Nakae Tōju


Nakae Tōju
orig. Gen or Mokken

born April 21, 1608, Ōmi province, Japan
died Oct. 11, 1648, Ōmi province

Japanese Neo-Confucian scholar.

A feudal retainer, he left his post in 1634 and returned to his native village to carry out his obligations to his widowed mother. There he taught and studied the works of Zhu Xi, but eventually he abandoned Zhu's philosophy for the idealist thought of Wang Yangming. Like Wang, he believed truth was to be discovered through intuition and reflection rather than empirical investigation and that the universe's unifying principle exists in the human mind, not in the external world. He believed that a concept could be fully understood only when acted upon; this emphasis on action made him popular with 19th-and 20th-century Japanese nationalists.

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▪ Japanese scholar
original personal name  Gen,  pseudonym  Mokken 
born April 21, 1608, Ōmi Province, Japan
died Oct. 11, 1648, Ōmi Province

      Neo-Confucian scholar who established in Japan the Idealist thought of the Chinese philosopher Wang Yang-ming.

      Nakae was originally a follower of the teachings of the Chinese Neo-Confucian Rationalist Chu Hsi (Zhu Xi), whose doctrines had become a part of the official ideology of the Japanese government. In 1634 he asked to be released from the post he held as retainer to his feudal lord so he could return to his native village and carry out his filial obligations to his widowed mother. He left despite his lord's refusal of permission. At home he devoted himself to teaching and study, eventually abandoning his adherence to the Chu Hsi school of thought and becoming a propagator of the philosophy of Wang Yang-ming (Wang Yangming). His fame subsequently spread throughout the land. He attracted many distinguished disciples and became known as the sage of Ōmi province.

      Both Wang and Nakae believed that the unifying principle of the universe exists in the human mind and not in the external world. They taught that the true Way could be discovered through intuition and self-reflection, rejecting Chu Hsi's idea that it could be found through empirical investigation. In his conviction that a concept can be fully understood only when acted upon, Nakae emphasized practice rather than abstract learning. This emphasis on individual action made Nakae's philosophy popular among the zealous Japanese reformers and patriots of the 19th and 20th centuries. Tōju sensei zenshū (“The Complete Works of Master Tōju”) was published in five volumes in 1940.

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Universalium. 2010.

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