May 05, 2010

New Blog

This page has moved to a new URL. Please visit:

http://lifestudies.org/wordpress/

May 02, 2010

Lifestudies.Org was updated

After more than two years' absence, I am finally starting to reconstruct the main webisite, Lifestudies.Org. I will come back to English Internet soon.

 Visit Lifestudies.Org
http://www.lifestudies.org/

 I have joined Twitter and Facebok.

Twitter
https://twitter.com/masa_morioka

Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/masahiro.morioka

And I am planning to change this blog for a new one. I will write about it in the next post.

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

September 29, 2007

Self-determination and the Ethics of Life Extension

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Today, I wrote the abstract of my presentation, which will be presented at UNESCO Kumamoto conference to be held in December this year. (Perspectives on Self-determination, Kumamoto University, Japan, Dec.15-16, 2007). The conference is organized by Dr. Takao Takahashi, one of the leaders in Japan's medical ethics. Darryl Macer (UNESCO Bangkok) and other Japanese scholars are scheduled to participate.

The following is my abstract.

Self-determination and the Ethics of Life Extension

Masahiro Morioka, Osaka Prefecture University, Japan

The book, “Beyond Therapy,” written by Leon Kass and the President’s Council of Bioethics, was published in 2003. In Chapter 4 of their book, the authors discussed the ethics of life extension and age-retardation, and concluded that the technologies that accelerate them should not be encouraged because they might deprive us of the meaning of life and human dignity. From just after the publication, academic articles criticizing their argument started to appear in bioethics journals. Most of them strongly advocated freedom of research on life extension and age-retardation, and our right to choose (or buy) those future technologies in terms of the principle of self-determination. Some authors profess their desire to live as long as possible even if it be more than several hundred years.

Since last year, when I had an opportunity in Japan to give a public lecture on ethics of life and death, I talked about this topic every time and asked the audience how they thought about this issue. Surprisingly, the majority of people who replied to me said that they didn’t wish to live for such a long period of time even if they could buy those technologies. In the United States of America, people who object to the idea of life extension and are-retardation are those who are sympathetic with Christian values. Then, what about in Japan?

Concerning this topic, the philosopher Hans Jonas published a paper entitled, “The Burden and Blessing of Mortality,” in Hastings Center Report in 1992. In his paper he concludes that death is a burden to us, but at the same time, death is a blessing to humans. I would like to make clear what he really meant to say in his last philosophical paper, and finally, I would like to present my comments on this topic.

Kumamoto City is located at the west coast of Kyushu Island. To the south, there is the world famous city of Minamata. I have never been there. I want to visit this city someday.

Photo: Zushi Coast

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

August 29, 2007

Bioethics and sociology of medicine

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I have not updated this blog and our website for more than two months, but I am fine, healthy, and trying to finish two new books in Japanese, so please do not worry (^_^). The books I am writing are an introductory one that deals with men's studies and a collection of short philosophical essays.

And after finish writing, I will make a digital file of the English version of Brain Dead Person, and write several papers in English, and rewrite the book Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics in English, which was published in 2001 in Japanese. I will come back to this blog and website within a year or so :-).

I really think the English language is still a major hurdle to overcome. In Japanese I can think and write quickly, but it takes a lot of time to translate it into English in my head. Current Japanese bioethics and sociology of medicine are becoming really interesting. I want to show the outline of our discussion made in Japanese in recent years. And I want to also write about our research project on the philosophy of life at our college. It will become more and more important to exchange ideas with people with various cultural backgrounds in this field.

I will write about this again in the next post.

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

June 17, 2007

Philosophy and Bioethics of Life Extension

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I don't still have enough time to write a blog post. This spring my Japanese paper on the ethics of life extension and age retardation was published. The following is the abstract of the paper.

