Lafcadio Hearn and his Evolutionary Eco-Ethics in the 21st Century: Travelling through the Uncanny Valley of Exoticism in Robotic and Ghostly Japan

Vassilis Galanos


The present paper has a twofold aim. It firstly, excavates and extends previous literature on the uniqueness of Lafcadio Hearn’s philosophy and in particular his part-Spencerian and part-Buddhist evolutionary ethics. Based on this framework, it argues for such a framework to be relevant for the examination of contemporary interdisciplinary challenges across psychological, environmental, and technological registers. This argument is assisted by the close examination of a case study in the ethical challenges posed in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, and digital privacy. Recent scholarship in these fields of increasing importance has observed a Western trend in importing Japanese/Shintoist values in their ethical scrutiny. The paper traces the history of this trend through the examples of three Western scholars whose frameworks pertain a Japanese-oriented approach. It further suggests the existence of a certain continuity in Japanese/Shintoist culture in highlighting the role of the eerie and the uncanny traced across the works of Hearn and those of roboticist Masahiro Mori, developer of the uncanny valley model. Synthesised, these observations lead the discussion towards recommendations for the establishment of a field for Hearn studies, which should aim, theoretically, at the better historical and philosophical understanding of Hearn’s work, and, practically, at the application of Hearn’s contributions to knowledge in contemporary universal challenges.

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Culture| ISSN: 2732-8511 | Μουσείο Σχολικής Ζωής & Εκπαίδευσης / Τμήμα Διοίκησης Τουρισμού

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