TOYOHASHI UNIVERSITY of TECHNOLOGY Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Voices from our staff

Grasp your understanding!

Okada Hiroshi

Let's consider the word "understand." For example, I could understand the equations, I could understand the contents of the lecture, and so on. What exactly does "understand" mean?

You might interpret the Japanese word "理解 (understand)" as "grasping (解) some reason or theory (理)". Even if there is a theory that is accepted as correct, whether or not you can accept it will be another matter. Also, accepting and understanding feels a bit different. If "understanding" is to memorize as knowledge and organize it so that it can be retrieved at any time, a computer boasting a huge storage of information should be the authority on understanding. But "knowing" and "understanding" are still different.

In engineering, it is said that the ability to think as well as learn knowledge is important. This is because not only do we need to retain a lot of knowledge, but we also need to have the good sense to apply the wisdom of our predecessors to the future. "Remembering" can be useful in deriving answers to problems that have been solved in the past. However, in order to effectively approach problems that no one has solved yet, it is essential to have "understanding" in order to focus your wisdom.

There are various mnemonics and techniques for "memorizing." On the other hand, it is said that "understanding means being able to explain." But what does it mean to be able to explain? If "explaining" is to replace some idea with multiple known words, or paraphrase it into a more accessible way of thinking, then in order to explain, it is important for you to possess the correct "words" yourself. Stated differently, "understanding" means being able to find the right words in your own vocabulary. If so, it is important to have an expanded vocabulary and to appropriately use these words in order to further your understanding.

For example, physics is a branch of natural science that is deeply related to many other disciplines, including mathematics and chemistry, and it also draws a lot of inspiration from the wisdom of disciplines other than natural science. We cannot overlook the fact that many of our predecessors have valued the arts. It can be said that learning words and ideas that come to mind from various fields helps us understand. When you are doing research, you are more or less at the cutting edge of learning. You are facing 360 degrees of uncharted territory. How can you be sure of something that you are not even sure of yet? Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could use your own words to understand unknown phenomena that no one else in the world understands, and make it understandable to many people?

In order to free yourself from "memorizing" and to envision a bright future, I hope you will greatly increase your vocabulary and start to think in your own words. It takes time to understand, but the experience of learning at your own discretion is one of the most attractive aspects of studying at a university.

The Necessity of a Liberal Arts Education in an Information-Based Society

Mutsuko Hieda

For many university students, "liberal arts" subjects are different from those studied for their majors (specialized subjects); they are usually taken to fulfill graduation credits. However, a liberal arts education is important when attempting to make sense of the current chaotic social situation and the value of this education is being reevaluated.

For example, in a philosophy course, you may have the opportunity to come in contact with difficult philosophical concepts in books such as Plato and Kant. However, the purpose is not just to memorize the words of great philosophers as a storage of knowledge. By trying to understand difficult texts, you will develop the ability to understand other challenging texts accurately and absorb that information accurately.

Today, our daily lives are threatened by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Under such circumstances, a new vaccine for this disease has now been developed with new technology. Vaccination is voluntary, so each individual must make the decision for themselves whether or not to get vaccinated. In a cases such as these, "information" will be the key to making the decision. In today's information-based society, the Internet is filled with a variety of information. Without the ability to choose reliable information and the ability to interpret this information correctly, in other words, without literacy, it is impossible to make the right decision. As seen in the case of vaccinations, lack of literacy is not only a problem for the individual, but it also affects the people around them and society as a whole.

Even if the future utility of a subject may not be readily apparent, there is no doubt that exposure to that subject will broaden your horizons, and it is probable that what you have learned will be of use to you throughout your long life. The purpose of a liberal arts education at universities is "to develop human resources who can see things from a broad perspective and make accurate judgments based on high ethical standards" (2002, Central Council). We faculty members in charge of liberal arts courses must keep this objective in mind as we strive to improve the educational abilities of our students.

Let's Strive for "In-Depth Expertise!"

Tsukasa Izumi

As we live in the world today, the dramatic expansion of communication technology via the Internet has made it possible to instantly obtain vast amounts of information. And with the development of technology and the economy, many people can use airplanes, trains, buses, ships, automobiles, etc., at low cost, to go anywhere on earth. Under the keyword of "globalization," we must now acquire languages, improve communication skills, and compete and live with highly skilled people from all over the world. This is what I have been thinking about.

However, the sudden pandemic has restricted and changed the way we move and communicate in the blink of an eye. It has also revealed that the freedom and possibilities of information and movement are completely different, depending on the country and government. Our "currently" free life is neither natural nor eternal. We are aware that it can easily break and change. How should we live in such a changeable society? How should we protect our society? We need to learn the answers to these questions as well.

In order to live in a world that changes easily, it is important to think about what, how, and for whom excellent technology should be used. While you are in university or graduate school, try to pay attention to the various aspects of society while developing your specific expertise. It is equally important to go out with friends, play, learn and struggle, or peruse books alone, be moved by movies, immerse yourself in dramas and animations, or just do nothing at all.

The faculty members of the Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences teach and conduct research to help you connect with society. Please make the most of what we have to offer at Toyohashi University of Technology. I am looking forward to seeing you all here soon.

Liberal Arts as a Realization of Freedom

Shotaro Iwauchi

The liberal arts program offered by the Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Toyohashi University of Technology, provides deep and broad interdisciplinary knowledge in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, communication studies, languages, and health and physical education. These programs enable students to acquire knowledge in specific subject areas and gain a sense of "freedom."

However, what is freedom? According to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a German philosopher of modern philosophy, freedom is the desire for self-esteem. Therefore, it is associated with the recognition of one's personality and ability. Human beings make efforts to understand who they are and measure whether or not this life is worth living, but if the existence of other people is ignored, they cannot find out the relational value of the self. Others play an essential role in the process of this recognition. Even if you are perfectly free to do whatever you want without any restrictions, you cannot acquire a sense of freedom at all because freedom always needs others' recognition

Hegel's definition implies that we have to learn how others see the world. Therefore, taking others' perspectives into consideration is an essential condition for freedom. A self-satisfied act does not meet the requirements of being free. To realize a sense of freedom, one should respect the diversity of culture, religion, gender and language. Interdisciplinary knowledge offered by the Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as well as the high expertise of the faculty, opens up a new horizon of "diversity," which is now the common and necessary foundation for our international society. Education in liberal arts based on diversity realizes freedom.

Toyohashi University of Technology has a unique environment that acknowledges the importance of diversity. This is a place where diverse students, teachers, technologies, research, interests and courses have convened in one place. It is the one and only educational environment where high expertise and liberal arts coexist to ensure the success of students.

Language education at the Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers a tool that mediates different opinions and viewpoints. Diverse values are mutually exchanged through a common language, which consequently prevents individual isolation. To learn other languages and understand others' perspectives helps students become more confident and open-minded in our increasingly integrated society. "Enjoy the Liberal Arts and Embrace the Future!"