Philosophy and Bioethics of Life Extension: An Analysis of Topics Found in Major Publications

Masahiro Morioka

In this paper, the current discussion on life extension is reviewed and analyzed from the viewpoint of philosophy and bioethics. After the publication of Leon Kass’s Beyond Therapy (2003), the issue of life extension and age retardation has come to the forefront of current bioethical discussions. I take a closer look at the discussions by such philosophers as Hans Jonas, Leon Kass, David Gems, John Harris, A. D. N. J. de Grey, John Schloendorn and Steven Horrobin, and criticize some of their arguments. My conclusion is as follows. While the conservatives’ argument does not provide a sufficient ground for prohibiting the development of life extension technologies, it successfully shows us the anxiety and suffering we might have to bear in the coming long-life society. Moreover, no matter how long our lifespan may be extended, all of us must die sooner or later, hence, the question of how to die without regret would continue to remain as a central issue even in such a society. The liberals seem to avoid this philosophical question. Finally, I want to stress that further discussion about the philosophy of life should be needed in the field of life extension and age retardation.

(The original title is: "Seienchou no Tetsugaku to Seimeirinrigaku" in Ningenkagaku, Osaka Prefecture University, Vol.2, pp.65-95 (2007))

I am thinking of writing an English paper on the same topic.

Photo: Zushi Coast

May 28, 2007

A new approach to bioethics

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These days I have been thinking of rewriting my Japanese book, A Life Studies Approach to Bioethics, published in 2001 (So far I have translated the title of this book as, Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics, but this translation might be a misleading one. I am not sure which one would be better suited. Do you have any suggestion?) And I am now planning to rewrite it in English, which means that the content of the whole book will be reexamined and restructured in English, and further discussions will be introduced if needed. Therefore, this is not mere translation, but something equivalent to writing the second edition of this book.

Last year I joined bioethics conferences in the USA, China, and Germany, and It became clear that my discussion in this book would be helpful to the international discussion on bioethics and philosophy of life. Especially, discussions on brain death, feminist bioethics, abortion, disabled people's bioethics, and new eugenics will be able to make a significant impact on an international audience in this field. When rewriting the book, I have to read a number of important books and papers that have been published after 2001. And of course my English should be edited by a native speaker.

I am not sure whether I should try to find a publisher, or just put the English text on this website. Publication from Osaka Prefecture University might be one possibility (but they probably do not have a skill to sell in the international acdemic market). Anyway, the original book was warmly welcomed in Japan, so I believe the English edition will attract many readers who are interested in biothics and contemporary philosophy.

Photo: Yoroi Kabuto (samurai warrior's helmet and armor)

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

May 16, 2007

New post

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I am very sorry that I have not been able to post for more than three weeks. I am fine, but I did not have enough time to update this blog. I have begun a new Japanese blog with my friends from this April, and I have concentrated myself on the Japanese blog so far. I will start writing again soon.

 

April 20, 2007

Killing at Virginia Tech University and Taxi Driver

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I have not posted for more than 10 days. This is because I have been heavily involved in new classes and administrative works in our college since the beginning of this month.

But I would like to say a word about the mass killing at Virginia Tech University. New York Times published an essay which insists that the killer, Cho Seung-Hui, might have been influenced by the Korean violence movie, "Oldboy." ("Virginia Tech killer's hammer photograph resembles the violent South Korean movie 'Oldboy'", New York Times, International Herald Tribune, April 19,2007)

I have never seen that Korean movie, but what came to my mind when I first saw the photos of the killer was the American movie, Taxi Driver, and its hero, Travis Bickle. It is hard to explain, but I cannot help thinking that Cho Seung-Hui and Travis Bickle share the same illness, the illness which many Americans might have at the deep layer of their consciousness, that is to say, a craving for bloodshed, violence, and mass killing. Everytime I saw American movies I wondered why American movies were filled with so many violent killing scenes with very realistic sounds. For instance, even the Hollywood enternainment film, Patriot Games, is filled with homicide scenes throughout the film, to say nothing of such indie films as Pulp Fiction and others.

