The Japanese Philosophy Blog

News and discussion of ancient and modern Japanese philosophy

February Roundup

I’ve been thinking about the format of the site. I think it probably makes sense to move to a system of monthly roundup posts for new books, articles, and whatnot, and then intersperse that with any announcements for lectures or CFPs as they happen in between. That said, here’s the roundup for mid-February.



  • Ando, Takemasa. Transforming ‘Everydayness’: Japanese New Left Movements and the Meaning of their Direct Action. Japanese Studies, 2013:

    Many recent studies have discussed the features of Japanese civil society. Some of them point out that these have been greatly affected by the legacy of the new left movements, a network of anti-Vietnam War groups, student groups, and young workers’ groups which developed toward the end of the 1960s. This article explores the formation and development of the ideas and actions of the Japanese new left movements, examining the discourse of student activists in particular. These activists were critical of the conservative consciousness – which they termed ‘everydayness’ – which was a product of the economic boom of that decade, and sought to transform it. They were willing to take confrontational direct action against armed police officers on streets and on campus in spite of the risks of arrest and injury. I analyse their activism, and the reasons leading to it. By exploring the ideas and actions of new left movements, this paper aims to historicize certain features of Japanese civil society.

  • Huang, Chun-chieh. What’s Ignored in Itō Jinsai’s Interpretation of Mencius? Dao 12:1, Mar. 2013.

    This article discusses the 17th century Japanese Confucian Itō Jinsai’s interpretation of Mencius. It is argued that Itō Jinsai grinds the Mencius with an axe of Japanese “practical learning.” In his representation of Mencius, the government of “Kindly Way” is upheld as the core value in Mencius’ thought. Although there is a clear spirituality in his own philosophy, he stressed the political aspect of Mencius’ thought at the expense of the transcendental aspect of his theory of human mind and nature.

  • Kakuta, Shuichi. Radical Democracy and Methodology in post-Marxist Maruyama Masao. The Ritsumeikan Economic Review 61:3, Dec. 2012.

    Maruyama Masao (1914―1996)was a major political philosopher and democratic theorist of the 20th century in Japan. Main works of him were translated into English, Thought and Behavior in Modern Japanese Politics (1963), Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan (1974)and so on. Maruyama stayed at UC Berkeley in 1976 and 1983 as a special visiting professor. And the Center for Japanese Studies(CJS) at UC Berkeley has opened Maruyama Masao Seminar after his coming. Though there have been a vast number of studies about Maruyama in Japan, we have to look into the methodology of his study on the history of political thought more deeply. Maruyama had built up his methodology under the influence of European Marxism, Hegelian and Neo-Kantian philosophy, Max Weber and Karl Mannheim. Both the study of political thought and the criticism of orthodox Marxism were done by his idea, radical democracy and post-Marxism, and his methodology. This paper clarifies five points of the study of history of thought in Maruyama. 1. Tension between liberalism and democracy, 2. Independent and internal logic of development, 3. Dynamism, acceptance and modification, 4. Multiple dimensions, 5. Various possibilities of thought.

  • Philosophy East and West 63:1, Jan. 2013:

    Of particular interest, see Steve Heine’s review of The Sourcebook of Japanese Philosophy and Laura Specker-Sullivan’s review of Erin McCarthy’s Ethics Embodied.

  • Tucker, John. Skepticism and the Neo-Confucian Canon: Itō Jinsai’s Philosophical Critique of the Great Learning. Dao 12:1, Mar. 2013.

    This study examines Itō Jinsai’s 伊藤仁斎 (1627–1705) criticisms of the Great Learning (C: Daxue 大學 J: Daigaku). Three primary sources are considered: Jinsai’s Shigi sakumon 私擬策問 (Personal Essays, 1668); the Daigaku teihon 大學定本 (The Definitive Text of the Great Learning, manuscript 1685); and his essay, “Daigaku wa Kōshi no isho ni arazaru no ben” 大學非孔氏之遺書辨 (The Great Learning is not a Writing Confucius Transmitted, 1705), appended to his Gomō jigi 語孟字義. The study suggests that Jinsai’s critical inclinations grew from his acceptance of Zhu Xi’s views about the value of doubt for progress in learning. The study also suggests that Jinsai’s thinking on the Great Learning had political implications derived in many respects from Jinsai’s overall approach to philosophizing via analysis of words and their meanings.



  • Carter, Robert. The Kyoto School. Forward by Thomas Kasulis. Suny Press, 2013:

    An accessible discussion of the thought of key figures of the Kyoto School of Japanese philosophy.

    This book provides a much-needed introduction to the Kyoto School of Japanese philosophy. Robert E. Carter focuses on four influential Japanese philosophers: the three most important members of the Kyoto School (Nishida Kitarō, Tanabe Hajime, and Nishitani Keiji), and a fourth (Watsuji Tetsurō), who was, at most, an associate member of the school. Each of these thinkers wrestled systematically with the Eastern idea of “nothingness,” albeit from very different perspectives.

    Many Western scholars, students, and serious general readers are intrigued by this school of thought, which reflects Japan’s engagement with the West. A number of works by various thinkers associated with the Kyoto School are now available in English, but these works are often difficult to grasp for those not already well-versed in the philosophical and historical context. Carter’s book provides an accessible yet substantive introduction to the school and offers an East-West dialogue that enriches our understanding of Japanese thought while also shedding light on our own assumptions, habits of thought, and prejudices.

  • Emmanuel, Steven, ed. A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.

    A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy is the most comprehensive single volume on the subject available; not only does the Companion offer the non-specialist an in-depth introduction to the central concepts of Buddhism, it presents extensive discussions of Buddhist social and political thought, contemplative practice, issues in applied ethics, and Buddhist social activism.

    The contributors list for the Companion includes leading scholars in the field; each engages the latest scholarship to create a wide-ranging survey of the most important ideas, problems, and debates in Buddhist philosophy. The volume will expand readers’ understanding of the breadth and diversity of Buddhist thought, with many of the chapters written from a comparative perspective.

    A conscious effort has been undertaken throughout the volume to create a mainstream bridge between the Western and Buddhist philosophical traditions. The broad coverage of Buddhist thought offers a great deal of flexibility to instructors and students, presenting the most versatile single-volume sourcebook available for constructing a customized syllabus on Buddhist philosophy or comparative philosophical thought.

  • Rambelli, Fabio. A Buddhist Theory of Semiotics: Signs, Ontology, and Salvation in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.

    One of the first attempts ever to present in a systematic way a non-western semiotic system. This book looks at Japanese esoteric Buddhism and is based around original texts, informed by explicit and rigorous semiotic categories. It is a unique introduction to important aspects of the thought and rituals of the Japanese Shingon tradition.

    Semiotic concerns are deeply ingrained in the Buddhist intellectual and religious discourse, beginning with the idea that the world is not what it appears to be, which calls for a more accurate understanding of the self and reality. This in turn results in sustained discussions on the status of language and representations, and on the possibility and methods to know reality beyond delusion; such peculiar knowledge is explicitly defined as enlightenment. Thus, for Buddhism, semiotics is directly relevant to salvation; this is a key point that is often ignored even by Buddhologists. This book discusses in depth the main elements of Buddhist semiotics as based primarily on original Japanese pre-modern sources. It is a crucial publication in the fields of semiotics and religious studies.