Embodying the Environment: Ritual, Techne, and Japanese Shrines

Morimichi Kato, Tohoku University

This paper is a response to the subtheme of the conference: Embodying the environment.
It consists of the following parts.

1) Nature can be considered as a community of knowledge, in which each living member, animal and plant, listens to the voice of the other, and responds to it.
2) Human being is a member of this community. Ritual is the oldest testimony of how human being observed the course of nature carefully and how he or she tried to respond to it. The dual character of listening and response gave ritual magical power.
3) The dual character of ritual was inherited by arts and sciences in later age. The Greek word, techne (crafts, arts, and sciences) was characterized by the dual aspect of mimesis and poiesis. Techne observes nature carefully and responds to it by bringing something new in the world.
4) This dual aspect of mimesis as poiesis underwent great transformation in modernity. Modern technology and science could flourish only after breaking the spell of nature. We are now entering the period in which we should reevaluate and resume the dual relationship with nature.
5) To foster the dual relationship with nature, it is important to protect the public space in which both humans and nature can prosper. National parks and home gardens can be understood in this light.
6) Traditionally, Shinto shrines have played a similar role in Japan. Even today, they have a potential to provide the place of encounter between humans and nature.


Morimichi Kato Bio: Morimichi Kato is emeritus professor of Tohoku University and a director of Philosophy of Education Society of Japan. He taught history and philosophy of education in Tohoku University and Sophia University in Japan. His main field of research concerns the reevaluation of humanistic traditions in East and West and environmental philosophy.

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