Animated persona and the existence of dead persons Professor Masahiro Morioka, Waseda University
Grief Project Lecture Series
In 2016, a series of terrorist attacks occurred in Brussels and more than 30 people were killed at the Brussels international airport (Zaventem) and metro stations. After the incident Masahiro visited l'Université Libre de Bruxelles to participate in a conference. At Brussels airport he saw many flowers being placed on an airport corridor and many people surrounding the place. We can see similar scenes around the world.
One question that often comes to him is why we place flowers at the place where victims were killed. If we believe that one’s soul goes to heaven or hell, the killed person does not exist there. If we believe that a person’s mind returns to nothing, the killed person does not exist there as well. In his country, Japan, there are many people who vaguely believe that a killed person still exists at the site of the event for a long period of time. Japanese people usually place food or a bottle of juice at the site in addition to flowers. In this case, it makes sense to offer flowers at the place the event took place because by offering flowers we could communicate with deceased people who might be still hovering over there. Masahiro personally does not believe in the existence of a soul as entity, but he truly sympathises with their view of life and death.
Over the past ten years, he has investigated the “communication” between a deceased person and their family members from a philosophical point of view by using the concept of “animated persona.” We can find this kind of communication in hospitals, in various memoirs of bereaved families, and in theatrical plays. This topic is also closely connected with phenomenology. In his talk, he would like to show some of the typical examples of the appearance of an animated persona and try to explain them in terms of philosophy and phenomenology.
About the speaker
Masahiro Morioka teaches philosophy and ethics at Waseda University, Tokyo. His research topics include philosophy of life, bioethics, philosophy of life’s meaning, metaphysics, and criticism of contemporary civilization. The majority of his work has been published in Japanese. His translated books include: Manga Introduction to Philosophy (2013), Painless Civilization: A Critique of Desire (Chapter One, 2003), and Confessions of a Frigid Man: A Philosopher’s Journey into the Hidden Layers of Men’s Sexuality (2005), which are all downloadable from the Internet as open access books. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Philosophy of Life, and a Steering Committee member of the International Conference on Philosophy and Meaning in Life.