【Report】 The AJI International Workshop was held! “The Anthropocene and Postwar Japanese Philosophy:Critical Assessments and Propositions towards New Perspectives”

 On October, 29th, the Asia-Japan Research Institute held an international workshop under the title of “The Anthropocene and Postwar Japanese Philosophy: Critical Assessments and Propositions towards New Perspectives” (Hybrid). Dr. Fernando Wirtz (Assistant Professor, Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University) moderated the entire session.

 Professor Yasushi Kosugi (Director of the AJI) introduced the workshop and welcomed the new generation of researchers with diverse backgrounds in philosophy who participated from both Japan and abroad. In addition, Professor Kosugi emphasized that there is a new requirement for comprehensive knowledge and re-examining the significance of philosophy, which explores the meaning of the world and life in a broad and multilayered manner, in the midst of the ongoing decline of philosophical knowledge and the importance of the humanities in the academic world in comparison with the knowledge of the natural sciences. He concluded his opening remarks by mentioning that the AJI will also promote the formation of an international research platform for a new generation of researchers for philosophy through the establishment of a philosophy research unit.

 In the first panel, Dr. Dennis Stromback (Lecturer, Temple University, Tokyo) made his presentation under the title of “Miki on Society: Existential Humanism and Marx”. Dr. Stromback focused on the existentialism of Miki Kiyoshi, a philosopher of the Kyoto School, based on Miki’s study in his early period on Pascal, emphasizing Miki’s understanding of Marxism as a development of this existentialism. In doing so, Dr. Stromback pointed out that the concept of “society” in Miki’s works is not simply conceived as an objective system, but rather, “society” is formed through human existence and imagination. In this sense, “society” is burdened by history. In the Q&A session there were questions and comments about the importance of linking Miki’s concept of “existence” with Marxism, and the impact of that philosophy of existence on postwar Japanese philosophy, to which Dr. Stromback responded that considering the dimension of “existence” that Miki presented remains important in macroscopic considerations of today's world.

 In the second panel, Mr. Nakamura Norihito (Ph.D. candidate, Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University) made his presentation under the title of “The Technology of Kokoro in the Anthropocene: Re-reading Miki Kiyoshi’s Philosophy of Technology”. Mr. Nakamura’s research ranges extensively from studying the philosophies of Schelling and Miki Kiyoshi to the contemporary philosophers. Among them, his presentation focused on the concept of technology in Miki’s philosophy and clarified the multilayered meanings contained therein. He argued that there are not only technologies that work specifically on materials, but also layers of technologies that work in the human mind in Miki’s philosophy, and what is referred to in general as “technology” includes both. In the Q&A session there were questions and comments about the process through which Miki’s technical philosophy was elaborated, and how to position the layers of technology involved in society as well as objects and minds. In response to these questions, Mr. Nakamura emphasized that Miki discussed the layers of technology relative to society in his perspective of the multilayered nature of “technology”, and that focusing on the perspective of the mental layer of technology provides a ground to rethink the relationship that humans, surrounded by a technological environment, have with technology.

 In the third panel, Dr. Matsui Nobuyuki (Assistant Professor, OIC Research Institute, Ritsumeikan University) made his presentation under the title of “‘Rhythmic Oscillation’, Cybernetics, and Human Desire: Opening Japanese Philosophy toward the Anthropocene and Beyond it”. Dr. Matsui picked up an issue that the philosophical ground of climate change debate today has been largely formed by the divide between the ecologism and social theory of the advanced consumer society since the 1970s. He argued that this division also led our thinking to another division between the sustainability of human society in the long term and the realization of short-term desires, while in the Anthropocene era it is necessary to reconnect the perspective of the latter desire to the sustainability of the former environment. Based on this concern, Dr. Matsui introduced Yuk Huy’s philosophy of technology know through “cosmotechnics” and discussed the similarities between Nakamura Yujiro’s “rhythmic oscillation” philosophy and Huy’s “cosmotechnics” in order to complement the lack of the perspective of desire in the latter philosophy with the former one. Dr. Matsui further argued based on Nakamura’s philosophy that the planet is generated in a constantly oscillating rhythm, and that while human life also persists through rhythmic oscillation in the cosmic action of an impersonal rhythmic oscillation, humans have detached themselves from it and pursue the objects of their desires as a man with technology. In the Q&A, participants posed questions about the relationship between Nakamura Yujiro’s philosophy of “common sense” and “rhythmic oscillation” and the relationship between rhythm oscillation philosophy and the finiteness of the global environment. In response to these points, Dr. Matsui answered that the rhythmic oscillation and common sense are closely related and the latter were developed through Nakamura’s philosophy of common sense, and also, that at the root of today’s global climate issues, there is the dominant view of human beings that regards desire as possessing the object of consciousness, and that the view of rhythmic ocillation is important in order to rethink this.

