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about Systems Ethics

Welcome to the world of “Systems Ethics”!
Naoki Morishita
Professor of Ethics,Hamamatsu University School of Medicine
Center for Studies of Systems Ethics
The state and course of every thing, including human activities, is based on some kind of invisible, immanent and dynamic structure. Philosophers view intuitionally, distinguish logically, and correlate such a structure integrally. The philosophical thinking makes every stiff and biased perspective of common sense, the scientific knowledge or the ideology more fluid and softer.

I had a particular interest in the phenomenon called “ethics,” as a minor one of the philosophers for a long time. Now I’m going to make a new frame to catch it. It is “Systems Ethics.”

The word ‘ethics’ is a word with many different meanings: individual faith, the trust of personal relationship, rules of organizations, national culture, our global goals, etc. However, such meanings have not been caught integrally until now. As a result, the individual morality and the societal ideology have been usually discussed separately. On the other hand, the word ‘society’ is really vague. In general, it indicates a group of people making acts mutually but yet the persuasive explanation is not done about the essence of ‘mutual act.’

I introduce the standpoint “Self-transformative System.” This is the core of “Systems Ethics.” According to this standpoint, the essence of ‘mutual act’ is regarded as “Communication” between two humans. It connects “Meaning,” that is to say, the indicating process of one distinction (i.e. bisection) to another. It sometimes forms a certain distinctive meaning-pattern (i.e. “Structure”) inside, ordinates itself by Structure, and eventually maintains the boundary between itself and outside. Then communication becomes “System.” In short, a society is communication systems.

“Systems Ethics” integrally views multi-dimensional ethics as the function of Structure of communication systems, and thereby distinguishes and correlates them comprehensively. For example, we can grasp individual faith called ‘the morality’ as Structure directing the course of self-communication, as far as we link it with social communication.

“Systems Ethics” lets you change your existent view on the ethics drastically. This change can make us comprehensively recognize our complicated societies today, and enable us to participate in various social activities for the future.

Please get accustomed to a frame of “Systems Ethics” by all means at this opportunity, I wish you to introduce this frame to your theories and practices.

“Systems Ethics” changes the past views on ethics drastically, and makes the old perspectives of society turn to the new one.

There are words similar to “Systems Ethics” in our societies, such as ‘Global System Ethics’ or ‘Space Ethics.’ However, they do not pay any attention to the view itself on ethics, but just only enlarge human environments.

Surely, there was always the word ‘Systems Philosophy,’ too. It is based on mathematics, cybernetics or the informational technology, but my concept “System” is rather closer to the image of life with birth, differentiation and death. Let me explain this point slightly in detail.

A “system” here does exist as a dynamic thing. This thing repeatedly connects the specific way of dividing stimuli from an infinitely complex exterior, forms the distinctive connection-pattern (i.e. Structure) inside, and ordinates itself by its Structure. So that it eventually maintains the boundary between itself and outside. And moreover, it consistently changes its own structure, adapting to changing environments by oneself. I named this circulating process of connections “Self-transformative System.” When we view ethics from this standpoint, we can get “Systems Ethics.”
The origin of “Systems Ethics” is the communication between two humans who exchange meanings interpreted respectively. This communication differentiates into a variety of functional systems such as Economy, Medicine, Politics, Science, etc. On the other hand, many kinds of community occur to support them.

The methodology of“Systems Ethics” is a frame of Four-division, which is devised on the basis of the structure of "the meaning". “Systems Ethics” whereby discusses multidimensional ethics concretely, such dimensions as the individual faith, familial relationships, medical or educational organizations, mass media, nation state, global environment, ideologies, etc.

My philosophy consists of the following 4 fields, at the center of which is “Systems Ethics.”

First, its basic filed is “Metaphysics.” The word ‘metaphysical’ indicates some kind of invisible, immanent and dynamic structure, which sustains the state and course of every thing, including human activities. Here, I am trying to establish the metaphysics of “Self-transformative System,” through defining and developing the basic category such as ‘thing-beings,’ ‘event,’ ‘figure,’ ‘division,’ ‘distinction,’ ‘indication,’ ‘sign,’ ‘meaning,’ ‘connection,’ ‘function,’ ‘structure,’ ‘system,’ etc.
Secondly, its application field is “Conflict-mediating Ethics.” These days, the globalization of economy and the digitalization of technology cause serious communication gaps over the ‘justice,’ and the violence between people thereby get to be actualized. Here, we present “Both Sides Parallel” model, in order to move and fluidize these situation of conflict, instead of one-sided Assimilation or ideal Consensus model.

