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Minakata Kumagusu

ethical implications of the great naturalist's thought for addressing problems embedded in modern science

Maki Sato

pp. 75-105

When facing an unpredictable natural disaster, well-managed and carefully-built complex and large-scale technologies are apt to fail because of the unmanageable complexity of its own creation. Perhaps such perception is prominent in the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor disaster (Nuclear power plant (civilian nuclear) accidents have been occurring since the 1950s. In 1990, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) have introduced a scale named INES (International Nuclear Event Scale) which rates from Level 0 to 7, in order to enhance prompt international communication of safety issues in the event of a nuclear accident occurring. The three large-scale major accidents are, the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 (INES Level 5), the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 (INES Level 7), and the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster in 2011 (INES Level 7)). Though Fukushima's case was initially taken as one whole disaster, after a thorough investigation, it is known that its occurrence was driven by the twin combination of a natural disaster and a man-made disaster. If we are to face uncontrollable and unpredictable natural disasters combined with human error, how can we control such a twin disaster situation? Is Fukushima's case warning us of a tit-for-tat game between nature and technology, an iterated prisoner's dilemma game which humans are continuously making efforts to play through the development of large-scale technology and its underpinning science? How can we conceive of science and technology in our modern risk society? In this chapter, by looking into Minakata Kumagusu's critical view of modern science regarding the difference between inga 因果 (causality) and engi 縁起 (dependent co-arising), I would like to draw out ethical implications from Kumagusu's view, which might give us a hint for choosing an alternative future; a future in which, even with possible problem-solving technology on hand, a conscious and careful choice can be made not to install those technologies for fear of the uncertainties embedded in technology itself and to consciously avoid the unpredictability of the butterfly or boomerang effects caused by an as yet "unknown" causality (Among the scholars of Minakata Kumagusu, generally he is addressed Kumagusu. Therefore, in this chapter I follow their custom).

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-59027-1_5

Full citation:

Sato, M. (2019)., Minakata Kumagusu: ethical implications of the great naturalist's thought for addressing problems embedded in modern science, in T. Taro lennerfors & K. Murata (eds.), Tetsugaku companion to Japanese ethics and technology, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 75-105.

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