Abstract List

2013 Uehiro Conference Abstract List

Student Presenters
Kyoko Akatsuka
“New Eugenics' Insidious Risk: 
A Comparative Analysis of Proponents' and Opponents' Arguments about Designer Babies”

The purpose of this paper is to clarify the risk neglected by new eugenics. Today, everyone knows that the old eugenics like holocaust by Nazi was a big mistake in human history, so no one maintains such a terrible ideology. After WWⅡ, however, the development of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) enabled many parents to decide various things related to their reproduction. ART, coupled with rising human rights awareness, engendered the so-called “new” eugenics.
As of yet, new eugenics lacks a clear definition, but exhibits several characteristics. This eugenics (1) encourages self-determination, (2) rejects third party intermediation, and (3) emphasizes improvement rather than selection or exclusion. New eugenics seems to be not radical, but is it not problematic?
In here, I will attempt to show the ideological characteristics of new eugenics by working on comparative analysis of proponents’ and opponents’ arguments, with a focus on each “liberty” and “equality.” Moreover, I will investigate new eugenics’ insidious risk that imposes its values on people who do not design their children. 

Kyoko Akatsuka’s research interests include Bioethics, New Eugenics, Human Enhancement, and Designer Babies.

William Barnes 
“Addressing Contemporary Cynicism “

Essentially contemporary cynicism is an unhappy combination of hope and pessimism. At its extreme cynicism rests on an unflinching dogmatic assertion of the necessary futility of hope, manifests in the unquestioning conformity of radical apathy and actively attacks the very virtues it depends on. Moderate cynicism tends towards a compassionate caution concerning political transformation based on a rational and sympathetic appreciation of the failures of revolution and ideology. Both contain as fundamental structural components remnants of neoclassical liberal enlightenment ideals as appropriated by romanticism. We should seek to separate these aspects, deconstruct extreme cynicism and reappropriate moderate cynicism by championing these values. We should do so at least for the following 3 reasons: Firstly, because extreme cynicism is rationally unjustifiable, secondly because cynicism is intrinsically psychologically harmful, and thirdly because it serves as an obstacle to addressing the three main problems of modernity; meaninglessness, socioeconomic injustice, and imminent environmental disaster. 

Willʻs research interests include Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Advaita, Ancient Greek and Indian Philosophy, Philosophy of Culture, Aesthetics, Existentialism and Phenomenology 

Jarrod Brown
"Imāns and Philosopher Kings: Plato in the Ismāʿīlī Shīʻa Philosophy of Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī"

Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī [al- Tūsī] (1201-1274 CE) was a Nizāri Ismāʿīlī Shīʻa philosopher and our primary source for early Ismāʿīlī thought. Appropriating Plato's theory of knowledge of the Form of Good from The Republic, he constructs an elaborate defense of a taʻlim, or the doctrine of guidance by an authoritative and infallible muʻallim (spiritual guide), the imān. First, using a Platonic and Aristoteliantheory of justice as the harmony of the soul, knowledge of the mean and rule by the rational soul, he argues for a conception of human perfection as being just and knowing al-Tūsī's equivalent of the Good: the Divine. He then argues that the imān, like the philosopher king, has the greatest knowledge of the Good [Divine] and is therefore the most just. Therefore, one should abide and follow such animān just as one should abide and follow the dictates of a philosopher king in order to maximize Goodness [Divinity] in oneself and one's world.

Jarrod Brown’s research interests include Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, South Asian Philosophy, Islamic Philosophy, and Analogical Reasoning.

Robert Evans
"Moderate Environmental Ethics in Process"

With regards to the relationship of human beings to the local and global environment which sustains them, the predominant value structures in the west have been those of human beings as the masters and the environment as a pool of resources. Environmental ethics is, among other things, the discipline of attempting to provide solutions to practical environmental problems brought on, in whole or in part, by the in some cases abusive practices informed by those value structures. This presentation will attempt to explain how basing an environmental ethics on a metaphysics of process, such as that of Alfred North Whitehead, supports a biocentric view, such as that of Donald VanDeVeer, which fundamentally alters the value structures with regards to the relationship of human beings to their environment, and helps to address current environmental issues in a practical, contextual manner.

