my inner layers” are the different stories of my inner being and the various means by which I am able to communicate that inner being, so that they first become visible. The various expectations and motives about which the “multi-layered aspects of speech,” have been mentioned, comprise precisely “my inner layers.”
I have been able to reach the different layers within my being for the first time by talking about them in a multi-layered fashion. And this is one of the crucial meanings of what it is to be “multi-layered.”
Postscript in 1998
Shortly after this essay was written in April, 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo terrorist incident took place. This event penetrated my inner experiences and spirituality in my deep heart, which I had not been able to write in this essay. In the summer of 1995, I finished writing the manuscript of a book called How to Live in a Post-religious Age (Hozokan, published in 1996), and depicted another inner story of mine that had been carefully excluded from this essay. After publishing that book, at present, I am facing one more untold aspect of self, hidden on a deeper layer. To do philosophy might mean a bloody endeavor to endlessly dig into this “untold self” inside me, by interrelating with the world, others, and study.