What I want to emphasize here is that it is American movies' bloodthirstiness, not Korean ones deeply influenced by Hollywood, that should be pointed out and criticized. And we have to think deeply about why there are so many homicide scenes in Hollywood movies. I can smell their craving for bloodshed, and I doubt this subconscious might support their mighty American army. Remember Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. Cho Seung-Hui was born in Korea, but he spent his adolescence in the US, in this sense, he is a son of America, and his illness must have some connection with the pathology of American society.

Photo: Zushi Coast

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

April 09, 2007

Season for cherry blossoms

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The Spring semester has started. I have been very busy preparing for my classes that begins this week. Now is the season for cherry blossoms here, but it was the day before yesterday that I came to our college campus and first saw cherry blossoms in full bloom.

I am going to write about war and the value of human life in the next post. Everyday we hear news about suicide attacks in Iraq and Israel and other areas. It makes me depressed, because it reminds me of what Japanese yourng soldiers did 60 years ago. Please give me time to write.

Photo: Zushi Coast

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

April 01, 2007

Is it wrong to eat humans?

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Several years ago I had a debate, with anonymous net friends, over the question, "Is it wrong to eat humans?" My previous post made me rethink that question.

Of course, eating human beings has been considered a taboo practice in many regions, and it is crystal clear that killing human beings in order to eat them should be completely forbidden.

However, the question I am thinking about is this: "Is it wrong to eat dead humans?," precisely speaking, "Is it wrong to eat a human being that is already dead?" If it is wrong, what is the reason for that?

Do you think this is a devilish idea? Ok, then, let us think about organ transplants from brain dead children. In many countries, the heart, the liver and other organs can be removed from a brain dead child, whose body is warm because the blood is still circulating inside. Removed body parts are transplanted into other people's bodies. Some Japanese critics think that this is equivalent to eating human organs.

You may say that the motives are different. Organ transplants are for the purpose of saving people's lives, but eating human organs are for egoistic reasons such as gourmet cooking and delicacy.

Then, think about the following case. Imagine a man who loves his wife from the bottom of his heart. One day, his wife becomes seriously ill and dies suddenly. He deeply laments over her death, and wishes that at least a part of his loved one's body will continue to exist inside his body, and decides to eat her. (Please remember that the parents whose child becomes brain dead often wish at least a part of the body of their beloved child will continue to exist in someone's body, and argree to organ transplants.)

In this case, is it possible to find a sound reason for persuading him (and us) not to eat his deceased wife's body?

While destruction of the dead bodies is forbidden in many countries, organ transplants (this is the apparent destruction of the dead body) is considered an exception to this rule. Then, what about eating the beloved one's dead body?

Photo: Zushi Coast, Kanagawa

Related post: Is it cruel to kill animals?

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

March 25, 2007

Is it cruel to kill animals?

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I have read an interesting article entitled "Canadian seal hunters: We're not a "savage race"," written by David Ljunggren, Reuters, March 21st, 2007. According to the article, Canadian hunters kill small harp seals to get pelts and seal oil, by beating them with clubs. While protesters say "killing animals for their fur is barbaric," Canada's fisheries minister condemns their protest, saying that their efforts are futile. Ljunggren wrties as follows:

Critics say the fact that the bodies of seals jerk around after being clubbed shows the animals are suffering. Sealers describe the movements as muscle spasms and insist that a well-aimed blow with the blunt end of a hackapick club causes instantaneous death. (web)

And he cites the words of Raoul Jomphe, the director of a documentary film on this topic.

