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The View of Life in an Archipelagic Civilization as Japan: Toward New Global Ethics

Research Topic
The view of life in an archipelagic civilization as Japan: Toward new global ethics

Lead Researcher
Kizo Ogura, Professor, Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University


The applicant for this project published ‘A New Analects’ (Chikuma Shinsho Paperback Series) in 2013 and ‘Archipelagic Civilization and Continental Civilization’ (PHP Shinsho Paperback Series) in 2020. In these books, the new concept of “the third life” was proposed. The applicant identifies the two main types of life that humanity has clearly recognized so far: (1) physical and biological life, and (2) spiritual and religious life. Here, these two views of life are called “the first life” and “the second life,” respectively. What we call “life” in our daily lives is the former, and the eternal “life of the spirit” in Christianity is a typical example of the latter. However, diverse views of another dimension of life have been extracted from human spiritual history and collectively named “the third life.”

“The third life” is a “life” that is neither biological nor spiritual. It is not unique to Japan, and can be found in every civilization and culture in the world. However, it is particularly pronounced in the Japanese animist worldview. It is an “in-between life”, the appearance or disappearance of which cannot be predicted, in a relationship dominated by chance and contingency. Based on this new view of life, the purpose of this research project is to develop a new perspective on contemporary issues that humanity is facing, such as bioethics and global ethics. When addressing these issues, we are still stuck in the process of holding Western modern views of life and humanity to be self-evident before we even begin to consider them. By putting a question mark on this starting point itself, this study attempts to approach bioethics and global ethics from an archipelagic view of human beings and life, which originates in Japan.