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Conference « A Japanese approach : between life and death, from nature to artefacts »

Avec les interventions des Professeurs Masahiro Morioka et Hideo Iwasaki, Université Waseda, Japon

Organisée avec le soutien du Waseda Brussels Office

Introduction : Marie-Geneviève Pinsart
Conférenciers : Masahiro Morioka & Hideo Iwasaki
Conclusions : Professeur Yvon Englert, Recteur de l’ULB

« What is « the Dignity of the Human Body »? A Japanese Philosopher’s Reaction to Brain Death and Organ Transplantation »Masahiro Morioka (Human Sciences, Waseda University)
Japan is a country where there was a heated nation-wide debate on brain death from 1985 to 2009. Participating in this debate as a philosopher, I have come to think that every human being has the “natural right to grow and die in the form of wholeness.” This right is derived from “the dignity of the human body.”
Brain death is defined as the cessation of the function of the whole brain. But today, it is discovered that even in the cases of strictly diagnosed brain death, hormones and other substances are sometimes created in the brains of brain-dead patients. This shows that the brain of a brain-dead patient is still functioning, and that the diagnosis of brain death is fundamentally flawed. A brain-dead woman can even give birth to a baby. For example, in June, 2016, a Portuguese woman gave birth to a baby in the state of long-term brain death that lasted for months. We have witnessed many such cases around the world.
This strongly suggests that the body of a brain-dead patient ought to be protected against our attempt to use it as a source of organ transplantation in the case in which the patient has not declare her intentions in a written form. The Japanese Organ Transplantation Law before amendment (1997-2009) was a law that embodied this philosophy. European philosophers have long considered that only a self-conscious and rational person has dignity, that is to say, a human body does not have its own dignity. I argue against it. A human body has its own dignity especially when it is in the process of growing or dying.
In my talk, I am going to present a minority view of human life, which is completely different from the way of thinking that dominates today’s society in the age of science and materialism.

« Biological Art Project « aPrayer »: Memorial Monument to the « Souls » of Artificial Cells/Lives » – Hideo Iwasaki (MetaPhorest, Waseda University)
We founded a stone monument to the “souls” of artificial cells/lives in Japan last year as an artistic project on the occasion of the Kenpoku Art Festival at Ibaraki Prefecture. Research on artificial cells attempts to chemically create a cell as a basic unit of biological life. In creating artificial cells, life should fundamentally be redefined in order to clarify the requirements for “what to be created.” Interestingly and importantly, these processes can entail the desire for seeing life as something experienced intersubjectively.
Actually, life can be considered with at least two aspects: One is a biological object, being described as a biological complex or organism. The other is life as an intersubjective presence, which is perceived to an observer as a more emotional object or relationship, which is highlightened in funerals and commemoration, for example. Our aPrayer (artificial/aesthetic/alternative prayer) project aims to reconsider the relationship between the two aspects, the biological and the intersubjective, by raising such questions as an artificial/aesthetic narrative generator: Are artificial cells and lives worth commemoration? What is death to artificial cells? Would they relativize the concepts of death and commemoration? Thinking over these matters leads us to reframe the lifeness, if any, of artificial cells and their cultural and philosophical implications.
I also introduce two Japanese customs that originally inspired our project: the memorial services for the souls of non-living objects, and the ones for experimental animals. Such memorial services retrospectively acknowledge that “something was alive.” Importantly “something” to be acknowledged is not limited to biological species, which are acknowledged as “life in the past” retrospectively. This aspect would be interesting to reevaluate the lifeness of artificial life/cells, because the study of artificial life is science, technology and culture to create vital feeling by combining non-living materials.
It is still obscure if our memorial monument satisfies well-accepted criteria for standard memorial mourns. It remains at the stage of « artificial monument ». Social and anthropological relevance of the stone depends on how people think over the « lifeness or life at work » of artificial cells/lives in the future. FYR link to the short introductory movie on this project provided herein


Lundi 19 mars 2018 de 18h à 20h, suivie d’un drink jusque 21h00

Auditoire AW.1.120
Campus du Solbosch
Bâtiment A – Porte W – Niveau 1 – Local AW.1.120
Avenue F. Roosevelt 50
1050 Bruxelles

Entrée libre, sans inscription