Robert Evans’ research interests include Environmental Ethics, Aesthetics, and Japanese Philosophy

Wakako Godo
“Imagination as the Source of Norms: A Comparative Study of John McDowell and Kiyoshi Miki”

In this presentation, I will look at the question of how our mind and the world are related, by comparing the arguments of two philosophers, John McDowell and Kiyoshi Miki, who commonly focus on our perceptual experiences in order to explain the relationship. Taking a hint from Kant, both McDowell and Miki insist that two abilities are at work indivisibly in our perceptual experience: sensibility, which is passive and non-conceptual, and understanding, which is active and conceptual. It is this indivisible work, they argue, that makes it possible for us to obtain knowledge of the world, which exists independently of our own mind.
However, as Evans points out, there is a problem with the indivisibility model: it does not address our intuition that there is something in common between the perceptual experiences of infants, who do not possess language, and the perceptual experiences of adults, who do possess language. Evans and McDowell do not present any sufficient idea which fits the intuition. 
As I will show in my presentation, Miki’s concept of “imagination”[koso-ryoku構想力] offers a better way of addressing this problem.

Wakako Godo’s research interests include modern Japanese philosophy (Kiyoshi Miki, Motomori Kimura etc.), analytic philosophy, philosophy of education.

Leland Harper
 "Evaluating the Fales/Gellman Debate on the Epistemic Value of Mystical Religious Experiences."

From the mid 1990’s to the early 2000s there has been a debate between Jerome Gellman and Evan Fales regarding the epistemic status of mystical religious experience. Gellman argues that mystical religious experiences provide some justification for the belief that God exists when taken in conjunction with a variety of other experiential evidence. Fales takes a naturalistic approach and argues that instances of mystical theistic experiences are only tools by which the mystic attempts to gain greater social status. In this paper I summarize the debate and go on to raise 3 objections to Fales’ naturalistic account: (a) that any naturalistic explanation would fail to account for the richness and variety of all mystical religious experiences, (b) that if there were a naturalistic account for each and every mystical religious experience across time then the list of naturalistic explanations would be so exhaustive that it would seem arbitrary that no theistic explanation is included, and (c) that the brand of reductionism put forth by Fales only shows that, at best, it would not be reasonable for external observers to take my mystical religious experience as evidence for God's existence, but that this should make absolutely no difference to the experiencer.

Leland Harper’s research interests include: Philosophy of Race, especially regarding questions of personal/group identity. Philosophy of Religion, including the epistemic status of miracles and religious experiences, alternative explanations of God, and Deism.

Nick Hudson
"Food For Thought: The Role of Eating in the Transformation of Things"

The connection between change (化) and life-and-death (生死) in Zhuangzi has often been noticed. Less often remarked upon is the important concept of dependency (待). In this paper, I hope to show the importance of the idea of dependency for Zhuangzi's account of change as well as how this helps reveal the problem of eating, namely that eating causes other beings to change and suffer. This is a problem that Zhuangzi is seemingly unaware of but is a focus of The Laws of Manu. While this reveals an important oversight in Zhuangzi, neither the Zhuangzi or The Laws of Manu give a satisfactory account of how to address this problem. As a speculative and wild conclusion, I suggest a notion of filiality (孝), though not the standard Confucian one, as a potential response.

Nick Hudson’s research interests are ethics, Chinese philosophy (particularly Confucianism), and apparently the philosophy of war (which surprises him since he's rather pacific).

Jason Kunen
 “Meditative Ethics in Confucianism and Daoism”

