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Book Review of Shinya Tateiwa's On Personal Property

Yasutaka Ichinokawa市野川 容孝), December 19, 1997
Readers Weekly (Shukan Dokusho-Jin) 2215:6 [Japanese] 

last update: 20151221

A woman is seized by the fatal disease, multiple sclerosis. She says she would rather die than live with a pitiful body. Should we, as society, accept her wishes? A woman offers herself as surrogate to couples unable to have a child. Should doctors accept her offer? We face a shortage of body organs needed for transplants. Should we solve this problem by legalizing human organs trade? These and similar questions are painstaking addressed in the book, On Personal Property by Mr. Tateiwa, as he attempts to answer fundamental issues of "bioethics."

Many boiethicists in the United States and Britain have raised the issue of "self-decision." If we follow the example of J. S. Mill, then the individual is the sole ruler of his or her body. According to Mill, as long as there is no danger to others, then various freedoms on or of one's body should be accepted. Mr. Tateiwa, however, provides a different response to this argument. As far as this author see it, Mr. Tateiwa sides with the logic found in Mr. Tamito Yoshida's work, "Subjectivity and Theory of the Possession of Structure" (Shinyo-Sha). Mr. Tateiwa (as his title, On Personal Property suggests), "transforms" the issue of "The right belongs to whom and to what degree does he or she possess the right to decide?" into "Who rightfully owns property, how and why?"

If we follow Locke's right of ownership, stating that what has been produced through individual labor belongs to the laborer, then we observe that the individual becomes "the subject = a ruler" (possessing the right to decision-making), which deals with "product = possession." While Tateiwa accepts the arguments on the outlined basis, he attacks the concealed contradiction in that premise. That is to say, the primary statement of the private possession is, "I did not produce my own body" (page 35). The same can be said to Locke as well as of J. S. Mill, the meaning of the statement that my body is not produced by me, is nothing but a mere illusion in writing the arguments. If that is the case, then the reverse premise would be, at least in part, since I did not make my own body, I cannot be the ruler. In other words, this statement can start the premise, "I do not have the right to decision-making," is this not right? Tateiwa states that a separate part, "other" exists in one's body, therefore, my control and other's control are not justified. Further, he points out that the women' movement and the Disabled movement were, in part, rescued by the argument supporting "self-decision (self-determination)"; in other words, they were rescued because they respect that "other."

Tateiwa's arguments, which refer to the limits in the logic of self-decision, tend to be roughly stated by logicians. It seems as if he took advantage of the viewpoints cultivated by sociology. For instance, in Durkheim's work, Elementary Forms of Religious Life, he states that a divine thing is the special "taboo" that is protected and cannot be touched by people. I the modern society, "taboo" became the object of worship by individuals. The individualism that Durkheim advocates is entirely different from Mill's theory of Liberty. Individualism, according to Durkheim, exists within each person, but it is only realized after it is respected as something divine, therefore, protected by the individual. In 1998, the Brennan report, which prepared the foundation for the French "Bioethics Method" (1994), states that, "personal integrity must be protected even from the individual." The report indicates that the practices of commercial surrogate motherhood and trading human organs are unacceptable, even with agreements between the individuals involved. I do not know if this attitude represents typical French society. However, the arguments on bioethics in Japan must be implemented relative to bioethics in English speaking countries.

Replay to Mr. Yoshitaka Ichinokawa, by Tateiwa. November 26, 1997

Dear Mr. Ichinokawa,

Thank you for taking the time to write a book review on my book, On Personal Property. …. It takes a great deal of effort to write a book review on fixed pages. Currently, I am writing a magazine article for "Bukkyo." It is a short article on "euthanasia." …. In this article, I present the paradox of society's acceptance of "suicide" (there must be a better way to express this), which struggling with euthanasia. The expression, "life exists prior to self-determination," indicates support for euthanasia. I cannot write this article for "Bukkyo," as conclusively as I wish, but if you are interested, I would be more than glad to send the article to you.

On Private Property  ◇Shinya Tateiwa
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