Federico Marcon, Fall 2002
scholars usually employ two different terms (and therefore two
categories) to refer to Japanese philosophical debate. The first
is shisô 思想. Sometimes translated as "thought", "way of
thinking", or more recently
"intellectual history", it point to the intellectual debate before
The second, tetsugaku 哲学, is generally used to translate
"philosophy" and refer to the philosophical debate in the West as well
in Japan according to the European tradition. The term kitetsugaku
希哲学, then simplified in tetsugaku, was "invented" in 1862 by
rationalist Nishi Amane 西周 (1829-97) in order to distinguish Western
from Buddhist and Chinese thought. As Gino Piovesana put it, "Kitetsugaku
was a new word, the result, maybe, of discussion between Nishi and his
and colleague at the Center [Center for the Investigation of Barbarian
Bansho Shirabesho 蕃書調所], Tsuda Mamichi [津田真道] (1821-1903), who
an early interest in philosophy. The new term became known in
Nishi printed it in his work Hyakuichi shinron [百一新論] (A New
on the Hundred and One Doctrine)". (from Gino K. Piovesana, Recent
Philosophical Thought, 1862-1996: A Survey. Tokyo: Japan Library,
p. 1). While today
shisô and tetsugaku are quite precisely distinguished in
in Japanese scholarly writings, the categorization is not shed of
problems. I will list them before dealing with the
in both fields.
to the traditional intellectual debates before the
of the concepts of Western philosophy, how shall we deal with original
thinkers like Nishida Kitarô 西田幾多郎 (1870-1945) or Watsuji Tetsurô 和辻哲郎
(1889-1960) who actually mixed both traditions?
2. What about the rangaku
蘭学 intellectuals that came into contact with, and discussed texts of
Western philosophy before 1862?
3. While tetsugaku
is evidently accepted as the Japanese equivalent of "philosophy", the
maintains a high degree of ambiguity and vagueness. It is
with fairly general terms like "thought", "way of thinking" or
debate". I suspect that two main forces lie behind this tendency:
the Eurocentric (and now quite anachronistic) belief that since Japan
developed a theoretical debate comparable to European intellectual
it is therefore inappropriate to "elevate" it to the status of
and second, the inability of both Japanese and Western scholars to
an organized and systematic study of Japanese philosophy up to the
Shisô is often
utilized by Japanese scholars both as a generic term for the
debate and as an analytical approach. With this I mean that among
scholars is quite common, for example, to add a "philosophical
of, say, Shinran to the more traditionally exegetical or doctrinal
on the founder of the Shin school of Amidism. Consequently, we
that for many premodern intellectuals with Buddhist affiliations there
are a parallel set of scholarly inquiries, one from the perspective of
"religious studies" and the other from a "philosophical approach" (
It is on the basis of
these theoretical problems that I decided not to distinguish pre- and
post- Meiji intellectual debates of Japanese thinkers and
intellectuals. I will treat them together, and I will translate
shisô and tetsugaku
as "philosophy". I believe in fact that it would not make much
to ignore the "philosophical" character of Dôgen's or Suzuki Shôsan's
works just as it would be reductive to study Decartes or Pascal only
in a class of religious studies.
choice of a source is first determined by the degree of "thoroughness"
of the inquiry. If what we need is just a general knowledge of
developed by a school, movement or single thinker, it will suffice to
look at very general but reliable sources. My suggestion,
is to start with the following two sources, which both provide not only
a general survey of the intellectual production of a school or thinker,
but also contextualize it in a broader historical framework.
Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha Intl., 1983.
Call no.: REF
DS805 .K633 1983
Still the single
most important and useful reference work on Japan in the English
All articles of substance are signed and offer bibliographical
references, although these are now increasingly out of date. The
entries pertaining the category of Japanese philosophy are certainly
short and essential,
but they provide a first general "taste" in English of the necessary
2. Kokushi daijiten
国史大辞典. Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kôbunkan 吉川弘文館, 1979-97.