The focus of this work is to examine the similarities in the Confucian and Daoist traditions
and their mutual stance on morality. Although they utilize varying terminologies and methods
of practice, Confucianism and Daoism both provide a groundwork for practical morality and
mindful living from the fact that they are rooted in human relations, and finding internal and
external harmony. The fundamental ground of morality in the Chinese tradition is relationships,especially human relations. The vast adages encompassed in the Confucian and Daoist teachings are a guide as to how we can enrich our relationships and find harmony in the world. The fundamental teaching is that the person who is mindful and appropriate in his conduct and endeavors to find harmony and preserve spontaneity in all relations and the world around him is the ethical person. Even though these traditions highlight different routes of attaining this way of conducting the mind, the kind of relational ethics in these traditions stems from a meditative awareness of living in the world. Conducting ourselves appropriately, as stated in Confucianism, or flowing with the present state of events without consciously interfering, as expressed in Daoism, rests on a kind of mindful “presencing” of being in the world. It is only if we are aware of the conduct of our minds that we can demonstrate the responsiveness required in relationships with others and cultivate the sensitivity to strive for harmony in the cosmos. The ethical person is concerned with how to optimize the human experience and to understand how one should most appropriately conduct oneself as a human being. Realizing our responsibility to promote harmony in others and in the cosmos, we first learn to order ourselves with proper minding. Once we have this stable foundation of mindfulness within us, we can devote our energy to being receptive and truthful towards others and enrich our relationships. This becomes possible when we use our mindfulness to understand how to be responsive and open to others without being deceived by our own mental projections and habits.

Jason Kunen’s research interests include Zen Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy, East-West Comparative Philosophy, Chinese Philosophy

Jing Liu   
“Questioning Metaphysics” 

Recently comparative studies of Whitehead and Chinese philosophy have become a new focus for Chinese philosophers. From the perspective of Whitehead's process philosophy, we naturally say that the world is a process and Dao is creativity. Does "creativity" then truly exhaust the meaning of Dao?  Under such an interpretation, what part of Dao's meaning is forgotten?  What does such forgetting reveal about our mode of being?  I want to show through my paper that the very meaning of Dao as the root-source(ben yuan 本源) is lost through this reading. With that loss thereby we  have fallen into the realm of qi 器(instruments, instrumentality) wherein metaphysics itself lies. The essence of metaphysics is the forgetting of the source. From thereon we can question our being today.

Jing Liu is a graduate student of UH philosophy department. Her direction is Chinese philosophy and comparative philosophy. She is interested in Yijing, Neo-Confucianism, Zhuangzi, and Chan Buddhism. In terms of western philosophy she particularly likes Heidegger.

Kyle Peters
“Ozu and the Art of Telling Stories”

This paper brings Rancière’s philosophy of film, based on the concept of the “thwart” which arises out of the encounter between representative and aesthetic poetics, into dialogue with Japanese cinematic theory. It argues that the endemic dimension of Japanese cinema require a native artistic framework in addition to the introduced framework supplied by Rancière’s regimes. It then proceeds to supply the initial formulation of this Japanese regime of art, arguing for a poetics of the ephemeral which has taken different forms in different socio-historical junctures yet still links together Japanese artistic trends and practices. After this, it demonstrates the way that this thwart-based approach to cinematic analysis can concretely contribute to the current Japanese filmic discourse, applying it to the dialogue surrounding Ozu Yasujiro’s Late Spring (Banshun).

Kyle Peters hails from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. He specializes in a comparative approach to contemporary Japanese and French aesthetics.

Mary K. Riley
“Zhuangzi, Dewey and the Threat of Dogmatism”

The Zhuangzi and John Dewey similarly criticize their philosophical opponents’
supposition that there are preexistent standards or criteria for making epistemic
judgments that are independent of our knowing them. The Zhuangzi claims that the
heart-mind is responsible for making judgments and the criteria that presuppose
those judgments. It is not the case that in making judgments the heart-mind discovers
preexisting standards. Dewey sees knowledge as having come to be concerned with
that which is fixed, eternal, and therefore real. This implies that complete knowledge
corresponds to what which is real, and that the standards of this knowledge exist in
reality. For both Dewey and the Zhuangzi the supposition that there are criteria of
judgment that exist independently of us tends toward dogmatism. Dewey holds that in
attempting to make sense of the world through reason or certain knowledge alone, we
are led to disregard observations about the world in order to align ourselves with fixed,
reasonable concepts. For the Zhuangzi, the supposition that there is only one set of
antecedently existing standards prevents the heart-mind from making fresh judgments
and seeing things from new and different perspectives. Dewey and Zhuangzi share a
concern about the totalizing effect of the mistaken notion that there are preexisting
standards for judgments.

