Nishi Amane and Modern Japanese Thought

Nishi Amane and Modern Japanese Thought

Thomas R. H. Havens
Copyright Date: 1970
Pages: 264
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    Nishi Amane and Modern Japanese Thought
    Book Description:

    A nineteenth-century aristocrat, Nishi Amane (1829-1897) was one of the first Japanese to assert the supremacy of Western culture. He was sent by his government to Leiden to study the European social sciences; on his return to Japan shortly before the climactic Meiji Restoration of 1868 he introduced and adapted European utilitarianism and positivism to his country's intellectual world. To modernize, Nishi held, Japan must cast off the bonds of the Confucian world-view in order to adopt new principles of empirical scholarly investigation and new standards of self-improvement. Though a Confucian by upbringing, Nishi became thoroughly committed to Western intellectual values in his programs for the new Japanese society. In his roles of teacher, writer, and government administrator, he was influential at one of the most critical times in Japan's history.

    Originally published in 1970.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6942-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Thomas R. H. Havens
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. one The Intellectual in Japan’s Transition from Feudalism to Modernism
    (pp. 3-19)

    Thepoliticians, journalists, commercial and industrial entrepreneurs, educators, bureaucrats, and scholars who guided the Japanese nation through the first two turbulent decades of the Meiji period (1868-1912) disagreed among themselves on many issues, but one thing to which nearly all assented was the pressing need to root out the “evil customs and absurd usages” of their country’s feudal past.

    This was no mere academic question in the nineteenth-century context. The mature feudalism of sixteenth-century Japan had developed by 1603 into a more advanced form of feudalism unparalleled in European history: thebakuhansystem of the Edo period (1603-1868). Japanese politics...

  5. two The Early Development of Nishi’s Thought
    (pp. 20-39)

    Ordinarilybiography is written by the humble about the great, but now and again a Plutarch records the life of an Alcibiades and thereby rescues him from the obscurity which failing memory imposes on the dead. In a sense this was the case with Nishi Amane, whose fame has been enhanced by association with the name of his biographer, the eminent late Meiji novelist Mori Ōgai (1862-1922). A fellow clansman from Tsuwano and briefly a pupil of Nishi’s, Ōgai wrote the biography at the family’s request soon after Nishi died in 1897.¹ As an authorized biographer, he was obliged to...

  6. three Study Abroad and Service at Home
    (pp. 40-76)

    The year1860 was probably one of the half-dozen most important in the history of modern Japan. Not only was it a critical turning point in the process of restoration, but it was also a landmark in Japan’s unfolding perception of the West. The months since Ii Naosuke’s rise to power in June 1858 were characterized on the one hand by a growing agreement within thebakufuon the need for a moderate foreign policy and on the other by spreading resentment and hostility toward the Western powers, especially among thetozamaclans. This intensifying ideological polarization began to reflect...

  7. four A Leader in Enlightening Japan
    (pp. 77-113)

    Perhapsthe primary responsibility of the intellectual in a modern, non-totalitarian society is to identify crucial issues and offer perceptive criticism of the events and forces that shape public life. The greater the degree of social and political change in a modern nation, the more urgent it is that its intellectuals not only express their opinions but also bend every effort to parlay them into action, since a country without reasonable policy alternatives is not likely to retain an open society. During the past century Japan’s intelligentsia has often been outspoken but rarely influential in political decision making. This tradition...

  8. five Attack on Neo-Confucianism
    (pp. 114-140)

    One ofthe cardinal tasks facing the ideologues of Japan’s new age was to dispel the lingering academic prestige of Neo-Confucianism by exposing the threadbare fabric of Shushi ethics to the bright light of reason. As a viable political ideology, Shushigaku had been interred in joint rites with the fallenbakufuin 1868, but as an ethical system and intellectual outlook it still carried great weight among many scholars. If Confucianism could no longer be employed to excuse the Tokugawa grasp on the Japanese polity, many persons thought, perhaps it might still survìve as a moral or epistemological system. This...

  9. six Ethics for the New Society
    (pp. 141-163)

    Life inMeiji Japan was exciting, although as for most brilliant eras the glamour now associated with the period is partly apocryphal. The first ten years of Meiji were filled with reforms and innovations that seemed all the more bold against the dull backdrop of Tokugawa Japan. Although the changes were initiated primarily by the political elite, they were supported by almost all the significant elements in the post-restoration balance of forces, for Japan had reached, with surprisingly Uttle dissent, a consensus on the need for economic and military modernization. With her course thus clearly charted, Japan in the early...

  10. seven Nishi on Politics and Current Events
    (pp. 164-190)

    There isa certain timelessness about the thought of Nishi Amane at the height of his scholarly productivity, a quality of semi-detachment from both the events of early Meiji history and his official duties in the Military Department and its successor, the Ministry of War (Rikugunshō). To some extent this apparent withdrawal from day-to-day affairs was characteristic of thekeimōscholars as a group; in Nishi’s case it was heightened by his utilitarian indifference toward concrete political policy. However, it is more accurate to ascribe Nishi’s intellectual posture to the particular focus he chose for his most important scholarly works:...

  11. eight Civil and Military Society
    (pp. 191-216)

    Amongthe many reform schemes and policy innovations of the early Meiji period, none was more far-reaching in its effects on Japanese national life than the Conscription Act (Chōheirei) of 1873. Next to the formation of the Meiji oligarchy itself, the creation of a conscript army was probably the single most important event in the first decade after the restoration, inasmuch as it proved to be the vital hinge upon which the drive for national wealth and power turned. Not only did the rapid growth of a well-trained, mechanized force of more than 30,000 troops represent a major step toward...

  12. nine Nishi and Modern Japan
    (pp. 217-222)

    The declineof the Meirokusha after 1875 coincided with the close of the creative phase of Nishi’s scholarship. He by no means ceased investigating and writing about Western knowledge, but he published few really original works on academic topics between 1876 and his illness in November 1885.¹ He gave a number of speeches as president of the Tokyo Academy and overseer of the Tokyo Normal School, but most of his free time was devoted to translating a number of Western books on philosophy, psychology, and law. In 1877, for example, his translation of Mill’sUtilitarianismwas published under the title...

  13. Biographical Notes
    (pp. 223-230)
  14. List of Works Cited
    (pp. 231-246)
  15. Index
    (pp. 247-253)