Japanese philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-G100-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved February 01, 2023, from

9. Postwar developments

The defeat in the Second World War caused many philosophers to rethink their positions. Tanabe and Watsuji, for example, explicitly repented some of the nationalistic implications of their earlier writings. In his Zangedō to shite no tetsugaku (Philosophy as Metanoia) in 1946, Tanabe developed an intricate, self-critical dialectical method to check the emergence of philosophical ideologies. In conceiving this method he drew inspiration from the philosophical analysis of Shinran’s thought done by one of his students, Takeuchi Yoshinori. The connection with religious philosophy has become a recurrent theme in the further development of the Kyoto school as exemplified in the works of Nishitani, Takeuchi and Ueda Shizuteru. In a spirit reminiscent of the Kamakura Buddhist thinkers, many of the postwar philosophers have turned inward to re-examine the nature of human existence, now able to be formulated in relation to the problematics of existentialism as well as Buddhism.

At the same time some Japanese philosophers have continued to specialize in the scholarly study of Western philosophy. In many Japanese universities there are departments of philosophy where much of the work is indistinguishable from what might find in a philosophy department in Europe or North America. In general, the Continental traditions of philosophy, rather than the British analytic traditions, continue to dominate.

Lastly, and especially since the 1960s, there are individuals and groups of philosophers who have explored new provocative directions, drawing their ideas from a wide variety of sources including Western science, psychoanalysis and phenomenology as well as traditional Asian thought and medicine. This phenomenon is another example of a recurrent pattern in the history of Japanese philosophy: the assimilation and adaptation of foreign ideas against the background of an ongoing tradition.

Citing this article:
Kasulis, Thomas P.. Postwar developments. Japanese philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-G100-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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