Watsuji Tetsuro: Human existence is a tale of “persons supporting each other, existing in the world”

In the early decades of the 20th century, as G. H. Mead’s former students were documenting and organizing his ideas so as to ensure they would be available to later generations, halfway around the world in Japan, Watsuji Tetsuro was articulating his own vision of what it meant to be an individual in a world full of other people. Watsuji was steeped in the ideas of European philosophers such as Keirkegaard, Shopenhaur, Nietzche and Heiddeger, but he drew upon Japanese religious and cultural traditions in his own formulation of the individual as a fundamentally social being.

In this article, I introduce some core components of Watsuji’s formulation of the social self. Watsuji’s “individual as ningen” is an attractive metaphor for the kind of connected individualism we might want to proactively adopt in the 21st century. Thinking of ourselves as ningen might help us make sense of the diverse opportunities and risks we encounter on an increasingly inter-connected planet.

Watsuji’s initial work might be seen as an exploration of what it meant to be a Japanese individual in a world dominated by Western individualism. With a few adjustments to account for the technological and sociological changes of the past five or six decades, though, there is much in Watsuji’s thinking that seems to apply on a fundamental level to all people anywhere in the world. Watsuji’s articulation of the social self aligns quite nicely with Mead’s “I/me” model. It even fleshes out some of the mechanisms through which Mead’s “I/me” self takes shape as an individual existing in a state of connection with rather than separation from other people and the greater world.

Aidagarashugi – To be a person is to have have relationships

Watsuji and his followers are associated with a line of thinking known as aidagarashugi (間柄主義). Aidagara translates roughly as “relationship(s)” and shugi translates roughly as “ism.” Watsuji argued that people – particularly Japanese people – conceive of themselves as something different from the typical “individual” upon which Western philosophy is based. He maintained that Japanese people see themselves as fundamentally embedded in a larger context of relationships with other individuals, which are in turn embedded in relationships with the greater world and nature. While Heidegger characterized individual existence as something we each experience in isolation through passage of time, Watsuji argued that our individual experiences in a space we share with other people might be even more fundamental to who we are. He suggested that the specific sociological and ecological context in which we are born and raised plays a fundamental role in determining who we become.

Watsuji’s thinking evolved in historical context

Before we dig into Watsuji’s thinking, it may be useful to consider the context in which he was writing and the kinds of questions he was trying to answer. Watsuji did much of his foundational work in the first half of the 20th century during a period when Japan was modernizing rapidly and establishing itself as the leading industrial and military power in East Asia. For much of the 20th century, many intellectuals both inside and outside of Japan were fascinated by the rapidity with which Japan had been able to catch up with and in some ways even surpass its Western counterparts. Watsuji was one among many intellectuals who felt a need to explain the roots of this success story. This line of commentary is often aggregated under the category of nihonjinron, the study of what makes Japan and Japanese people the way they are.

Nihonjinron – What makes Japanese people Japanese and how does that make them different from everyone else?

Nihonjinron contains many fascinating perspectives and insights. At the same time, much of it is often justifiably dismissed as a set of generalizations that have more utility as a story upon which to build a national identity which distinguishes “us” from “them” than as a description of how actual individual Japanese people think, behave and make choices. When I first encountered the term nihonjinron in the late 1990s, it struck me as sharing some traits with what Edward Said called orientalism. According to Said, when people with roots in the West ask questions about non-Western societies, they tend to search for answers that bring out differences rather than similarities between the West and everywhere else. Even the smartest among us are, of course, vulnerable to confirmation bias, and the questions we ask play a significant role in shaping the data points we find as well as how we make sense of them.

As Western observers ask questions about the differences between the West and the East (or Middle East in the case of Said’s work), they are, of course, able to find them, and quite conveniently those differences tend to confirm the beliefs that the Western observers prefer to hold about themselves. By finding certain traits in non-Western cultures, they are able to reinforce certain aspects of their own tradition, while ignoring evidence of others which they assign to the non-Western culture they are observing. As they start to create narratives about the differences they have noticed, those narratives reify the assumption of differences, making it very difficult for the observer (of any cultural background) to notice that the narratives provide only a very rough simulation of the complexity that exists within each culture or even within each individual person.