Call no.: REF DS 833
This huge work,
in 15 volumes (vol. 15 being an index in three volumes [ jô-chû-ge] ),
took eighteen years to produce, and was finally completed in
is now the standard multi-volume historical dictionary of Japan.
entries, by senior experts, give good bibliographical references.
that it represents the basic resource for a preliminary research.
certainly general, but also extremely precise and thorough in giving
student the first complete treatment of any philosophical subject.
characteristic that still makes the Kokushi daijiten preferable
to most philosophical dictionaries is that it provides also precise
on the sociological and historical aspects of the school or movement
is interested on.
1. Iwanami tetsugaku
shisô jiten 岩波哲学・思想事典. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店, 1998. \
Call no.: REF B48.J3 I83
With its 1929
pages and more than 4100 entries, it is the most autoritative, complete
and up-to-date philosophical dictionary published in Japan. It
the old Heibonsha's Tetsugaku jiten, still valuable and
but no longer competitive concerning the most recent developments in
philosophical debate and in theoretical approaches. It has four
an index of important concepts (jûyôgo sakuin 重要語索引), a
index arranged by kanji (kanji jinmei sakuin 漢字人名索引), a
biographical index arranged by katakana (katakana jinmei
sakuin 片仮名人名索引), and a general alphabetical index of concepts and
(ôbun sakuin 欧文索引). As the title suggests, it covers both
(by Western and Japanese thinkers) and Eastern philosophies.
2. Koyasu Nobukuni 子安宣邦,
ed. Nihon shisôshi
jiten 日本思想史辞典. Tokyo: Perikansha ぺりかん社, 2001. \ 6,800.
Call no.: REF DS821 .N554 2001
With 648 pages
and about 1400 entries signed by more than 200 experts, it is the first
and most thorough "Dictionary of Japanese Intellectual History", as the
title in English reveals. Its entries, each one completed by a
bibliographical note, range from Kojiki to modern philosophers
up till the first years after WW2. The main difference with
shisô jiten is that it is entirely devoted to the
debate in Japan, and it ignore all the Western philosophers. It
this reason that I recommed it as the desktop dictionary on Japanese
since the Iwanami dedicates most of its entries to Western
tradition. The editor Koyasu Nobukuni, one of the leading scholar
Edo intellectual history, makes the dictionary extremely helpful for
students of the history of Edo philosophy.
3. Shisô no Kagaku
Kenkyûkai 思想の科学研究会, ed. Shinpan tetsugaku,
jiten 新版哲学・論理用語辞典. Tokyo: San'ichi
三一書房, 1995. \ 3,000
Call no.: B48.A7 S54
of philosophical concepts of Western tradition. The entries are
but clear, not signed and without bibliographical notes.
4. Tetsugaku jiten
哲学事典. Tokyo: Heibonsha 平凡社, 1971. \ 9,223.
Call no.: REF B48.J3
now by Iwanami
jiten, it has been the most authoritative philosophical
5. Oliver Leaman, ed. Encyclopedia of Asian philosophy
. New York : Routledge , 2001. $ 165.00
Call no.: REF B121
first dictionary in English devoted only to Asian philosophy, it has
more 650 entries signed and with bibliographical notes on concepts,
movements and thinkers of the Asian continent. Preponderant the
entries. Mark Teeuwen signed the entries on Japanese
Good but inevitably superficial, due to the space limits.
6. Brian Carr, Indira
Mahalingam, eds. Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy.
New York: Routledge, 1997. $ 269.00
Call no.: (Butler
Reserves) R190 C73
CLIO summary: The Companion Encyclopedia of
Philosophy is a unique one-volume reference work which makes richly
philosophical, ethical and theological traditions accessible to a wide
audience. Each of the six sections covers a specific tradition within
Asian philosophy - Persian, Indian, Buddhist, Chinese, Japanese and
Islamic. The reader can compare and contrast thought systems and
ways in which the cultures discussed have shaped and been shaped by
It is possible, for example, to relate the ways in which Buddhist
has developed in India, China, South-east Asia and Japan.
1. Nihon shisô taikei
. 63 vols. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.
Call no.: 121.08 N574
huge anthological collection of primary sources. It is the first
to look at when searching for a philosophical text. Sometimes the
are quite outdated, but it still represents the authoritative source.
Manuals represents the best
resource for a research on the history of Japanese philosophy a step
thorougher than dictionaries provides.