Mary K. Riley is graduate student at the National University of Singapore. She holds a
B.A. and an M.A. in philosophy from Kent State University, where her research focused
on the affinities of Confucian and Pragmatic concepts of self. Her current research
centers on Daoist ethics; particularly the resonances between the Zhuangzi’s ethics and
John Dewey’s notion of aesthetic experience. Other interests include the methodology
of comparative philosophy, ancient Greek philosophy, and East Asian affinities with
twentieth century French and German philosophy.

Rachel Robinson
“How to Think: Listening, the Later Heidegger and Zen Buddhism” 

This paper focuses on the later Heidegger’s work, specifically Identity and Difference and Building, Dwelling, Thinking, and their relationship to Zen Buddhism. The notion that listening is completely passive is refuted by both theories, and a new way of thinking is proposed: listening as passive activity, or active passivity. Rather than simply dismissing all thought as hyper-rational, it is believed that thoughts can be directed through a series of meditations, mantras or prayers. It is necessary for many individuals in the secular world to seek a spiritual space in which to worship, yet for many people the physical space has been replaced by an inner realm of openness. I explore these ideas from both Western and Eastern philosophical perspectives, and find that the limits of traditional understandings of what we call “thinking” are the start of a more profound awareness of the self and the world. 

Rachel Robinson’s research interests include social and political philosophy, and continental philosophy. I am specifically interested in researching the philosophical implications of welcoming an aging population - joining Derridian hospitality with care ethics.

Sana Sakihama
"Beyond the Past and Future: How Can We Construct New Ethics?"

In this presentation, I would like to examine two big issues in Okinawa. The first is the problem of sovereignty, and the second one is that of historical or ethical attitude toward wars. Okinawa have faced many problems because of its complicated historical experiences such as Ryukyu annexation, the Pacific War, domination by U.S. force after 1945, and reversion to Japan in 1972. But the two problems which I mentioned have been regarded as the biggest issues by Okinawan people. We can say that there are two different types in Okinawa. The one is “the past-oriented”, and the other is “the future-oriented”. “The future oriented” emphasizes to look forward and to abandon bad feelings against Japan. On the contrary, “the past oriented” sticks to the painful memories and still have aggressive rancor against Japan. In this presentation, I would like to analyze the text of ARAKAWA Akira and KAWAMITSU Shinnichi as a typical thought of “the past-oriented”, while deal with TAKARA Kurayoshi as an example of “the future-oriented”. Though it is very difficult to answer the two big problems, but I hope we can find some slight possibility to unravel tangled thing in my presentation.

Sana Sakihama’s research interests include Okinawan studies, identity politics, and so on.

Brooke Schueneman
“Tragedy and Reconciliation in the Rāmāyaṇa”

It is seemingly an accepted fact that no Sanskrit poets or playwrights wrote tragedies akin to those of the Greeks or Elizabethans. Indeed, the absence of tragedy is considered a marked characteristic of Sanskrit literature. There are three primary reasons in support of this view. First, there is no specific literary genre demarcated by Sanskrit critics as tragic, whereas comedies and romances are characterized as such. Second, the mood, or rasa, of śoka (grief) can never dominate the Sanskrit poem or play. A Sanskrit literary work must always have a happy ending.  Indeed, śoka is not included among the generally accepted eight rasas. Rather, a derivative of grief is sometimes deployed in its place: karuṇa – compassion, pity. Finally, literary critics point out that there are no individuals in Sanskrit, only types which are ready-made and eternal, and the lack individuality precludes potential tragedy. 
In this paper I shall argue that śoka transformed into the karuṇa rasa does not preclude the possibility for tragedy, but is one of two appropriate aesthetic responses to tragic circumstances. I then suggest that Rāma, though he is oft regarded as merely an avatar for the god Viṣṇu, is also a deeply problematic human character indicated by many of the decisions he makes which are not clearly aligned with his godly-being. Further, I will argue that Sītā only comes to be Sītā by the tragic choice that we see her make. While critics admit that a Sanskrit work might have a tragic sentiment, they assert that it does not have tragic action. I will argue that the Rāmāyana has both. 

Brooke Schueneman’s research interests include Environmental Philosophy, Feminist Philosophy, and Sanskrit Aesthetics.