It feels to me like a variation on orientalism pervades much of what is to be found in the field of nihonjinron. On a gut level it often feels like there is something to nihonjinron concepts. There are some wonderful books that could be said to fit within this genre, and irrespective of whether it is because of confirmation bias or because they confirm fundamental reality, nihonjinron does provide an interesting set of perspectives on the behavior of some Japanese people in some situations. Still, the devil is in the details, and unfortunately, the lens of nihonjinron excludes or obscures so many details that it may not always provide useful insights about how real individual Japanese people make choices as part of their daily lives. Whatever their merits, nihonjinron perspectives still enjoy a great deal of popularity in both Japan and the West.

The nihonjinron variation on orientalism is interesting in that many of the commentators identified with nihonjinron are actually Japanese, and the stories they tell are not aimed exclusively or even primarily at Western audiences. You could argue that these authors have played an important role in articulating elements of a modern Japanese identity, one which many Japanese readers have embraced as accurate and attractive. In nihonjinron discussions, Westerners or foreigners in general are described as sharing traits that contrast with those ascribed to Japanese people. In this sense, you might say that nihonjinron perspectives invert or even undermine orientalism by turning the eye of confirmation bias in the opposite direction.

The Japan success story

For my part, I’m less interested in using Watsuji’s thinking as a device to understand Japanese culture or Japanese individuals than as a set of principles that can be used to describe how we all become who we are. Still, this doesn’t mean we should ignore the context in which Watsuji lived and worked. During the apogee of Western colonialism, most non-European nations had come under the control of one Western power or another. Even great civilizations with robust histories and political traditions such as China and India had fallen under the control of the Western colonial powers, leading many in the West to posit that there must be something special about Western civilizations that enabled European nations to dominate the rest of the world.

At least until the end of World War II, the exception to this rule was Japan. As the story went, in the second half of the 19th century, Japan had somehow managed to tranform itself from a feudal, agrarian society into one of the world’s leading industrial and military powers. The actual story was undoubtedly more complex, but then as now, most of us are quite happy when someone provides us with a simple story to explain the complexities of reality. If there was something special about Western civilization (e.g. Judeo-Christian beliefs, the protestant work ethic or the Western scientific tradition) that enabled Western nations to dominate the world, there must also be something special about Japan that had enabled it to catch up so quickly. Of course, most agreed that whatever it was that made Japan special, it couldn’t be the same things that made the West special because virtually everything about Japan looked and felt different from the West.

Exploring Japan’s place in the modern world

At the beginning of the 20th century, Nitobe Inazo, a Japanese Quaker told a story that captured the imagination of the intelligensia in the West and to a lesser degree in Japan as well. In Bushido: The Soul of Japan, Nitobe described Japan as having a unique culture based on a combination of warrior ethics and Japanese religious traditions. He proposed that bushido (the way of the warrior) was the foundation of Japan’s unique cultural heritage, and that bushido served as an analog to the Western traditions such as Judeo-Christian ethics and chivalry. He suggested that it was Japan’s unique cultural traditions like bushido that had enabled Japan to manage such a rapid transition to modernity.

The book became very popular just after the Russo-Japanese war, which stood out as the first example of an Asian nation defeating a (mostly) European colonial power in a major military conflict. Though Nitobe’s exploration of the roots of Japanese ethics was less popular in Japan in the early part of the 20th century, the book’s reception improved remarkably in Japan during the 1970s and 1980s when both Japanese and non-Japanese observers were once again occupied with the search for simple stories to explain Japan’s remarkable economic success. It was a great story that captured the imaginations of many in the West and served as a sort of national origin story for some members of the intelligentsia within Japan. That story had its merits, but like any story, the Bushido: The Soul of Japan narrative left out many factors that might have also contributed to Japan’s rapid modernization.

What made Japan different from its Asian and European peers?

Watsuji was certainly influenced by Nitobe, who was the Headmaster of the First Higher School, a preparatory school for the Tokyo Imperial University when Watsuji was studying there. He was also influenced by Natsume Soseki, who like Nitobe was concerned with making sense of what it meant to be a Japanese individual in a modern world dominated by Western ideas. Soseki was particularly concerned with how to make sense of Western individualism in a Japanese context. He was concerned that the Japanese might be losing something of great value by giving up the connections that characterized pre-modern Japan. As a member of the highly-educated Japanese early 20th century elite – exposed to the great ideas of both the Western and Japanese traditions – Watsuji also came to ponder what it meant to be Japanese individual in a world dominated by the West.

