Masahiro Morioka

Masahiro Morioka
Full name Masahiro Morioka
Born September 25, 1958 (1958-09-25) (age 53)
Kochi, Kochi, Japan
Era 20th / 21st-century philosophy
Region Western & Eastern Philosophy
School Continental Philosophy, Asian Philosophy, Analytic Philosophy, Bioethics
Main interests Philosophy of Life, Metaphysics, Ethics, Men’s Studies, Civilization Studies
Notable ideas painless civilization , life studies, insensitive man

Masahiro Morioka (born September 25, 1958) is a Japanese philosopher, who has contributed to the fields of philosophy of life, bioethics, gender studies, media theory, and civilization studies. He is a professor of philosophy and ethics at Osaka Prefecture University, Osaka, Japan. He coined the term “life studies” for an integrated approach to the issues of life, death, and nature in contemporary society.[1] Recently he has proposed a new philosophical discipline he calls “philosophy of life.”[2] He has published numerous academic books and articles, mainly in Japanese, and has regularly contributed commentaries and book reviews to major Japanese newspapers and magazines.[3] His books include Painless Civilization, which criticizes the incessant attempts to escape from pain and suffering in modern civilization, The Insensitive Man, which illuminates some of the darker sides of male sexuality such as the “Lolita complex” and male frigidity, and Lessons in Love for Herbivore Boys, one of the books that helped popularize the term “herbivore men.”[4] He is the editor-in-chief of Journal of Philosophy of Life[5] and an associate editor of Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics.[6]



Morioka was born in Kochi prefecture, Japan, in 1958 and entered The University of Tokyo in 1977. In the beginning he studied physics and mathematics but he later turned to philosophy and ethics.[7] In graduate school he specialized in bioethics and environmental ethics, a newly emerging field at that time as well as Wittgenstein’s later philosophy.[8] He published two books on bioethics, An Invitation to the Study of Life and Brain Dead Person, and moved to the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, in 1988. There he wrote several books including How to Live in a Post-religious Age and Consciousness Communication; the former is a philosophical and psychological analysis of Aum Shinrikyo’s sarin gas attack on Tokyo subways that occurred in 1995[9] and the latter discusses subconscious interactions in the age of computer communications (Consciousness Communication won The Telecom Social Science award in 1993).[10] "He spent one year as a visiting scholar at Wesleyan University, Connecticut, USA, in 1991."[11]

In 1997 he moved to Osaka Prefecture University where he continues to teach philosophy and ethics.[12] In 2001 he published Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics, in which he discussed brain death and organ transplantation, feminist bioethics and abortion, the disability rights movement, and new forms of eugenics from the perspective of “life studies.” In this book he introduces concepts such as "the fundamental sense of security" and "the reality of a deeply shaken self," which he discovered through an examination of Japanese bioethics literature written in the 1970s.[13] He published Painless Civilization, mentioned above, in 2003. This is considered by many his most important and influential book to date.[14] His books on men’s studies, also mentioned above, have been frequently referred to in the field of gender studies.[15] He established the Research Institute for Contemporary Philosophy of Life at Osaka Prefecture University.[16] He played an important role in the revision of the organ transplantation law in Japan in the years 2000-2009. He asserted that organs should not be harvested from small children who have been declared brain dead but his proposal was ultimately rejected by the Diet.[17]

Key Concepts

Brain death as a human relationship

Morioka defines brain death not as a material process occurring inside the brain but as a human relationship formed between a comatose patient and his/her family members or others who surround him/her. He calls this a “human relationship oriented analysis” approach to bioethics. He claims that brain death is not necessarily human death.[18][19]

Consciousness communication

In his 1993 book Consciousness Communication he distinguished “consciousness communication,” communication for the purpose of social interaction itself, from “information communication,” communication used as a tool for conveying information. He predicted that consciousness communication would play a central role in the coming information society, and put forward the concepts of “community of anonymity” and “dream navigator.”[20]

Life studies

Morioka calls his comprehensive approach to the issues of life, death, and nature “life studies.” The ultimate goal of life studies is to help people to live their lives without regret. Morioka asserts that the most important aspect of life studies is never to detach ourselves from the problems we are tackling and never to think of ourselves as exceptions; He encourages us to keep our eyes on our own desires and the evil that he believes is deeply engraved in our hearts.[21]

Fundamental sense of security

The fundamental sense of security is one of the central concepts in Morioka’s philosophy. In the book Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics he describes this as “a sense of security that allows me to strongly believe that even if I had been unintelligent, ugly, or disabled, my existence in the world itself would have been equally welcomed, and whether I succeed or fail, and even if I become a doddering old man, my existence will continue to be welcomed.” He asserts that this is a precondition of our being able to live our lives without regret.[22]

Painless civilization

Morioka asserts that our contemporary civilization is developing in the form of a “painless civilization.” He asserts that this civilization’s limitless penchant for eliminating pain and suffering makes us completely lose sight of the meaning of life that is indispensable to human beings and deprives us of the joy of life in exchange for pleasure, pleasantness, and comfort. He further claims that people in advanced countries know that they are drowning in the tide of their painless civilization but do not know how to escape from it.[23][24]

The desire of the body and the desire of life

Morioka distinguishes between two kinds of desires: the desire of the body and the desire of life. The former is the desire to expand the amount of one’s pleasure, property, and stability, and the latter is the desire to dismantle the former, throw away pleasure, property, and stability, and change into a being in a different state of mind and body.[25]

Insensitive man

Morioka uses the phrase “insensitive man” to describe a man who suffers from sexual insensitivity caused by “male frigidity” and has a (sub-conscious) attraction toward young girls, especially girls wearing school uniforms. Many Japanese adult males suffer from this condition and love to see the images of young girls in the mass media and on the Internet. This is the pathology hidden behind the Japanese male’s “Lolita complex.”[26]

