Japanese philosophy


Japanese philosophy
Conceptual expression of Japanese culture since early 6th century AD.

Japanese philosophy is not generally indigenous; Japanese thinkers have always skillfully assimilated alien philosophical categories in developing their own systems. One of the two principal schools of Japanese thought arose from Buddhism and was highly tinged with a religious and often somewhat metaphysical character. The second school arose from Confucianism and was essentially a system of moral philosophy. Since the Meiji Restoration (1868), Western philosophy has been abundantly introduced into Japan. At first British and American philosophies predominated, but in the 20th century the influence of German philosophy became increasingly strong; leading Japanese philosophers were especially influenced by German idealism, phenomenology, and existentialism. To distinguish Western philosophy from Buddhist and Chinese thought, the term tetsugaku ("wise learning") was coined and has come into common use.

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the conceptual expression of Japanese  culture since the turn of the 6th century Ad 

      . The term philosophy has been considered somewhat misleading in reference to Japanese thought, since Japanese premodern thinking tended to be directed more toward the realm of existence than toward that of essence. Japanese philosophy is not generally indigenous; Japanese thinkers have always freely appropriated foreign philosophical systems and insights to express their own understanding of the meaning of life and the world. The Japanese have skillfully assimilated alien philosophical categories in developing their own systems.

      Historically, before the Meiji period (beginning in 1868), one of the two principal schools of Japanese thought arose from Buddhism and was highly tinged with a religious and often somewhat metaphysical character; the second school arose from Confucianism and was essentially a system of moral philosophy. From the 18th century on, there were some independent thinkers who were critical of these two major schools, but their ideas were limited to a small circle, and they left little influence.

      Since the Meiji Restoration, Western philosophy has been liberally and abundantly introduced into Japan. At first, British and American philosophies predominated; but in the course of the 20th century the influence of German philosophy became increasingly strong. Leading Japanese philosophers were especially influenced by German idealism, phenomenology, and existentialism. By the end of the century, philosophy in the Western sense of the term was taught as a compulsory subject in most Japanese colleges and universities; and Eastern thought, under the name of Indian or Chinese philosophy, was relegated to specialized courses. In order to distinguish Western philosophy from Buddhist and Chinese thought, a new term, tetsugaku (“wise learning”), was coined and has come into common use.

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Universalium. 2010.

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