Modern Japanese Aesthetics

Modern Japanese Aesthetics: A Reader

Copyright Date: 1999
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    Modern Japanese Aesthetics
    Book Description:

    Modern Japanese Aesthetics is the first work in English on the history of the Japanese philosophy of art, from its inception in the 1870s to the present. In addition to the historical information and discussion of aesthetic issues that appear in the introductions to each of the chapters, the book presents English translations of otherwise inaccessible major works on Japanese aesthetics, beginning with a complete and annotated translation of the first work in the field, Nishi Amane's Bimyogaku Setsu (The Theory of Aesthetics). In its four sections (The Subject of Aesthetics, Aesthetic Categories, Poetic Expression, Postmodernism and Aesthetics), Modern Japanese Aesthetics discusses the momentous efforts made by Japanese thinkers to master, assimilate, and transform Western philosophical systems to discuss their own literary and artistic heritage. Readers are introduced to debates between the unconditional supporters of Western ideas (Onishi Hajime) and more cautious approaches to the literary and artistic past (Okakura Kakuzo, Tsubouchi Shoyo). The institutionalization of aesthetics as an academic subject is discussed and the work of some of Japan's most distinguished professional aestheticians (Onishi Yoshimori, Imamichi Tomonobu), philosophers (Kusanagi Masao, Nishitani Keiji, Sakabe Megumi), and literary critics (Karatani Kojin) is included. Modern Japanese Aesthetics is a sophisticated and energetic volume on the process that led to the construction of aesthetic categories used by Japanese and, later, Western scholars in discussing Japanese literature and arts. This important work will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the formation of a critical vocabulary in Japan.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6367-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-14)

    The reader, I hope, will excuse the tautology that appears in the title of this book and is often repeated throughout: “modern aesthetics.” Of course—it may be argued—aesthetics can only be modern, since it is part of modernity and did not exist as a field prior to the mid-eighteenth century. Moreover—it might be added—the field of aesthetics was born in Europe as a branch of philosophy, and, therefore, the application of the category of aesthetics to Japan is a clear act of hermeneutical hegemony.

    I chose the expression “modern aesthetics” to show that aesthetics is indeed...

    • ONE The Introduction of Aesthetics: Nishi Amane
      (pp. 17-37)
      Nishi Amane

      The introduction to Japan of the field of aesthetics in the 1870s entailed a subtle and complex reorganization of local epistemological systems. At the same time, Japanese intellectuals were challenged with the creation of a technical vocabulary that was sensitive to the newly imported ideas. Alien concepts, such as the Western distinction between mechanical and liberal arts, had to be assimilated during what Yamamoto Masao has called “the enlightenment period” of Japanese aesthetics.¹ A major challenge came when the purposiveness and practicality of craftsmanship(gijutsu)had to be differentiated from the ideality of artistic creation(geijutsu). The basic difficulty—to...

    • TWO A Voice of Resistance: Tsubouchi Shōyō
      (pp. 38-64)
      Tsubouchi Shōyō

      The critique that Tsubouchi Shōyō (1858–1935) moved against Western aesthetics was directly related to two major events that shook the Japanese intelligentsia during the last two decades of the nineteenth century: the arrival in Japan of Ernest Francisco Fenollosa (1853–1908) and Nakae Chōmin’s translation of E. Véron’sL’Esthétique.

      Fenollosa reached Japan in 1878 as a lecturer of philosophy at Tokyo Imperial University where he played a major role in introducing Hegelian thought.¹ He presented the major issues of his philosophy of art in a speech that he gave to the members of the Dragon Pond Society (Ryūchikai) in...

    • THREE Hegelian Reversal: Okakura Kakuzō
      (pp. 65-78)
      Okakura Kakuzō

      The image of Japan as a site of Eastern spirituality, to be distinguished from a materialistically oriented West, is very much indebted to the Japanese adaptation of Hegel’s philosophy. The explanation of reality as the journey of spirit in time until its ultimate realization provided potent arguments to Hegelian thinkers such as Ernest Fenollosa, who reversed the trajectory of spiritual fulfillment toward the place from where the spirit had originated: namely the East.¹

      While introducing Hegel to Japan, Fenollosa was also suggesting a way of appropriating his philosophy for the creation of an Eastern subjectivity. He was actually indicating how...

    • FOUR Idealism, Christianity, and Poetics: Ōnishi Hajime
      (pp. 79-92)
      Ōnishi Hajime

      Ōnishi Hajime (Sōzan) (1864–1900) graduated from the English Department of Dōshisha University in 1884. After pursuing graduate studies at Tokyo Imperial University, he taught logic, psychology, ethics, aesthetics, and Western philosophy at Waseda University from 1891 to 1898. In February 1898 he decided to leave for Germany where he studied at the University of Leipzig with the experimentalist aesthetician Wilhelm Wundt (1832–1920) and with Johannes Volkelt (1848–1930), the German developer of the notion of empathy(Einfühlung). Forced to return to Japan for medical reasons after only two years, Ōnishi died on 2 November 1900 at the age...