"There is a malaise in society. People have forgotten where food comes from," said Raoul Jomphe, the filmmaker. Why, the sealers wonder, do people not focus on what happens in commercial abattoirs? And what about the massive game hunts in Germany? (web)

I have discussed similar topics several times in this blog. The question I want to ask those activists is what they think about killing cows, pigs, and chicken for food. If they are all vegitarians and have struggled to abolish the whole meat industry, then I won't criticize them anymore. But if they insist that killing domesticated aminals should be accepted but killing wild animals are problematic, then I want to ask them the reason why they think so. If they say that certain wild animals are in danger of extinction, then the question arises what if hunting is managed in a sustainable way. If they say that killing wild animals is cruel, then the question arises what if the hunters kill them in the same way as in abattoirs. I once heard someone say that God gave us domesticated animals for food, hence it is ok to kill and eat them, but this sounds absurd to people who do not believe in Christianity (99% of the Japanese).

I have read another interesting article, "South Africa: Yengeni Slaughter Shows Deep Cultural Divisions" by Lance Greyling, Cape Argus, January 25th, 2007. This article discusses a similar subject, that is, the ritual sacrifice of a bull in South Africa. Greyling criticizes the idea that sacrificing a bull is a barabaric act. The following are from the article.

The often-used argument is that "our way of killing animals" is more humane than African sacrifice. I have visited many abattoirs and this argument does not hold water.

Killing is never humane. One particular image which sticks in my mind is that of a cow desperately trying to run up the steel walls of an abattoir production line in absolute fear of impending death. It nullifies anyone's argument that our so-called Western civilisation treats animals more humanely.

Modern society has simply found a way of mass slaughtering animals efficiently and removed the visual connection between the live animal and our neatly-packaged meat.

It is, therefore, enormously hypocritical for any meat-eater to condemn the African ritual killing of a bull. (web)

The last sentence is just what I want to say here. If we find something unpleasant about killing wild animals, what we should do first is to reconsider our way of eating which heavily depends on killing domesticated animals such as cows, pigs and chicken. The total number of killed seals or whales is astonishingly small compared with that of killed domesticated animals.

What do you think?

Related post: *Whale in Thames, eating whale meat, and whaling
                    *Is it wrong to eat humans? 

Photo: Zushi Coast, Kanagawa

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

March 18, 2007

Removing organs from brain dead children

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The paper, "Is it Morally Acceptable to Remove Organs from Brain-Dead Children?," Lancet Neurology, Vol.6, January, 2007, p.90, has been uploaded to our website. The idea that the brain dead children who have not declared their wish should have the right not to be exploited by the desire of adults is, I believe, a minority view not only in Japan but also in the world, but I don't think my argument is senseless or absurd. I would like to hear your comment about this topic. The Lancet is a super-famous medical journal, the impact factor of which is over 20.

By the way, I have just finished the paper, "What is Life Studies?," in Japanese. This paper will be published in the journal Gendai Bunmeigaku Kenkyu (Journal of Contemporary Civilization Studies) next month. I will try to summarize the core message of this paper in English, and rewrite "What is Life Studies" page as soon as possible.

The photo above was taken at Zushi Coast, Kanagawa Prefecture, last month. The wind was cold, and the waves were wild. I could see a number of seashells on the beach. The sea is the place where all life came out of, and where we return after we die and get cremated. The ocean is the matrix of life, and that is why we are attracted to the sea when we are tired and need some healing.

Photo: Zushi Coast, Kanagawa

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

March 10, 2007

Administration of pleasure and pain in the future society

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I have read an interesting article in The Washinton Post. It's William Saletan's "Shooting Pain," The Washinton Post, Sunday, February 18, 2007; page b02. Acording to Saletan, the US military has invented a new beam gun, which can cause unendurable pain without actually harming the body of a target person. A volunteer reporter said he felt as if he had been surrounded by fire when he experienced the power of the beam gun.

He says it felt like heat all over his body, as though his jacket were on fire. The feeling is an illusion. No one is harmed. The beam's energy waves penetrate just 1/64 of an inch into your body, heating your skin like microwaves. They inflame your nerve endings without burning you. This could be the future of warfare: less bloodshed, more pain. (web)

Imagine a battle field where US troops equipped with the beam guns shoot the enemies, or the terrorists, who do not have such weapons. What does it look like? Isn't it another form of "collective torture"? Actually, this technology can also be used as a useful tool for torture. Saletan, too, talks about the possibility of applying it to torture, and suggests that the use of this weapon on the street by the army won't be a crime under the current law.

