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Noyori Academy Salon: Civilization to Be Developed on One's Culture

  • 2016/05/23
  • presented by Institute for Advanced Research

Since January 2013, University Prof. Ryoji Noyori, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (2001), has contributed numerous articles to "Kamitsubute" in Chunichi Shimbun. Based on these articles, he holds regular academic discussions with students at Nagoya University. At the Twentieth Noyori Academy Salon, held on May 11, 2016, Prof. Noyori and five students from different academic fields at Nagoya University discussed the topic "Civilization to Be Developed on One's Culture." Prof. Noyori claimed that, in the relationship between culture and civilization, a civilized society should be developed by respecting one's local culture.

Science to Bridge Culture and Civilization

Prof. Noyori

Culture is cultivated by mental quality, such as endemic languages, religions, and folklore. However, civilization that develops with physical elements or technology becomes universal and crosses local boundaries. By combining economic activities, civilization will become global and may diminish one's local culture.

Kaname Tanimura, a first-year student at the Graduate School of Science

New things, however, can be created by globalization.

Prof. Noyori

When our culture is diminished, we feel uncomfortable leading to a strong resistance in society. A civilized society should respect individual cultures. Science is an important component of culture because it is universal and does not recognize the boundaries of nations and ethnic groups. Science can bridge civilization and culture.

Chen Yue, from China, a second year PhD student at the Graduate School of International Development

There is a big gap between the rich and poor in China. Cultural homogenization is considered impossible in such a situation.

Zhao Lei, from China, a first year student at the Graduate School of International Development

Although Chinese culture has been developed through agriculture, Chinese farmers are impoverished. Civilization must be defined only if the whole country acquires affluence.

Prof. Noyori

We should take a world view and understand how people struggle to survive. People, particularly in developed countries, must help those who are facing poverty. It is important and necessary for scientists to see different cultures from all over the world and not just their own countries. I advise you to go abroad with the aim of meeting and communicating with people and experiencing foreign cultures. Any international issues, even national security, can begin with personal friendships and trusted relationships.

Tsukasa Inoue, a junior student at the School of Science

I think philosophy and literature can be a part of our culture. What do you think of the Japanese movement of abolishing such humanity subjects from university?

Prof. Noyori

Surely those subjects are essential and empower us to live. It is important for mentors to seriously educate their students at the world-class level and for students to desperately study local and international issues.

Moe Ishida, a freshman at the School of Medicine

Regarding the safety in using the supercomputer, how can we cope with runaway technology?

Prof. Noyori

Without differentiating between humanity and science subjects, we should nurture our knowledge. Technology has given us the Internet to store our knowledge. However, as humans, I believe it is more important to cultivate our sensibility. We have an implicit innate survival instinct that cannot be explained by equations or theories. It is only when we integrate our instincts and sensibility that we foster a better understanding of life.

Original article published in Chunichi Shimbun on May 12, 2016.


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