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Web International Meeting: "Reason and Experience"

Web International Meeting "Reason and Experience"

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 On October 11, 2014, the fourth International Web Conference, based on the theme “Reason and Experience: On the Methods of Spinoza,” was held at the Toyo University Hakusan Campus (Building 8, Special Conference Room) by the 2nd Unit. This was an internet-based joint conference between Japan and France, with Pierre-Francois Moreau of the Lyon Higher Normal School participating from France. On the Japanese side, Ohnishi Yoshitomo (IRCP Visiting Resercher, Kumamoto University), Watanabe Hiryoyuki (IRCP Visiting Resercher), and Fujii Chikayo (Reserch Fellowship for Young Scientists at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) took part as designated questioners, with Murakami Katsuzo (IRCP Resercher, Facutly of letters, Toyo University) serving as host. The conference featured simultaneous translation between Japanese and French, and the attendees were able to listen to both languages simultaneously on receivers while viewing the conference location on a screen or monitor.

  The conference began with host Murakami’s overview of the conference and introduction to Moreau’s achievements. Based on an analysis of the first portion of Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione, an early work by Spinoza, Moreau discussed the level of experience of interconnected reality in Spinoza’s philosophy and its importance as a starting point for philosophical inquiry. For instance, in pursuing the three experiential goods of sensual pleasure, fame, and wealth, man must face the disheartening reality that these things will ultimately fade away, but this itself serves as a motivation to pursue the highest good, thus establishing a link with experience, stated Moreau.2

  Following this discussion, there were three comments from the Japanese side. Fujii began by asking three questions: Moreau emphasized the difference between interconnected reality and the desire for knowledge as starting points for inquiry in Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione, but what differences does this create with regard to ethical scope? Also, what is the significance of the concept of death in a consideration of the development of the concept of good vs. evil in Ethica? Finally, what is the difference between the interiority of Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione (the path to the highest good) and the interiority of Ethica? Next were two questions from Watanabe. First, is it correct to think that on this path, all possible readers of Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione will be lead to a reflective investigation of the qualities of the three goods? Also, if the term “experience” has an unambiguous meaning in the course of this experience, what is the basis of this lack of ambiguity?

   Finally, Ohnishi asked whether, from the perspective of a Descartes scholar, there might be room to rethink Moreau’s denial of the affinity between Descartes and Spinoza. He also asked whether “conversion” (in the philosophical sense) was even possible unless the concept of the “good” preceded human awareness.

   Next, as Moreau responded to the questions from the three scholars, a spirited discussion took place. The web conference was held on Saturday evening due to the time difference, and there were many participants from the university and elsewhere. As this was the fourth web conference where participants connected over the internet and specialized discussions were held with simultaneous translation, the technical challenges had been largely resolved and the conference proceeded smoothly. Because of this, extremely wide-ranging and vigorous discussions were possible.

    Also, following the conference, Moreau proposed submitting a manuscript on the state of Spinoza studies in Japan to Le Bulletin de Bibliographie Spinoziste. This suggestion may prove very significant in linking the Spinoza Societies of Japan and France.      A general discussion took place after a break. Prof. Ōnishi began by addressing questions in French and English to professors Mehl and Beebee, respectively. Following up on the various issues that Inose raised, Ōnishi solicited Mehl’s opinion on the relationship between canonicity and descriptiveness in Descartes, and Beebee’s opinion on the differences between “normative things” in Descartes and in Hume.

 In the general summing up that subsequently took place, a lively discussion unfolded between Manchester, Strasbourg, and Tokyo from the responses of Mehl and Beebee and the questions those sparked from the participants in Japan. This international web-based conference took place on a Saturday Japan time owing to the time differences, but regardless many people participated both from Toyo University and elsewhere. Although a few technical issues arose, possibly due to the participants being connected from three different locations via the Internet or the specialized discussion being conducted using simultaneous interpretation, the fruitful results of the discussion more than made up for any inconvenience.

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