I will list the most useful
(in my opinion, of course) titles, dividing it in two groups, pre-Meiji
Manuals on Japanese
Iwasaki Chikatsugu 岩崎允胤. Nihon
shisôshi josetsu 日本思想史序説. Tokyo: Shin Nihon Shuppansha
新日本出版社, 1991. \ 4854
Call no.: B5241 .I96
The historian of
philosophy Iwasaki Chikatsugu introduces in this manual
the main philosophical concepts, schools and thinkers up to the end of
the Muromachi period. He provides not only historical backgrounds
contexts for each subjects, but he tries also to interprete them
the recent trends of Western historiography of philosophy. At the
of each chapter, a huge apparatus of note provides also the reader with
bibliographical notes on further readings.
Iwasaki Chikatsugu 岩崎允胤. Nihon
josetsu 日本近世思想史序説. 2 vols. (上・下). Tokyo: Shin Nihon
新日本出版社, 1997. \ 11,000 (both volumes)
Call no.: B5241 .I962 1997
The sequel of
Nihon shisôshi josetsu, it covers the
intellectual history of Japan from mid-sixteenth century to the end of
the Tokugawa period (1600-1868). It is an extremely useful
of the subject, with many comparisons with Western philosophical
The choice of a manual
depends in many case on personal preferences. I will give a list
I find very useful in introducing the Japanese philosophical debate
3. Sagara Tôru 相良亨. Nihon
shisôshi nyûmon 日本思想史入門.
Tokyo : Perikansha ぺりかん社, 1984. \ 2,200
Call no.: B5241 .N53 1984
It covers a wide
span from the Kojiki to Nishida Kitarô. It consists
in an anthology of texts richly annotated and commented by the author.
Noboru 碓田のぼる, et. al. Nihon no shisô 日本の思想. 2 vols. Tokyo:
Shin Nihon Shuppansha 新日本出版社, 1980.
Call no.: B5241 .N495
It covers a span
of time from the Man'yôshû 万葉集 to Buddhist persecution
in Meiji Japan. It consists in a collection of articles by different
It is not complete in the subjects treated.
Among the manuals on Edo intellectual history, I
5. Koyasu Nobukuni 子安宣邦. Edo shisôshi kôgi 江戸思想史講義. Tokyo:
Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店, 1998. \ 3,000
B5241 .K69 1998
Yasuki 衣笠安喜, ed.
Kinsei shisôshi kenkyû no genzai 近世思想史研究の現在. Kyoto: Shibunkaku
思文閣出版, 1995. \ 11,800
Call no.: DS822.2
Probably one of
the best "state-of-the-art" text on the researches on
the history of Edo philosophical debate.
7. Najita Tetsuo. Japan:
The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics. Chicago,
London: The University of Chicago Press, 1974.
Call no.: DS881.9
8. Najita Tetsuo. Vision
of Virtue in Tokugawa Japan: The Kaitokudô Merchant Academy of Osaka
. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1987.
Call no.: DS822.2
9. Najita Tetsuo, ed.
Tokugawa Political Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
Call no.: B5244.O354 T6 1998g
10. Najita Tetsuo,
Irwin Scheiner, eds.
Japanese Thought in the Tokugawa Period, 1600-1868: Methods and
Metaphors. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press, 1978.
Call no.: DS822.2
Herman Ooms. Tokugawa
Ideology: Early Constructs, 1570-1680. Princeton: Princeton
Call no.: JA84.J3 O55 1985
Peter Nosco, ed. Confucianism
and Tokugawa Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1984.
Call no.: B5243.N45 C66 1984
13. Peter Nosco. Remembering
Paradise: Nativism and Nostagia in Eighteenth-century Japan. Cambridge,
Mass.: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University : Distributed
by Harvard University Press, 1990.
Call no.: B5243.K6 N67 1990
Harry D. Harootunian.
Things Seen and Unseen: Discourse and Ideology in Tokugawa Nativism
. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press, 1988.
Call no.: DS822.2 .H313 1988
Manuals on Japanese post-Meiji
1. Gino K. Piovesana. R
ecent Japanese philosophical thought, 1862-1996: a survey.
a new survey by Naoshi Yamawaki, The philosophical Thought of Japan
from 1963 to 1996. Richmond, Surrey: Japan Library, 1997.