    • FIVE The Aesthetics of the Nation: Takayama Chogyū
      (pp. 93-112)
      Takayama Chogyū

      The year 1899 was momentous for the field of Japanese aesthetics. In June, Mori Ōgai published his translation of Eduard von Hartmann’sPhilosophy of Art (Shinbiron). Six months later, Takayama Chogyū (or Rinjirō, 1871–1902) published hisModern Aesthetics (Kinsei Bigaku), soon to become a best-seller in Japan. Based on the work of von Hartmann, theCritical History of Aesthetics (Kritische Geschichte der Ästhetik)of Max Schasler (1819–1879), and theHistory of Aesthetics as Philosophical Science (Geschichte der Ästhetik als Philosophischer Wissenschaft)of Robert Zimmermann (1824–1898), Chogyū’s work convinced Japanese readers of the need to set up a...

    • SIX Ōnishi Yoshinori and the Category of the Aesthetic
      (pp. 115-140)
      Ōnishi Yoshinori

      Ōnishi Yoshinori (1888–1959) taught aesthetics at the University of Tokyo from 1922 until his retirement in 1949. In addition to his voluminous work on Western aesthetics in general and Kant in particular, Ōnishi applied his knowledge of Western philosophy to the elucidation of key concepts of Japanese aesthetics and poetics that had been used for centuries by Japanese poets and theorists. His efforts led to the publication of such books asYūgen and Aware(Yūgen to Aware,1939),On Refinement: A Study on Sabi(Fūga Ron: Sabi no Kenkyū,1940),Feelings Toward Nature in the Man’yōshū(Man’yōshū no Shizen...

    • SEVEN The Creation of Aesthetic Categories
      (pp. 141-168)
      Kusanagi Masao

      The work of Ōnishi Yoshinori had a profound impact on Japanese literary critics who adopted the notion of “aesthetic category” to explain the literary values of specific ages of Japanese history. Hisamatsu Sen’ichi (1894–1976), for example, probably the most influential scholar of premodern Japanese literature in the twentieth century, clearly refers to Ōnishi’s work in “Patterns of Beauty in Ancient Japanese Literature” (Nihon Kodai Bungaku ni Okeru Bi no Ruikei, 1953), in which he explains the development of Japanese literary history in terms of the changes that occurred at the level of aesthetic discourse.¹

      Hisamatsu adopted the same scheme...

    • EIGHT The Space of Poetry: The Kyoto School and Nishitani Keiji
      (pp. 171-217)
      Nishitani Keiji

      To appreciate the work of the philosopher Nishitani Keiji (1900–1990), we must understand the background of the philosophical school within which he operated. The Kyoto school developed in the department of philosophy and religion of Kyoto University around the figure of the leading Japanese philosopher, Nishida Kitarō (1870–1945). One of the major characteristics of the school was a direct engagement with Western epistemology in order to create a Japanese philosophical subjectivity that would incorporate traits of both the Western and the Eastern traditions. The conceptualization of the Kyoto school’s philosophical system, therefore, developed around definitions of two cultural...

    • NINE The Calonology of Imamichi Tomonobu
      (pp. 218-228)
      Imamichi Tomonobu

      Imamichi Tomonobu (b. 1922), professor of aesthetics at the University of Tokyo from 1968 until his retirement in 1983, has distinguished himself as an original thinker and the author of a metaphysics of beauty known as “calonology,” in which he argues for the privileged status of the senses(aisthesis). Imamichi addresses the problem of the subordinate position in which the senses were kept in theAesthetics(1750) of Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714–1762), where they were described as an “inferior form of knowledge”(ratio inferior)analogous to the superior intellect(analogon rationis).¹ “Calonology” is meant to be a process of...

    • TEN The Play of Mirrors: Sakabe Megumi
      (pp. 231-262)
      Sakabe Megumi

      Among the major books of the contemporary philosopher Sakabe Megumi (b. 1936),The Hermeneutics of Masks(Kamen no Kaishakugaku,1976) andJapanese Inside the Mirror(Kagami no Naka no Nihongo,1989) confront the subject of aesthetic experience. Both deal with the specificity of a Japanese subject that the author describes by resorting to the metaphor of the mask.

      Sakabe argues that a mimetic view of reality provides a definition of “mask”—kamenliterally means “a temporary frontside”—that emphasizes the characteristics of the object customarily taken to be different from “the true self”(makoto no omote):the “unpainted, unfeigned face”...

    • ELEVEN The Complicity of Aesthetics: Karatani Kōjin
      (pp. 263-300)
      Karatani Kōjin

      Karatani Kōjin (b. 1941) has established himself as one of the leading literary critics of contemporary Japan and has mastered a good deal of respect in the West as well, where two of his numerous books have recently been translated.¹ A professor at Kinki University, Karatani is the chief editor ofCritical Space (Hihyō Kūkan)—probably the first Japanese journal to seriously engage Western scholarship on issues of Japanese culture.

      Karatani has written extensively on the complicity of Western hermeneutic strategies in constructing what we today call “Japan.” In his opinion, aesthetics played a distinctive role in developing a major...

    (pp. 301-304)
    (pp. 305-310)
    (pp. 311-318)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 319-322)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 323-323)