Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You know pragmatism is different from utilitarianism.

I had a chat with my philosopher friend Ken Shiotani over lunch. He was lecturing in Hosei University, and I caught him as he was waiting for the elevator in the hall.

These days, I make a point of having a time for discourse during the time of my day, as otherwise my intellect would suffocate and become just practical.

Our conversation on analytic philosophy led to Shiotani's appraisal of philosophy in the United States.

"The Americans have an inferiority complex towards the Europeans as regards philosophy", Shiotani said. "As a result, they stress pragmatism as a philosophical fruit borne out of their own tradition".

"Isn't it great," I countered, "that they have their own problems, and find it, define it, and elucidate it?"

"That's right," Shiotani said, "whereas the Japanese philosophers traditionally just import the Western philosophy and translate them, pretending they are their own. Unless the Japanese philosophers identify their own problem, their contribution in history would be limited."

Then Shiotani suddenly remarked. "You know pragmatism is different from utilitarianism."

"You mean, being pragmatic does not just imply a concern about the utilitarian significances of a particular system of thought, but rather, pragmatism is a whole organic network of methodologies involving epistemology and ontology, a particular way of looking at the world at large?"

"More or less. That's the gist of it"

It was lunch time, and our conversation had to end prematurely.

It is nice to go out of your way a little bit and have this window with your best friend of 25 years, towards stimulating my soul.

Ken Shiotani arguing about pragmatism over lunch.


Anonymous said...

I believe however that it can also be argued that what goes against pragmatism at all levels is the inclination to enjoy a certain sense of "self-satisfaction" through criticizing one's own people and/or country in such irresponsible fashion, without showing any clear solution to overcome the situation, or at least trying to. While recognizing that I too am to blame, I cannot help but feel a strong sense of irritation over this national tendency. I admire the Americans for their pragmatism, for knowing the unproductive nature of the mere act of irresponsible self(own country/people)-criticism and alternatively preferring to seek "actions for improvement" through a more positive self-reflection.

砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

Oh, Mr.Shiotani's dancing style is standard today. What'wrong? Are you okay? (sorry all the time.)

"the Japanese philosophers traditionally just import the Western philosophy.." Yes, that's a good point.

Wow,I barely understand a part of what Mr.Shiotani means. miraculous! (sorry all the time.)

I find delight in hearing your conversation, even if I can't understand all the content.

Yuzu said...

I was impressed today's journal.
I am always impressed all of your best friends.
I think you are like that kind of person for them.
I am so happy to listen to your conversation.
Thank you.