People might think that causing unendurable pain in the battle field would be more humane than killing, but is this really true? In clinical settings, the patients who continuously experience unendurable pain sometimes would rather die than survive under such conditions. In the battle field, soldiers have to fight to the point that they cannot continue to fight, and this means that they continue to be exposed to unendurable pain caused by the enemy's beam weapons. Is it any different from a cancer patient suffering from severe pain on the bed?

Michel Foucault used the term "biopouvoir" or "biopower" to refer to the function of modern power in which people are forced to "live" rather than to be "killed." I believe what comes after the era of biopower will be the administration of "pleasure and pain" among ordinary people, and in the above case it appears as the controll of the pain of enemies in the battle field. This is one of the core messages of my book, Painless Civilization, published in 2003. It is a paradox that in the age of painless civilization the military seeks to invent painful weapons, and tries to spread across the world. I have to write a sequel to Painless Civlization in the near future.

Related post: Pleasure seeking, maintainance of stability, and sacrificing others

Photo: A Buddhist temple, Osaka

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

March 03, 2007

Translation, publication, and volunteer

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For these couple of years I have sometimes been asked by email when the translation of Painless Civilization and/or The Insensitive Man is completed. Every time I am asked that question I reply that it would take a lot of time to translate these books. Actually, I have got a lot of things to do besides translating, and in addition, currently we do not have enough human resources for translation for some reasons.

Those who send me email usually says that the above books are worth publishing as a book in English. I think so too. However, I don't have enough time to translate them myself. Believe it or not, it takes more than a couple of hours for me to write each blog post, and another hours to examine the grammar. Still, I am afraid you may find some strange expressions in each blog post. Now, imagine how many hours are needed to translate a whole book!

In each translation, first an English native volunteer translator translates some paragraphs into English, and then I read it and see whether there are misunderstandings about the interpretation of the Japanese text, and I request some corrections, and after that I receive the final version. This is painstaking work, but at the same time, it's fun to collaborate to make good translation. Of course it is possible, if I had abundant research funding, to ask a professional translator to translate the whole book, but I believe this is not the best way because I am not sure if the translator "loves" the work he/she is to translate. Instead, in the case of volunteers, they have chosen to translate a particular paper or book themselves. In this sense, they have a wish to translate the particular work, and I believe this is the most important factor for good translation.

And I am still wondering what is the best way to publish the translated text. Most convenient way is to upload to our website in the HTML or PDF format. However, I also wish to publish as a book from a publisher, and in this case it would be a good idea not to upload to the website. I have published books from Japanese publishers, but I have never published from a foreign publisher, therefore I do not know how to approach them at all. Which publishers do you recommend me to approach?

Anyway, we are continuing to invite volunteers to translate my Japanese papers or books into English or other languages (for more information please see our Japanese website), or to edit the translated English texts.

Related posts:*"La civilización indolora" and "la fundamental sensación de seguridad"
                       *Korean translation of The Insensitive Man

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 28, 2007

Gays in China and Japan, homosexuality

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Maureen Fan's article "For Gays in China, 'Fake Marriage' Eases Pressure," Washinton Post, February 23, 2007; P.A12, was a very interesting report on the life and troubles of Chinese gays. Until I read this article, I had mistakenly thought that homosexuality was forbidden in China even today. Fan writes:

Ten years after China decriminalized homosexuality and six years after officials removed it from a state list of mental disorders, gay men and lesbians say one of their biggest obstacles is parental pressure to get married. (web)