Call no.: B5241 .P5
It is still the
most useful, comprehensive and authoritative introduction
to modern Japanese philosophy. It is divided in schools in
order. The notes provide bibliographical information that are howere
outdated. The new edition of 1997 is enlarge with a new chapter,
is still no global bibliography.
2. David A. Dilworth, Valdo
Humbert Viglielmo, Agustin Jacinto Zavala, eds. Sourcebook for
Modern Japanese Philosophy: Selected Documents. Westport, Conn.:
Greenwood Press, 1998.
Call no.: B5241 .S68
philosophycal texts of Nishida Kitarô, Tanabe Hajime, Kuki
Shûzô, Watsuji Tetsurô, Miki Kiyoshi, Tosaka Jun and Nishitani Keiji,
introduced and annotated by the editors.
3. Hashikawa Bunsô 橋川文三,
Kano Masanao 鹿野政直, Hiraoka Toshio 平岡敏夫, eds. Kindai Nihon shisôshi
no kiso chishiki: Ishin zenya kara haisen made
近代日本思想史の基礎知識−維新前夜から敗戦まで. Tokyo: Yûhikaku 有斐閣, 1971.
Call no.: DS881.9
Old and quite
outdated, but still one of the clearest manuals on modern
Japanese philosophy. It does not cover only the contents of
inquiries of Japanese thinkers and schools, but also their social life
and historical background. It offers also a coverage of the
essays of the major novelists.
A number of journal in
Japanese are devoted to philosophical studies. Most of them concentrate
on Western philosophy, or contemporary Japanese debates over
philosophical problems. However, articles on the history of
Japanese philosophical debates
1. Philosophy East
& West. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii.
Call no.: B1 .P573
Described as "A
quarterly of Asian and comparative thought", this original
journal started in April 1951 offers articles in which Western and
philosophical interrogations are compared. Not always brilliant
quite hazarduous, still it stimulate ideas and creative thinking.
is worth to give a look at it periodically. Since 1997 it is
to read it on-line through CLIO.
2. Shisô 思想. Tokyo:
Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店.
Call. no.: B8.J3 S5
(no. 691 - present)
Call no.: 105 Sh6
(no. 7 - 690)
printed since 1921. One of the most famous journal of
philsophy in Japan. It covers virtually every aspect of philosophical
investigations, from theoretical problems of Western philosophy to the
history of Japanese intellectual history, and it publishes articles by
the most famous scholars.
3. Risô 理想. Tokyo:
Call no.: B8.J3 R49
(no. 584 - present)
Call no.: 105 R49
(no. 6-8, 10, 12-13, 17-147, 153-191, 193-218, 220-238, 240-243,
245-250, 252-259, 266-302, 304-313, 319-451, 453-583)
It began in
April 1927 as an answer to Shisô, it concentrates mostly
on philosophical problems and rarely on historical analysis.
4. Gendai shisô
現代思想. Revue de la pensee d'aujourd'hui. Tokyo: Seisosha 青土社.
Call no.: B804 .G451
It started in
January 1973. It gave great emphasis on French Existenialism
and its followers in Japan. It covers contemporary philosophical
5. Tetsugaku kenkyû
哲学研究. Kyoto: Kyoto Tetsugakukai 京都哲学界, Kyoto Daigaku Bungakubu 京都大学文学部.
Call no.: B8.J3 T29
(no. 537 - present)
Call no.: 105 T292
(no. 1-93, 95-254, 256-267, 269, 271, 274-366, 368-429, 431-434, 442,
449-511, 513-517, 519-522, 524-536)
journal of the Kyoto School of philosophy, published since
April 1916. It is probably the most important and influential academic
publication on philosophy in Japan. Some summaries are in English, and
French, or German.
6. Edo no shisô
江戸の思想. Tokyo: Perikansha ぺりかん社.
Call no.: DS822.2
.E26 (no. 1-10)
Founded in 1995
by Koyasu Nobukuni, this little journal collects the most
recent develpments on the intellectual history of Edo Japan. It
of the most precious resource on the history of philosophical debate of
the early modern period.