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Personal Liberty and Public Good

Personal Liberty and Public Good: The Introduction of John Stuart Mill to Japan and China

The Introduction of John Stuart Mill
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 200
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    Personal Liberty and Public Good
    Book Description:

    Blame for the putative failure of liberalism in late-nineteenth-century Japan and China has often been placed on an insufficient grasp of modernity among East Asian leaders or on their cultural commitments to traditional values. InPersonal Liberty and Public Good, Douglas Howland refutes this view, turning to the central text of liberalism in that era: John Stuart Mill?sOn Liberty.

    Howland offers absorbing analyses of the translations of the book into Japanese and Chinese, which at times reveal astonishing emendations. As with their political leaders, Mill?s Japanese and Chinese translators feared individual liberty could undermine the public good and standards for public behaviour, and so introduced their own moral values ? Christianity and Confucianism, respectively? intoOn Liberty, filtering its original meaning. Howland mirrors this mistrust of individual liberty in Asia with critiques of the work in England, which itself had trouble adopting liberalism.

    Personal Liberty and Public Goodis a compelling addition to the corpus of writing on the work of John Stuart Mill. It will be of great interest to historians of political thought, liberalism, and translation, as well as scholars of East Asian studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7837-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on Conventions
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    On Libertydid much to disseminate modernity as a global project. Translated into Japanese and Chinese in the last third of the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill’s ‘modest work’ endorsed two key aspects of the ideology of modernity. One was the epic dimension of progress asserted confidently throughout the nineteenth century, the other that building block of enlightened civil society, individual liberty. Mill envisaged a social order whose dedication to protecting individual liberty promised the advancement of humankind. A society of rational, responsible, and independent adults would allow one another the freedom to pursue their higher interests and would support...

  6. CHAPTER ONE On Liberty and Its Historical Conditions of Possibility
    (pp. 17-39)

    On Libertywas translated into Japanese and Chinese in the last decades of the nineteenth century, and, with these texts, ideas and arguments central to the liberal theory of John Stuart Mill were transmitted to East Asia. This chapter examines the circumstances surrounding Nakamura Keiu’s Japanese translation ofLiberty,Jiyū no ri(The principle of liberty), published in 1871, and Yan Fu’s Chinese translation of 1898,Qun ji quan jie lun(On the boundaries of the authority between the group and the self), published in 1903. But I must emphasize that this chapter marks a departure from problems of translation...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Mill and His English Critics
    (pp. 40-60)

    Published in 1859, John Stuart Mill’sOn Libertyconcerns the legitimate power that society can exercise over an individual, and Mill states clearly that the ‘self-protection’ of society is the only valid reason for interfering with an individual’s liberty of action.¹ Mill impressed this point on his readers with a reference to the ‘tyranny of the majority’ suffered during the French Revolution, and suggested that a similar ‘despotism of custom’ among the ascendant middle class in England threatened to squeeze progressive individuals into the confines of popular conformity.² As J.C. Rees pointed out fifty years ago, whether or not a...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Nakamura Keiu and the Public Limits of Liberty
    (pp. 61-81)

    Nakamura Masanao (1832–91), who is better known by his pen name, Nakamura Keiu, was born into a family of samurai status in Edo (now Tokyo) and was a central figure in the intellectual transition from the Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1867) to the modern state created during the Meiji period (1868–1912). With early recognition of his intellectual promise, Nakamura won a scholarship to the shogun’s academy, the Shōheikō, where he studied between 1848 and 1853. He was eventually appointed an official Confucian teacher there in 1862, at the unusually early age of twenty-nine. But Nakamura was also a student...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Yan Fu and the Moral Prerequisites of Liberty
    (pp. 82-105)

    Yan Fu (1854–1921) made a major contribution to ideas for imperial reform in China with his famous translations of Western texts at the end of the nineteenth century. But in comparison with his intellectual reputation, his life followed a sad trajectory. He was born into a family of marginal scholarly standing in China’s southeastern Fujian province. Although his grandfather had attained thejurenor entry-level civil degree and served for a time as an education official, his father practiced traditional medicine and placed his hopes on his son, for whom he hired a tutor to instruct Yan Fu in...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Personal Liberty and Public Virtue
    (pp. 106-136)

    As the preceding discussions of Nakamura Keiu and Yan Fu have argued, the interpretation that each presented in translating Mill’sOn Libertydirected attention to an inevitable conflict between personal liberty and the public maintenance of some collective morality. Nakamura’s and Yan’s concerns, however, addressed the problem of morality in a manner somewhat differently than Mill had done. Mill had asserted the existence of an oppressive and middle-class sensibility on moral questions, and this ‘common morality’ provided the necessary context for his defence of individual liberty from an overbearing majority. (This abstract assumption of a common morality is symptomatic of...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 137-148)

    In a recent critique of the liberal order long normative in England and the United States, John Gray points to John Stuart Mill as one of the important foundations on which liberalism began to fracture in the nineteenth century. It was Mill’s work, particularlyOn Liberty, that started to disengage the liberal project of universal civilization, based on the ideal of rationality, from the more mundane commitment to liberty and diversity, based on the fact of human fallibility. And it is this commitment to liberty and diversity, even as it breaks apart national and local communities, that has become the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 149-192)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-214)
  14. Index
    (pp. 215-222)