Bonnie Sheehey
"The Physis of Language: A Perspective on Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Expression and Nature"

A seeming tension arises when we attempt to think of the relation between language and nature. On the one hand, we inherit a language as a conventional, cultural, and instituted artifact teeming with an all too human quality. On the other hand, we regard nature as that which persists without human intervention, though we have increasingly tried to exploit and master it. In his first lecture course on Nature, Merleau-Ponty quotes Lachelier’s note, “The words of a language are not tokens and are themselves a physis.” This paper thinks through the point of intersection connecting language with nature by understanding nature as physis. Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of language offers us a reworking of language beyond the mere notion that it is an institution of human convention. Rather, we must consider language in its nascent and burgeoning state as a gesture of expression, akin to that of the painter. In such a way can we meditate upon the chiasm of nature and language. 

Bonnie Sheehey’s research interests include Philosophy of Nature, Aesthetics, Phenomenology, Frankfurt School Critical Theory, American Pragmatism, Zen Buddhism, and Philosophy of Literature.

Josh Stoll
“Intelligibility and Knowability in Kant”

In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant invokes the distinction between phenomena and noumena. This is the distinction between that which is knowable – where concepts of the understanding are validly applicable to sensible intuitions – and that which is intelligible – where concepts are not applied to any sensible referents but are, rather, employed in the play of thought alone. Thus, the latter part of this distinction – viz. noumenality – accounts for the intelligibility of the application of concepts to sensible referents by employing the same concepts in the realm of understanding alone. As such, Kant says that the understanding makes the logical presupposition of things in themselves – noumenal entities which are the result, not of the application of concepts, but the employment of concepts – as substances which cause the sensible intuitions to which the understanding applies concepts. But still, these noumenal entities, these causal supports for the logical possibility of knowledge, are themselves, according to Kant, unknowable. This paper, then, unpacks this apparent contradiction, noting that there really is no contradiction at all: for Kant, even though noumena are problematic in that they cannot be known to exist (since they are employments rather than applications of concepts by the understanding), they are necessary in that they make the possibility of knowing intelligible.

Josh Stoll's research interests primarily include philosophy of mind, Buddhism, metaphysics, hermeneutics, and philosophy of education. Currently, he is working on bringing various perspectives to bear on the conceptual problem of other minds.

Ian Sullivan
“Truth-makers: Ethics as First Philosophy in Confucianism and the Final Foucault”

Despite recent interest in Confucian ethics, a misconception about the vitality of the Confucian perspective has persisted. This manifests itself in two challenges to Confucian ethics in Western discourse.  At the societal level, the appeal to li (ritual propriety) seems to imply a traditionalism that is primarily preoccupied with maintenance of the status quo and a stifling of creative adaptation to a changing world.  At the interpersonal level, the conception of the self as relationally constituted jeopardizes the freedom and autonomy that grounds most ethics in Western discourse.  Without a robust sense of freedom and the rights that come along with this in Western discourse, Confucianism seems to leave the subordinate in power relations with no choice but to obey those in power, whether they are political, communal, or familial superiors. This paper addresses the second of these challenges. Through a comparison of Foucauldian interpretations of “care of the self” and parrhesia (“speaking truth to power”) with Confucian understandings of self-cultivation and jian (“remonstrance”), this paper argues that the Confucian tradition aligns closely with what Foucault identifies as the “critical tradition” in Western philosophy and that the Confucian vision of the ethical life is built upon the voices of those in subordinate roles in asymmetrical power relations.  In addition to this conclusion, fruitful distinctions between Foucauldian and Confucian perspectives on practices of the self are highlighted for future inquiry.  

Ian Sullivan’s research interests include Ethics, Chinese philosophy, feminist philosophy, and the final works of Michel Foucault.

