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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

DeCosse to Teach in Japan

head shot of David

head shot of David

Global Jesuit Fellow looks forward to unique opportunities this fall as visiting professor of Ethics, Sophia University

The following is a guest post by Director of Campus Ethics David DeCosse. He is also most recently co-editor of Conscience and Catholicism.

It’s not a newsflash anymore to say that we live in a globalizing world. But it may be news that the largest network of higher education in the world today is the vast array of Jesuit colleges and universities. The Ethics Center began the Global Jesuit Fellows program in order to take advantage of this tremendous network. As part of that program, I’ll be spending fall semester as visiting professor of ethics in the Theology Department at Sophia University, the Jesuit university in Tokyo.

To provide some perspective, in recent years, the Center has hosted Oscar Bulaong, business ethics professor at the Ateneo de Manila in the Philippines, and Young Park, director of the Sustainable Business Ethics Research Center at Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea. In the future, we plan on working with Jesuit universities around the world to host major conferences on business ethics.     

At Sophia University, I’ll be teaching four classes: the Ethics of War and Peace; Christianity and Politics; the Theology and Ethics of Thomas Aquinas; and Conscience, Catholicism, and Politics. I’ll be adjusting the subject matter in order to integrate concerns specific to a Japanese context. For instance, when I teach Christianity and Politics at SCU, I have students read the political ethics of St. Augustine. Augustine’s work in many ways presumes a world broadly conversant with Christian ideas of love, a crucial concept in his political ethic. But Christians constitute less than one percent of the population of Japan. So it will be important in the Sophia class to begin with that data point – and with fundamental Japanese ethical ideas like giri (social obligation or courtesy); ninjoh (tenderness or a sense of human feeling); and on (gratitude or a debt of gratitude). And then it will be important to put those ideas into dialogue with Augustine’s ideas of love.

While in Tokyo, I’ll be blogging for the Center and for National Catholic Reporter. I look forward to the serendipity of seeing what topics inspire me, and to following two topics of great ethical significance. One pertains to the ethics of the use of force: Will Japan formally change its pacifist constitution, as the current Liberal Democratic government there has indicated it would like to do? The other pertains to cross-cultural ethics and the great novel Silence by Japanese writer Shusako Endo. (A Martin Scorsese film about the novel is due to be released soon). Endo’s story of early 17th century Jesuit missionaries in Japan raises profound questions about whether Western cultural formulations of ethics can fit at all into a Japanese context.

Big questions, to be sure, and ones best considered in the context in which they arise. I look forward to sharing what I learn as an Ethics Center Global Jesuit Fellow.

Aug 30, 2016


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