Hence, today, it is legal to have a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex in China. This is good news. However, Fan stresses that coming out to one's parents is still very hard for gays and lesbians in contemporary Chinese society. This is one of the biggest reasons why they try to choose "fake marriage" with a person of the opposite sex, who is also gay, remaining close friends inside their home. But because their parents and grand parents do not know the truth, they sometimes expect a baby to be born to the married couple. Fan quotes a woman's words who got married with a gey man:

There's just one small problem. "My mother didn't used to talk about grandchildren, but now she sometimes mentions that she would like one." (web)

Then, what about in Japan? I doubt that the situation is probably the same as in China. There are a great number of gay people in our country, but most of them have not come out to their parents. Kabukicho 2chome, Shinjuku, Tokyo, is famous as a gay town, and a number of gay people come to this area every night, but many of them come secretly. I had an opportunity to interview some of them when appearing as a guest on a TV program. They said they had not come out to their family. It is still rare to see a gay couple walking on the street hand-in-hand. When I went to Amsterdam some years ago I was surprised to see gay couples walk hand-in-hand in the central area of the city. A couple of years ago, at a cafe in Osaka city, I saw two young women holding each other just in front of the shop and kissing many times. This was the first, and the last time I ever saw such a scene in a public space in Japan. People passing by were completely ignoring them.

I wonder why Japan became a society intolerant of homosexuality. Before the Meiji period (before 1868), homosexuality was not stigmatized among ordinary people. The Kabuki actors were all males, and they played both men and women on the stage, and some of them prostituted themselves with male customers. Homosexuality was an ordinary love relationship in Buddhist temples and in the world of samurai. In traditional Japanese literature, the word "love (koi)" sometimes meant "homosexual love." Japanese society was, once, very tolerant of homosexuality. But after the Meiji period homosexuality has gradually become a taboo. Some claim that this was because of the homophobia imported from European countries in the Meiji period (19th century). What do you think?

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 20, 2007

Life Extension, Human Rights, and the Rational Refinement of Repugnance, de Grey

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A D N J de Grey criticizes the conservative arguments on life extension in the paper, "Life Extension, Human Rights, and the Rational Refinement of Repugnance," published two years ago, in Journal of Medical Ethics 2005;31:659-663. He stresses that our hesitant attitude towards life extension and age retardation has been deeply influenced by a sort of irrationality, which has been forged by conservative ethicists such as Leon Kass.

He asks whether there are any differences between saving the life of someone and extending one's life span, for example, between curing a young man's leukaemia and postponing the ageing process of an old man, and he concludes that there is no difference between them in terms of ethics. He says as follows:

I must show that it is impossible to argue that we have done anything meaningfully different when curing leukaemia and when postponing ageing. ..... In each circunstance we are giving the beneficiary a greater remaining healthy potential lifespan than they would have if we held back, which is the beginning and end of what we mean when we say we have saved their lives, and also of what we mean when we say we have extended their lives. (p.662)

De grey would be right if we consider it absurd to suppose that there is a "natural process of rise and decline of human development." Even if there is such a natural process, we must say we have already destroyed it ever since we invented medicine and other health promoting activities at the dawn of our civilization. However, at the same time, I would like to add that clinging to age retardation when we get old might look uglier than curing leukaemia when we are young. This might be a similar kind of ugliness we would feel when we saw an old man chasing after young girls. One thing de Grey does not talk about is how to think about our obsession with young and healthy and everlasting life. In other words, he does not ask a question whether adhering to this kind of desire will truly lead us to happiness in the age of materialism and comercialization.

But de Grey rejects this kind of reasoning as self-deception, because it is no more than our unconsciouss strategy to cope with our false belief that our lifespan is theoretically limited. He writes as follows:

It is easy to see why we engage in this breathtaking self-deception: we find it the only effective coping strategy in the face of the ghastliness of ageing, since we remain convinced that ageing is inevitable. Now that ageing is within sight of not being inevitable, our collective hypnosis is no longer a solution but has become part of the problem; it is costing lives. (p.662)

De Grey calls our attention to the fact that he does not say ageing is worse than postponing ageing, however, I must say that the tone of his argument is clearly in favor of age retardation and life extension. He writes, at the end of the paper, that "the cure of ageing will be the greatest achievement of science since it was founded" (p.663).

