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2nd Unit, 1st Conference of "A philosophy of post-Fukushima"

2nd Unit, 1st Conference of "A philosophy of post-Fukushima"

Jean-Pierre Dupuy, "Rational Choice before the Apocalypse"
Ichinose Masaki, "Harmfulness of Radiation Problems: What Can Philosophy Say for Reconstruction?"

2nd Unit, 1st Conference

On July 4, the international conference sponsored by the International Research Center for Philosophy (IRCP) titled "A philosophy of post-Fukushima" was held at Sky Hall, Hakusan Campus, Toyo University. Speakers were Professor Ichinose Masaki at the University of Tokyo and Professor Jean-Pierre Dupuy at Stanford University. This conference is a part of the program that the IRCP continuously held to provide opportunities for rethinking what "philosophy" is possible in the situation after the large earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 and the following serious accident at Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant of the Tokyo Electric Power Company. The conference is a sequel to the Online International Conference "A philosophy of post-Fukushima" held in December last year. Ichinose is a philosopher who mainly specializes in British philosophy and is also a leading scholar in discussions concerning problems entailed by "low-dose radiation exposure" by radioactive substance in Japan after "3.11." On this occasion, his lecture was titled "Harmfulness of Radiation Problems: What Can Philosophy Say for Reconstruction?" Jean-Pierre Dupuy is a professor emeritus of the Ecole Polytechnique of France and is now a professor at Stanford University in the United States. He has developed philosophical reflections on "catastrophy" especially after the "Chernobyl," and serves as the chairman of the Ethics Commissions at Institute de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire (IRSN). It can be said that he is the leading person in philosophical discussions regarding this problem. The title of his lecture was "Rational Choice before the Apocalypse".

The conference started with the greeting by Murakami Katsuzo, director of the IRCP. He mentioned the present situation where, one year and several months after the nuclear power plant accident, there has been an increasing emphasis on "safety" while at the same time the residual risk of "hazards" particularly to children who will support the next generation cause people in affected areas to feel a constant conflict between leaving and remaining in their hometown. This is also the situation from which the project of "A philosophy of post-Fukushima" should always start. Following the greeting, Ichinose's talk started after the introduction of both speakers by Tonaki Yotetsu,IRCP research associate of the IRCP.

2nd Unit, 1st Conference

Ichinose squarely confronted the question, "What can philosophy say about reconstruction?" His answer to this question was that "sorting out issues" and "presenting a perspective for thinking" is the only things philosophy can offer. Two approaches are conceivable as axes for sorting out issues: a "metaphysical approach" for thinking about disaster in general from a long-term point of view and an "epistemological approach" for thinking about the specific disaster of the Great East Japan Earthquake from a short-term point of view. He adopted the latter approach in this talk and particularly focused on the "radioactivity problem" caused by the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, in order to examine the substance of its "harmfulness." Upon such a premise, Ichinose examined each logically conceivable alternative for judgment on the continuation of nuclear power generation and health damage by radiation. He argued first that it should be presumed that the problem of health damage by radiation is to be conceived, after all, as a matter of degrees. It is necessary to disentangle arguments at a variety of levels which tend to be confused and sort out issues in thinking about what the substance of "damage" in the "radioactivity problem" is. If, in so doing, "damage from radiation exposure" and "damage resulting from avoiding radioactivity" are to be strictly distinguished, then the substance of this "damage" will be the "sense of negativity" such as "anxiety," "sense of absurdity," and "distrust" concerning a possibility that "one may die of cancer due to radiation exposure." If that is the case, it is necessary to examine solutions for eliminating such "anxiety." By sorting out again issues to be discussed in considering the "radioactivity problem," including the reliability of scientific data, the prevention principle, the distinction between a target risk (radiation exposure) and a countervailing risk (one caused by avoiding the target risk), and the problem of a "moral dilemma", Ichinose finally concluded his lecture by calling attention to the necessity for the scientific analysis and inquiry into a "countervailing risk" that can be caused by seeking for "safety" too much and various risks brought about by the act of evacuation as well as to the necessity for "nobleness" and "preparedness" for the occurrence of a disaster despite all preventive efforts.

2nd Unit, 1st Conference

Whereas Ichinose's lecture directly dealt with the current "radioactivity problem" based on what he calls "epistemological approach," Dupuy's talk that followed can be said to have been "metaphysical" in that it began by considering our conception of "time" when we grasp a "catastrophic event." What was in question, however, was to reconsider the attitude itself that we have in our daily life. Even though we know that a "catastrophic event" may occur someday, we behave as though we did not know when it would happen or it would not happen. This very attitude becomes the object of analysis. By referring to the concept of "fractal," which one French mathematician proposed, to think about this problem, Dupuy takes up the following example. Immediately before the collapse of an economic bubble, the same pattern of behavior of repeating speculation and making a profit continues expansively as if infinitely, but a "catastrophic event" occurs at a certain point in time. Dupuy emphasizes a structure in which a "catastrophic event" can only be recognized retrospectively after it has occurred. In order to be able to grasp such a "catastrophic event," we must reconsider our time recognition itself. Usually we think that the future is the consequence of a choice we make at present. In this case, it is considered important to "foresee in advance," "anticipate," and "prevent" a "catastrophic event." The limit of this kind of time recognition, however, is probably conspicuous in the contradictory expression, "preparation for the unexpected." What Dupuy proposes against this is time recognition which is like "future anterior" in French grammatical terminology: placing oneself in the future when a "catastrophic event" will have already occurred and looking back the past therefrom, instead of from the present. This time recognition was illustrated by a circular model called "time of a project." It does not conceive the present and the future as if on a single line. It is temporality under which one starts with placing oneself after a "catastrophic event" that can occur in the future, retrogresses in time therefrom to the past, and heads toward the future again in such a way as to exert influence on the future by one's present behavior in order to avoid the event in question.

After the two lectures, Tonaki Yotetsu summarized the arguments in each lecture and raised some questions. In the last session for questions and answers, extremely suggestive questions were raised further, including not only specific questions about each lecture but also those in light of the specific situation in which people in Fukushima are now placed.