Holly Swantek
"A Female's Defense of Confucianism"

Some 2,500 years ago in ancient China, Confucius the sage was committed to the pursuit of a moral life and a vision for optimal living represented by relationships. Confucian cosmology saw the human world and beyond as one great harmonious balance, whose people were engaged in an ongoing, never-ending pursuit of “human becoming” through morally exemplary relations with family and community members. The highest order of morality was gauged in relation to others, and yet this same tradition is also charged guilty for age-old oppression of women in China. How can both be true? And how can Confucian philosophy deliver any promise for today’s women without answering to its past? 
Feminist ethicists have increasingly called for a move away from abstract moral absolutism, toward a contextualized, moral particularism that weighs specific dilemmas among “concrete others” in our everyday lives, and Confucianism holds this unique promise. Therefore, this paper argues against the notion of classic Confucian hierarchy as oppressive to women per se, and argues for its special value to women within a feminist care ethic. If Confucianism can win the backing of today’s feminists, it can only gather steam from here.

Holly Swantek’s research interests include Confucianism/Confucian role ethics, feminist philosophy, care ethics, and multiculturalism.

Kevin Taylor
“Material Flows: Human Flourishing and the Life of Goods”

In this paper I seek to bring Aristotle’s ethics into conversation with environmental philosophy by means of external goods. In the Nichomachean Ethics Aristotle was aware of the need for access to external goods in order for humans to attain eudaimonia, especially if one is to attain the highest level of human virtue understood as the phronêmos. Unfortunately, even though Aristotle speculated about a complete life extending beyond one’s own inevitable demise, he was unable to satisfactorily articulate a means by which this could be properly understood. What is lacking in Aristotle is a fuller vision of an ecological consciousness because the phronêmos is primarily concerned with life. The Japanese concept of mottainai however is oriented towards an ontological interconnectedness understood in terms of karmic action and the minimizing of suffering. Mottainai can, therefore, be considered an environmental virtue while addressing an environmental minimum in order to stress the importance of responsible use throughout the lifespan of material goods that takes into account the problem of waste.

Kevin Taylor’s research interest concentrations are Asian philosophy, environmental philosophy, and American pragmatism with specializations in Japanese and Buddhism. He is particularly interested in the intersection of religion and ecology known as the ‘greening of religion.’ His publications include: “Reflections of Nature: A Confucian Critique of China’s Environmental Policies”; “Flora and Fauna in Japanese Buddhist Cosmology”; “Mottainai: A Philosophy of Waste from Japan”; and a review of the documentary “Shugenddō Now”.

Brandon Underwood
“Idle, Ideal Hands”

This paper will explore the role of the concept of idleness within Plato’s Republic.  The investigation will range throughout the book, with special focus on the character of each city-state and the Myth of Er.  Though Plato seems to initially dismiss idleness as the “greatest evil”, I hope to show that it is not only applicable to his concept of the philosopher king, but necessary.

Brandon Underwood’s research interests include Pre-Qin and Han Chinese Philosophy, Metaphysics, Boredom and Idleness

Scott Van Note
"Loving 'Like the Moon-- Drawing Back the Body and Mind':
Searching for Compassion and the Brahmaviharas Within the Buddha's Call for Abandonment"

This essay explores a central tension in the Pali Canon, between the dispassionate practices of Buddhist monks and the Buddha's invitation to practice the Brahmaviharas (the "divine abodes" of compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy, and equanimity).   What are we to make of the Buddha's instructions, often cautioning his disciples to avoid intimate relationships, along with any other occasions for sympathies to arise with community members?  Buddhist rules for renunciation become especially puzzling when considered alongside the deep love and compassion expressed by the Buddha.  What can such paradoxes teach us about the proper duties and boundaries of a Buddhist layperson or monk, within a broader society of dissatisfaction (dukkha)?  In sermons on the Noble Eightfold Path, the Buddha indicates that compassion is primarily useful as an expedient, to break the cycles of unwholesome desires that sabotage the road to Nirvana.  The middle path between the extremes of total detachment and the risks of attachment may involve the practice of generalized, non-referential compassion and loving-kindness, while avoiding intimacy and individualized instances of compassion.  Ultimately, another question persists: is there any significant difference in outcome between the dispassionate Noble Eightfold Path to Nirvana and the compassionate way toward Heaven?

