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In Search of Clues

August 5, 2011

My first semester as a research student is over since I had my last lesson on Wednesday. I couldn’t make any big jumps so far but I got a feeling that I just got into the starting position for my research.

While I thought to concentrate on finding out what exactly “Clinical Philosophy” is at first, I soon found out that this isn’t an easy question to answer. Everybody involved in this subject seems to avoid giving an answer and the most frequent phrase I heard when asking about Clinical philosophy was “I think it’s better not to define it”. The only thing mentioned frequently to describe it was “communication”. So if I should describe Clinical Philosophy I would probably say the most important thing to this subject is communication. Maybe the notion that you can’t explain reality by sitting all by yourself in your room thinking of the world is what distinguishes Clinical Philosophy from other philosophic disciplines. Explanations are to be found in communication with others.

Think for example of Medical Ethics. Although there are other approaches, medical ethics tends to be discussed by only a few doctors, ethicists and religious authorities, but the people who are (more or less) affected by the ethical questions discussed are seldom involved. You could say it’s a top-down approach while Clinical Philosophy uses a bottom-up approach and starts the discussion from the people and not from decision-makers.

It is to note though, that “clinical” doesn’t necessarily refer to the medical clinic originally meaning “bedside”. Since I came into touch with Clinical Philosophy through Medical Ethics, I thought like this at first, but during this semester I learned that “clinical” rather means something like “practical” which refers to communication. Clinical Philosophy does discuss medico-ethical problems, but it is also concerned with other aspects of human interaction in everyday life.

So when I figured that “talking” is most important to Clinical Philosophy, I decided that I have to enter the field as soon as possible. As described earlier on this blog, it wasn’t easy to find a way into my research field due to a lack of connections, but finally I could fix a date for a first visit at a health care center. This visit will only be the very first step to field work, but it is a step forward 🙂

Still, there was the problem of how to connect my research with philosophy…

I was literally looking for the needle in a haystack, but it seems that I got a first clue about where to look for it.  My prof introduced a book written by Kaibara Ekiken in the Edo-period (1603-1868) to me. It is called “Youjoukun” (養生訓) and describes rules for a long and healthy life. While this book would already be interesting for me because of this, what makes it even more interesting is what Ekiken says about who the body belongs to. You would think that your body belongs to you, wouldn’t you? But according to Ekiken (a Neo-Confucianist) it belongs to your parents who gave it to you as well as to the earth and the sky and this is why you’re responsible for keeping your body healthy and living a long life. If you don’t take care of your body you show disrespect for your parents and nature.

Now, this is very similar to what the Japanese government says in relation to the law against overweight: Your body doesn’t belong to you only. You’re responsible to stay healthy so that you’re able to fulfill your role in society as bread-winner or caretaker of the family. So with the discovery of Ekiken I found a trace to the history of Japanese thinking which seems like a good link to philosophy. Further, there are voices that criticize precisely the idea that the body doesn’t belong to oneself. So it will be interesting to compare the arguments of each side 🙂

Well, besides these first clues I’m still trying to build up a broad background knowledge both in Japanology and in Philosophy, so there’s a lot to read during the holidays. But I’m highly motivated after my recent findings 😀

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2011 02:49

    Sounds like an interesting topic. I’m also doing research on Japan, but on the politics side of things. I found your blog through Twitter–I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    • franeymoon permalink*
      August 24, 2011 16:34

      Thanks for your comment! What are you currently researching? Do you blog, too? I’ll keep on blogging about my research and other stuff (hopefully soon) so stay tuned 😉


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