Conquering ageing and mortality would be an important achievement of science, however, no matter how long we live we must die someday. As the day comes closer, the acceptance of our own death will become a big problem that cannot be solved by science and technology. My frustration with the argument of de Grey and other scholars, who are eager to emphasize the positive aspect of life extention and age retardation, is that they rarely try to talk about the subject of the acceptance of our own death and ageing, which we are going to be faced with sooner or later no matter how far science may progress in the future. What do you think?

Related post: An old man and me and life

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 12, 2007

Ashley X, comments and criticisms

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In December I wrote a comment on therapy performed on a six-year-old girl with intellectual disability. In that therapy, her growth was stopped by adding estrogen, and her uterus and breast buds were removed. Early this year, her parents began their blog, and this case (Ashley X case) became widely known to the public.

On January 26th, Peter Singer wrote a comment in New York Times. He supported the parents' decision and concluded as follows:

What matters in Ashley’s life is that she should not suffer, and that she should be able to enjoy whatever she is capable of enjoying. Beyond that, she is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her. Lofty talk about human dignity should not stand in the way of children like her getting the treatment that is best both for them and their families. (web)

On the other hand, disability groups such as Not Dead Yet and Feminist Response in Disability Activism strongly criticized this therapy. From Not Dead Yet's website:

Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group dealing with medical and bioethics issues involving euthanasia, reacted today to the public debate about the so-called "growth attenuation" invasive medical experimentation performed on a young girl in Washington State. These procedures rendered her sterile, prevented any sort of puberty and will keep the girl the size she is now for the rest of her life.

"We are saddened but not surprised by the fact that this was publicized and met with a great deal of public approval," said Diane Coleman, founder of Not Dead Yet. "The public is willing to sanction the murders of disabled children by their parents, so it’s hardly surprising they would rush to the support of parents and their medical partners in a matter like this." (web)

One of the most striking comments the parents wrote in their blog is this: (Concerning the removal of the uterus,)

Additional and incidental benefits include avoiding any possibility of pregnancy, which to our astonishment does occur to disabled women who are abused. (web)

I can understand what they mean, however, at the same time, I feel somewhat horrified to read such a sentence because this implies that the parents actually imagine the possibility that their daughter might be sexually abused by someone.

They wrote this is an "additional and incidental" benefit. But I suppose that this might have been the most important reason, on the subconscious level, why they chose this therapy for their beloved daughter. I don't mean to offend the parents, for this is a difficult problem for all of us. In a case like this, what we would fear would be that our daughter becomes the target of sexual assault, and as a result, another human life comes into existence in her uterus. We can find here the darkest side of our sexuality, and this makes me depressed.

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

Related post: Should severely disabled children be kept small?

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 08, 2007

The fate of a Japanese painter

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The other day, I went to The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama, Kanagawa, and saw a series of paintings drawn by modern Japanese oil painters. Japanese painters started learning European oil painting techniques more than 100 years ago. They tried hard to study the techniques of painters who were on the cutting edge of the European art scene at that time.

One of the most curious painters featured at the exhibition was Tetsugoro Yorozu, whose works includes the famous Nude Beauty and Nude Woman with a Parasol. This was my first time to see Yorozu's original paintings. An interesting thing is that his painting style drastically changes year by year, for example, one year it was like Matisse, but after several years it became something like Picasso or Braque (see this painting). This clearly shows that while he tried to import trendy painting styles one after another, he himself did not succeed to establish his own painting style. I love his Nude Woman with a Parasol and his other lovely works, but I am not sure whether these are based on his truly original ideas. Yorozu died in 1927 at the age of 42.