 In the fourth panel, Ms. Tekla Nanuashvili (Ph.D. candidate, Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University) presented her research with the title of “Concept of Earth in Suzuki Daisetsu and Possibility of Discussing ‘Nature’ in Japanese Philosophy”. In her presentation, she discussed how Japanese philosophy faced the question of what nature is through contact with the international intellectual community by revisiting the concept of “nature” by Suzuki Daisetsu (D. T. Suzuki), one of the most famous Japanese Buddhist philosophers. She raised a quite significant view of the idea of “nature” in Asia and Europe, claiming that the concept of “nature” used by Suzuki, who has written many books in English, has a completely different meaning from the western way of understanding it, in which “nature” is distinguished from “society”. Ms. Nanuashvili argued that in Suzuki’s philosophy, nature is understood dynamically through the concepts of “Daichi (大地)” and “Jinen (自然)," and he showed the view that not only human lives but also all beings are encompassed by the reality of “nature” captured by these concepts. In this way, Suzuki’s philosophy enables us to question what nature is and to find out the differences in the perceptions of nature in today’s world, and also confirmed that it is important to reconstruct the ethics of ecology today based on these differences. In the Q&A, the lively participants raised several questions and comments about the necessity to reassess Suzuki’s philosophy during the “Anthropocene” era and how the unique concept of “nature” that Suzuki relies on has developed in the way of philosophical and intellectual history. Ms. Nanuashvili responded to these questions and comments that she felt it was important to scrutinize more deeply the historical paths before the Meiji period in which the idea regarding “nature” had been developed in Japan. Also, Suzuki’s argument has relevance today, because we can recognize the process of forging the idea of “nature” through a closer focus on Suzuki’s struggle.

 In the fifth and last panel, Dr. Bradley Kaye (Assistant Professor, State University of New York Fredonia) made his presentation under the title of “Tanabe Hajime: Practicing the Metanoetics of Zange in the Anthropocene”. Dr. Kaye conducts research from a perspective based on Japanese and Western philosophy in order to critically investigate the essence of the climate crisis in capitalism. He highlighted the importance of Tanabe Hajime’s philosophy of “Metanoetics” and “Other Power (他力; tariki)” for the Anthropocene. After Japan’s defeat in 1945, Tanabe in his argument emphasized the perspective of “Metanoetics” and "Other Power” as the basis for the reconsideration of human existence in communality away from thinking based on the rational subject. However, Dr. Kaye emphasizes that Tanabe’s philosophical thoughts after the war are unique not only in Japan but also in the context of the Anthropocene era, because the use of reason based on “self-power” (human-centric power) is not enough to fundamentally correct human conduct under capitalism which has resulted in the destruction of the natural environment, and also because we need a deep recognition that we humans have caused environmental damage to an irreversible level. Tanabe’s philosophy of “Metanoetics” is significant in the sense that it can make this level of responsibility visible. In the Q&A, participants enthusiastically discussed the relationship between shared responsibility and the ethics of “Other Power”, the fact that thinking about “Metanoetics” in the context of postwar Japan is closely linked to the question of how to accept the reality of “defeat”, and the need to consider what “defeat” means in the Anthropocene. As for these questions, Dr. Kaye emphasized his points that “Other Power” can be effective after the setback of “self-power”, which can become the basis for new shared responsibilities, and the argument also went further to the point that while there was an American-centered resurgence of capitalism after Japan’s defeat, there might not be such a resurgence in the Anthropocene and this possibility further sharpens the sense of crisis today and the imminence of “Metanoetics”.

 In the end, this international workshop could present multifaceted views of the possibilities of Japanese philosophy in the era of the Anthropocene. In this workshop, the participants shared the need for a fundamental re-examination on various levels such as the existing and conflicting relationships between society and nature, the ethics of responsibility and the concept of nature and human beings per se.

 In his closing remarks, Dr. Matsui expressed his gratitude for the success of this workshop that ended up providing a very stimulating environment for philosophical dialogue, and also promised the participants to continue to engage in such dialogue in a sustainable manner.

Lastly, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to all those who supported and participated in this event.

Director Kosugi Yasushi delivering his opening remarks

Attendees for this workshop

Discussion in the workshop (Front: Dr. Fernando Wirtz; Screen: Dr. Bradley Kaye)

Discussion in the workshop(Front:Dr. Dennis Stromback)

Discussion in the workshop

A group photo of participants in the venue