Scott Van Note received his Master's of Arts in Eastern Classics from St. John's College of Santa Fe in 2011.   Recently, he has lectured on Neuroscience and Meditation at Northern New Mexico College, where he is currently scheduled to present a series of experiential workshops on the physiological and neurological benefits of mindfulness practices and loving-kindness meditations to the Biology Department in 2013.   He is also fascinated by the evolution of Christian theology and Gnosticism, as well as models for social justice found in Liberation Theology.  Working to promote interfaith dialogue and activities, particularly between Buddhism and Christianity, he now facilitates an interdenominational Bible study among Christian youth leaders in the Santa Fe area. 

Special Address Presenters
Kathleen Higgins
“Grief and the Aesthetics of Loss and Mourning”

Theorists of emotion commonly emphasize the action tendencies prompted by emotion. The idea that action tendencies are essential to emotions has sometimes led theorists to rather convoluted accounts of grief. Grief motivates the person who experiences it to desire the impossible, recognizably so. Grief seems anomalous in prompting inaction or dysfunctional behavior, not the functional behavior that action tendencies are taken to promote. (In the context of this discussion, I will be considering grief that arises in response to the death of a loved one, although I acknowledge that there are many other circumstances that can
result in grief.)

Robert C. Solomon argues that grief is thoroughly functional in that it serves the purpose of continuing love, and has action tendencies that are evident in commemorations. I agree with these points and argue that, but that a common characteristic of many of the diverse manifestations of the impulse to commemorate is that they are shaped in accordance with aesthetic considerations. In other words, grief characteristically prompts aesthetic expression, and this takes a variety of forms.

Aesthetic manifestations of grief include such things as treatment of the body of the deceased, gravesites, commemorative artworks, shrines (both temporary and permanent), monuments, stories told about the deceased, artworks that take grief and loss as subject matter, and rituals associated with mourning, a phenomenon that is ubiquitous despite the cultural diversity of the particular rituals that are considered appropriate. Xunzi, in defense of ritual as a means of expressing emotion, offers one explanation for the aptness of aesthetic forms for embodying grief: rituals and mourning practices provide channels for expressing highly upsetting emotions in a manner that is not socially disruptive.

The close association of grief with aesthetics, though acknowledged in such accounts of ritual and noted by Arthur Danto, has been underappreciated. I will offer several explanations for why it has largely been unrecognized. I will suggest that the impulse to aesthetic expressions comes in part through efforts to seek a symbolic means of reanimating the dead person. One of our ways of doing this is to act vicariously on behalf of the deceased, taking on the dead person’s goals and lending the person one’s own life energy, as it were, in order to fulfill them. This quest to do what the deceased would have wanted is guided by an effort to achieve closure (itself an aesthetic impulse, if also a Gestalt principle). However, closure in this case is at best only relatively available. The goals of the deceased are potentially infinite, and to imagine that one had completely satisfied them would effectively accept the agenda and life of the person as finished, something one would be reluctant to do in relation to a person one loves.
This unavailability of completion haunts the entirety of our efforts to commemorate the deceased. Completion is unavailable because our real aim is unachievable. We want to bring the person back physically, but that possibility is foreclosed. We are thus limited to the symbolic, and the insufficiency of any particular symbolic form also provides an impetus to further gestures of commemoration. Completion is also unavailable because we feel that nothing we do could sufficiently honor the deceased loved one. The goal of fully expressing our loss and our love is asymptotic – whatever the effort we exert to approach it, it can never be reached. We overlook the close association between aesthetics and loss in part because none of our aesthetic gestures are adequate. Yet this inadequacy itself motivates further expressions of grief, themselves typically taking aesthetic form.

Are we doomed to frustration? In one sense, yes, obviously. However, creative activity directed toward honoring the dead can help one to process grief and transform the melancholy that comes with it into a further impulse to live. Aesthetic projects of commemoration and the relative closure they provide offer the satisfaction that one is doing something for the deceased and expressing love in the context of relationship. Optimally, one might extend the range of what amounts to a project of commemoration to the point of interpreting the conduct of one’s whole life as honoring the deceased, at which point aesthetic commemoration converges with moral excellence. (Honoring one’s ancestors might be seen in exactly this light.) In this way, one might mitigate and even overcome survivor guilt (which is exacerbated by the conviction that no way of honoring the deceased is sufficient). In any case, acts and projects of commemoration help the grieving person to regain a sense that action can be meaningful. The aesthetic side of grief reveals an impulse toward recovery, demonstrating the functionality of the action tendencies that provoke them.