Thirdly, its depth is “Japanese History of Ethics.” Structures of common sense or societal institutions are just surficial, whereas religions are deep and their cores are metaphysical views. Here, we clarify characteristics of Japanese-style metaphysical tradition after Kuhkai. And then we interpret Japanese modern Philosophy of Nishi A., Inoue T. or Nishida K., who all tried to logicalize that tradition. Following them, I aim to highlight possibilities of the metaphysics of “Self-transformative System.”

Finally, its practical field is “Re-Aging Gerontology.” Ahead of the arrival of the super-aged society, a new integrative vision on the senior people who can be positively involved in communities among different generations in our societies is requested in Japan. This vision requires a generative perspective “Re-aging,” that is to say, the recursively revising the life of aging itself. Trough this perspective, having particular interest in ‘working’, ‘sexualities’, ‘illness’ and ‘view of life and death’ in aging, we will dig out how the senior people participate in various communities as “familiar others,” and create the sustainable society in the future with other generations.

I was born December 8, 1953 (28, Showa). I spend the childhood period in Kumamoto. At the age of 15 I moved from Kumamoto High School to Tsuchiura First High School in Ibaragi prefecture, and there completed the course.

In 1972, I entered the University of Tokyo. I chose Ethics course, founded by Japanese famous Philosopher Tetsuro Watsuji, in the faculty of literature. My graduation thesis is on “Ontology of Sartre.”

In 1976, I enrolled in the master course of the graduate school of humanity, the University of Tokyo. I studied Kantian philosophy and wrote a dissertation on “A study of Late Kantian philosophy of history” for my master ‘s thesis in 1979. During doctoral and post-doctoral student, I studied Philosophical Anthropology.

In March 1983, I had coursework completed without any doctoral degree. In the meantime, I taught at several universities as a part-time lecturer on philosophy, ethics, or history of social thought.

In August 1987, I arrived at the post of Associate Professor of Ethics at Hamamatsu University School of Medicine and then I commenced studying medical ethics, bioethics and philosophy of medicine in earnest.

In November 2002, I was promoted to Full Professor of Ethics in Integrative Human Sciences section.

In 2006, I visited India to inspect Indian caste. In 2008, I stayed as Visiting Professor at Pennsylvania University and subsequently at Linköping University (Sweden). In 2010, I visited Kennedy Institute at George Town University in Washington D.C., and also Hastings Center of Bioethics in New York.

In the meantime, I act as part-time lecturer at many universities, graduate schools and colleges. I also gave speeches on bioethics at many international societies.

I have groped for my original viewpoint for a long time. In 2010-2012, I got to “Self-transformative System.” After 2013 up to the present, I advocate “Systems Ethics”. While I push forward a study energetically, I practically give concrete advices to the spot as medical ethics committee or professional seminar lecturer now.

・Morishita N., ed. (2016), Ethics of Life and Technology: Body, Brain, Mind and Society in the age of digitalization, Maruzen
   Shuppan.
・Morishita N., ed. (2011), Basic Structure of Bioethics, Maruzen Shuppan.
・Morishita N., et al. (2009), A New Approach to The 20th Century’s Japanese History of Ideas (in Japanese), Bunri Kaku.
・Morishita N. (2002), Desire to Health and “Easiness”: Philosophy of Well-becoming (in Japanese), Aoki Shoten.
・Morishita N (1999), Choices on Death (in Japanese), Mado Sha.
・Morishita N., et al. (2006), Mizuko: Japanese undercurrent Culture around Abortion (in Japanese) , Aoki Shoten. Tr. from
   LaFleur, W. R. (1992), Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan, Princeton UP.
・Morishita N., supervisor (2002), Essence of Health (in Japanese), Jiku Shuppan. Tr. From Nordenfelt, L. (1995), On the
   Nature of Health, Kluwer Academic Publishers.
・Morishita N., co-ed. (2001), Who are “life-unworthy livings”: A Original Text on Nazi’s Euthanasia and Critical Comments
   (in Japanese), Mado Sha. Tr. from Binding, K. und Hoche, A. (1920), Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten
   Lebens:Ihr Maß und ihre Form, Felix Meiner, Leipzig.
・Morishita N., et al. (1999), Organ-exchangeable Society: Reality in America and Near Future in Japan (in Japanese) ,
   Aoki Shoten.Tr. from Fox, R. C. & Swazey, J. (1992), Spare Parts: Organ Replacement in American Society, The Acadia
   Institute.
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