Herbivore men

In Morioka’s writings “herbivore men” is a term that refers to timid young Japanese men who are inexperienced and unassertive in love and sex. Just after the publication of Morioka’s book, Lessons in Love for Herbivore Boys, 2008, the term “herbivore men” became a buzz word in Japan and was reported worldwide.[27]

Philosophy of life

The philosophy of life is a new discipline in contemporary philosophy that aims to examine the topics of life, death, and nature from various philosophical angles. It widens the scope of the 19th century’s Lebensphilosophie and encompasses contemporary bioethics, environmental philosophy, philosophy of biology, biopolitics, the study of the meaning of human life, and other areas of research.[28]

Birth affirmation

This is one of the key concepts in Morioka’s philosophy of life. Birth affirmation means to be able to say yes, from the bottom of our hearts, to the fact that we have been born. Morioka distinguishes “birth affirmation” from similar concepts such as “survival affirmation” and “affirmation of one’s whole life.” He considers “birth denial” as the worst form of human evil.[29]


Books (incomplete)

  • 2009 Herbivore Boys will Bring Your Last Love (最後の恋は草食系男子が持ってくるMagazine House, in Japanese) ISBN 483871999X
  • 2009 The 33rd Stone: A Philosophy for a wounded age (33個めの石Shunju Sha, in Japanese) ISBN 4393332911
  • 2008 Lessons in Love for Herbivore Boys (草食系男子の恋愛学Media Factory, in Japanese) ISBN 4840123764
  • 2005 The Insensitive Man: A Philosophical Essay on Male Sexuality (感じない男Chikuma Shobo, in Japanese) ISBN 4480062211
  • 2005 Life Studies for Beginners: A Philosophy for Facing Oneself (生命学をひらくTransview, in Japanese) ISBN 4901510347
  • 2003 Painless Civilization: A Philosophical Critique of Desire (無痛文明論Transview Publications, in Japanese) ISBN 4901510185
  • 2001 Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics: A New Perspective on Brain Death, Feminism, and Disability (生命学に何ができるか:脳死・フェミニズム・優生思想Keiso Shobo, in Japanese) ISBN 4326652616
  • 2001 Life Torn Apart (引き裂かれた生命, in Japanese)
  • 1997 An Intellectual Method of Facing Oneself (自分と向き合う「知」の方法PHP Publications, in Japanese) ISBN 4480422307
  • 1996 How to Live in a Post-religious Age (宗教なき時代を生きるためにHozokan, in Japanese) ISBN 4831872253
  • 1994 Reconsidering the View of Life (生命観を問いなおすChikuma Shobo, in Japanese) ISBN 4480056122
  • 1993 Consciousness Communication (意識通信Chikuma Shobo, in Japanese) ISBN 4480087087
  • 1989 Brain Dead Person: Human-relationship-oriented Analysis of Brain-death (脳死の人Tokyo Shoseki, in Japanese) ISBN 4831856037 HTML
  • 1988 An Invitation to the Study of Life (生命学への招待Keiso Shobo, in Japanese) ISBN 4326152095

Selected English Papers

  • 2011 Narrative Responsibility and Moral Dilemma. HTML
  • 2010 In Search of a Philosophy of Life in Contemporary Society: An Introduction. PDF
  • 2006 The Ethics of Human Cloning and the Sprout of Human Life. HTML
  • 2005 Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security: A Philosophical Challenge in the Age of Human Biotechnology. HTML
  • 2001 Reconsidering Brain Death: A Lesson from Japan's Fifteen Years of Experience. PDF
  • 2001 A Proposal for Revision of the Organ Transplantation Law Based on A Child Donor’s Prior Declaration. HTML
  • 1995 Bioethics and Japanese Culture. HTML]
  • 1991 The Concept of Inochi. PDF

Further Reading

External links


  1. ^ “An Invitation to Study of Life”
  2. ^ “In Search of a Philosophy of Life in Contemporary Society: An Introduction” (2010)
  3. ^ List of bookreviews in Japanese
  4. ^ List of books in Japanese
  5. ^
  6. ^ EJAIB website
  7. ^ “How to Live in a Post-religious Age”
  8. ^ Masahiro Morioka, “The Structure of the Inner Life of a Philosopher: The Multi-Layered Aspects of Speech,” in Tetsuo Yamaori (ed.) Nihonjin no Shisô no Jusôsei: Watashi no Shiza kara Kangaeru. Chikuma Shobo. April 1998, pp.77-100. (In Japanese)
  9. ^ “How to Live in a Post-religious Age”
  10. ^ Profile (
  11. ^ Profile Morioka Profile
  12. ^ Morioka’s page at OPU
  13. ^ “Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics” Publisher’s webpage
  14. ^ Painless Civilization (
  15. ^ Kanjinai Otoko (
  16. ^ RICPL website
  17. ^ Special page for the revision of the Japanese organ transplantation law
  18. ^ Reconsidering Brain Death: A Lesson from Japan's Fifteen Years of Experience. PDF
  19. ^ Brain Dead Person HTML
  20. ^ Explanation of the book “Consciousness Communication”
  21. ^ Explanation of life studies at
  22. ^ Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security: A Philosophical Challenge in the Age of Human Biotechnology. HTML
  23. ^ Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security: A Philosophical Challenge in the Age of Human Biotechnology. HTML
  24. ^ Explanation of the book “Painless Civilization”
  25. ^ Explanation of the book “Painless Civilization”
  26. ^ Explanation of the book “The Insensitive Man”
  27. ^ Special report on herbivore men
  28. ^ Philosophy of Life at The Research Institute for Contemporary Philosophy of Life
  29. ^ Tanjō Kōtei to wa Nani ka HTML

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