Professor Higgins received her doctorate from Yale University. Her primary interests include Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, aesthetics, philosophy of music, Non-Western philosophy, and philosophy of emotion.

Ashok Malhotra

"With the religious conflicts that have been pitching one civilization against the other, I have been working on  a paper dealing with the "Role of Religion in Civilization Development."  I delve into the clash implicit in the historical ideology of the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and then contrast it with the lack of violent conflict within  (polytheistic/non-theistic) Asian religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. I offer a vision of spirituality and civilization for the 21st century where the monotheistic and polytheistic/non-theistic religions become pathways to a new religion/spirituality not just for one segment of humanity but for the entire human race inhabiting this beautiful planet earth.

After receiving his B.A. and M.A. from BITS, Pilani in India, Ashok Kumar Malhotra came to the East-West Center (Hawaii) in 1963 and earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Hawaii, Manoa in 1969. 
He began teaching at the State University of New York at Oneonta, where he is a founding member of its philosophy department and currently serves as Distinguished Teaching Professor of philosophy. 
In 1979, he established the SUNY Oneonta “Learn-and-Serve” study abroad program in India. Since then, he has lead 18 groups with more than 300 students, faculty and community members on humanitarian missions that include feeding the poor, assisting in medical clinics, helping the refugees from Tibet, providing help to the lepers and more recently, building three elementary and three high schools for more than 1200 impoverished children in the remote villages of Dundlod (Rajasthan), Mahapura (Rajasthan), and Kuran (Gujarat), India. Much of the funding for these six schools comes from Malhotra’s Ninash Foundation, a 501 c (3) charitable organization established in 1996 in honor of his late wife, Nina, to promote literacy among children and adults throughout the world. The Ninash Foundation’s work to spread literacy in India has thrice earned Malhotra nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.
He was active on the SUNY Press Editorial Board, was a member of the National Endowment for the Humanities board, and has 14 books and more than 100 other publications to his credit. 
He was also a consultant for the Warner Brothers TV Series “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.”
He established the Yoga and Meditation Society at SUNY Oneonta that had invited more than 25 speakers from all over the world. His interviews of these speakers as well as video of “Gentle Yoga for Relaxation” are being shown on the Public Access Channel.  Malhotra writes a monthly column on “Yoga Life” for the O’Town Scene, a local newspaper.
To recognize and encourage scholarship and community service, he has also endowed four annual Seva (compassionate service”) Awards at the University of Hawaii,  East West Center and SUNY Oneonta. 

Rajam Ragunathan
“Buddhist Immunology”

Decades after scholars like Kenneth Inada defended the possibility of metaphysical inquiry in Buddhism against accusations of its irrelevance to Buddhist ultimate concern, the prospect of a Buddhist philosophy of biology, medicine, or, worse yet, immunology still seems like a distant or, worse, deeply misguided dream.  After all, the Buddha, like the good doctor knows how to extract the arrow from the wound without wasting time on questions unhelpful to this task: knowing the hair color of the man who shot the arrow won’t help you take it out.  Is an understanding of the biological processes of the man who was shot like this?  Or, can inquiring into the bodily processes on a cellular level tell us something further about what the Buddha purports to teach, the understanding of anatman or no Self?   In this paper, I take up the challenge of sketching out one aspect of a Buddhist philosophy of biology by putting Indian Buddhist philosophy into conversation with contemporary theorists in immunology.  Both traditions, Buddhism and immunology, must contend with a problematic understanding of self—either a false superimposition or a faulty hypothesis—which is, respectively, our cognitive inheritance or a disciplinary legacy.  Through this conversation across disciplinary and cultural boundaries, I hope to use the notion (and critique) of the self which is raised by each tradition in order to reformulate an approach the question of identity. 

Professor Raghunathan received her doctorate from Harvard University in 2010. Her primary areas of focus include Indian Buddhist Philosophy, Indian Philosophy and Ancient Greek Philosophy. She is interested in questions concerning epistemology, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of action

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