A similar thing could be said about Japanese philosophy and ethics. While Japanese philosophers have tried (and even now trying) to import trendy European philosophies, most of them have failed to create their own original philosophy. Recently, they began importing American bioethics and publishing bioethics papers in Japanese. But aren't they repeating the same thing as did Yorozu a hundred years ago?

I want to refuse to be an importer of philosophy or bioethics. I want to create my own philosophy of life or life studies here and now, and want to communicate with people around the world who are interested in my works. This is the basic motive I run this website and blog in the English language.

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

February 02, 2007

An old man and me and life

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Several weeks ago, I gave a public lecture in Nagoya City. I talked about the relationship between humans and the natural environment, and pointed out that our attitude toward nature has been deeply influenced by current "painless civilization." Then, I had a lively discussion with other two professors in the panel discussion.

After the symposium, we went back to the staff room just beneath the lecture hall. We were having tea and taking a short rest. Then, a staff member came to me and told that a guest was waiting for me in front of the staff room. I wondered who the person was, but anyway I got out of the room to see the guest. An old man of my father's age was standing just outside the room. He talked to me that my lecture was interesting, and that he had read all my books. I was surprised and said to him thank you.

Then he said, "You wrote in your book that you would publish Introduction to Life Studies someday, but when will it be published?" I replied, "Well, I am not sure when it will be because I have not even started writing." He stared at me and said, "I see, but I don't have much time left." Hearing this I was unable to come up with any words, but I tried to say something and said, "Please live long!" He smiled and we parted.

Today, I suddenly remembered that scene. And I am writing this at midnight.

Related post: *John Harris, Immortal Ethics, generational cleansing
                    *Life Extension, Human Rights, and the Rational Refinement of Repugnance, de Grey

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

January 26, 2007

John Harris, Immortal Ethics, generational cleansing

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John Harris's paper, "Immortal Ethics," published in Annals of New York Academy of Sciences, 1019, pp.527-534, (2004), is a short essay on the ethics of life extension. He talks about various points concerning this topic, and his discussion is interesting and thought-provoking. Basically, I don't like his extremism and optimism, but this time I enjoyed his philosophical writing.

Harris criticizes the negative views on life extension that Leon Kass and his followers have strongly maintained so far. One thing he shares with the conservatives is the need for the turnover of generations, because if the older generation live for more than a hundred years working actively at the front in their workplace, the younger people would lose their opportunity to act as a leader in their middle age.

Harris writes:

.... and if the generational turnover proved too slow for regeneration of youth and ideas and for the satisfactions of parenting, we might face a future in which the fairest and the most ethical course might be to contemplate a sort of "generational cleansing." (p.532)

Generational cleansing? What does he mean by these words? He explains:

This would involve deciding collectively how long it is reasonable for people to live in each generation and trying to ensure that as many as possible live healthy lives of that length. We then would have to ensure that, having lived a "fair innings," they died at the appropriate time to make way for future generations. (p.532)

What a totalitarian worldview this is! In such a society, those who have lived out their fair innings are expected to voluntarily die or commit suicide. Isn't this a society a conservative philospher would likely imagine? If there is a difference between conservatives and John Harris, it would be that while conservatives hope that this turnover will occur as the result of a natural biological process, Harris (and other liberals) does not. Instead, Harris prefers to attain this turnover by means of an artificial manner, such as suicide or euthanasia.

Reading his argument, I have come to feel that the coming long life society might be filled with an unspoken expectation that older people will voluntarily choose suicide or euthanasia to make way for the young, and this expectation indirectly forces them to actually choose such actions. And similar things should perhaps be observed in today's nursing homes. In this sense, the dark side of life extension already do exist in the society we live in now.

Related post: *Is More Life Always Better? The New Biology of Aging and the Meaning of Life, David Gems
                    *An old man and me and life

Photo: Kyoto Seika University, Kyoto, Japan

  -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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Masahiro Morioka: Professor of philosophy & ethics
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