While Watsuji shared Nitobe and Soseki’s interest in exploring Japanese history and identity, as a student of Western philosophical traditions, he was also interested in finding universal principles to explain human behavior. As one of his projects, he set out to account for the diversity of cultural patterns to be found around the world. What was it that led Japan to be Japan, Germany to be Germany or England to be England? How was being Japanese different from being German or English?

Fudo – Who we are depends greatly on where we come from

Watsuji, who might be described as an anthropological philosopher, proposed the Japanese concept fudo (often translated as ‘climate’) as an explanation for the patterns underlying the variability across cultures and identities. While European philosophers such as Heiddegger explored the central role that time plays in human existence, Watsuji argued that we should give more attention to the significance of place. We become who we are as an outgrowth of the places where our civilizations have developed. Watsuji was particularly interested in how place influenced relationships among people. He posited that the social relationships that bind us together are shaped by physical environments in which we and our ancestors have lived. Our cultures emerge in places and we emerge in our cultures; our individual selves emerge as a product of the cultures and environments we inhabit.

The entry on Watsuji on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains Watsuji’s idea of climate (fudo) as follows:

“When we add to our sense of climate as including not only the natural geographic setting of a people and the region’s weather patterns, but also the social environment of family, community, society at large, lifestyle, and even the technological apparatus that supports community survival and interaction, then we begin to glimpse what Watsuji had in mind by climate, and how there exists a mutuality of influence from human to environment, and environment to human being which allows for the continued evolution of both. Climate is the entire interconnected network of influences that together create an entire people’s attitudes and values.”

Culture emerges in the evolution of human relationships, and human relationships are fundamentally embedded in physical places with specific characteristics. Our relationships are influenced by the physical environment, and the ways we relate to each other become imprinted in the physical environments we occupy. To Watsuji, the patterns of how we think as individuals and behave in groups are not an accident, but rather an outgrowth of many generations of continued existence in a place with specific characteristics. 

Like the phenomenologists and existentialists of the West, Watsuji saw subjective experience as fundamental to human experience. The objective world is something we extrapolate from our subjective experience of it. (The founder of phenomenology, Edmund Hussurl actually tried to establish an objective foundation underpinning our subjective experience, but the phenomenologists in general have tended to be seen as making peace with the primacy of subjective experience.) Those who live in a common place share common subjective experiences of that place leading to shared language, culture and traditions that are re-constituted each time a child is born and raised in that place. This shared subjective experience is what binds us to each other. It is also what separates us from those who are born and raised in spaces that are different from our own.

This emphasis on the primacy of place makes it much easier to explain how the Japan of today became the Japan of today and the Japanese of today became the Japanese of today. It also becomes easier to explain how the Japanese of today came to be different from the Germans or British of today. The people in each place carry forward the residue of the relationships their forebears developed with each other embedded in the specific characteristics of the places those forbears occupied.

Ningen Sonzai:  An exploration of “how we are” and “how we should be” together

Watsuji’s fudo serves as the backdrop for one of the primary ways he contrasted the essence of Japaneseness with the essence of Germanness or Englishness. According to Watsuji, the Japanese conception of self was fundamentally one of connection rather than separation. While Western philosophy posited a unitary self flowing in isolation through time, Watsuji claimed that Japanese individuals conceived of themselves as embedded in physical and social spaces that they share with other people.

As an ethicist, Watsuji was not only concerned with defining what we are, but also how we should behave. If we are fundamentally anchored to places and people, the fundamental question we must face becomes “How should we be with each other?” While he accepted that there might be some individual aspect to human existence, he was not satisfied with the implications of radical individualism as the foundation of a way of life. Moreover, he didn’t feel that it accurately described the way Japanese viewed their own existence.

Watsuji illustrated his concept of the Japanese self with the Japanese terms ningen and ningen sonzai. In an article in Asian Philosophy, James M. Shields describes Watsuji’s ningen concept as follows:

“The term ningen, and the compound ningen sonzai are crucial to Watsuji’s thesis: Western ethics, he argues, has been unable to come to terms with human relationships precisely because it conceives of individuals in an atomistic way – in which any meeting of persons is something of a ‘fall’ from the self-realized unity or preservation of unitive individual being. Watsuji notes that, in contrast to the English term ‘human being’, ningen already implies sociality or relationship. The Sino-Japanese character nin (or hito) signifies two men supporting each other, while gen (or aida) implies ‘between’ or ‘among’. Thus Watsuji’s gloss on ningen is a kind of ontological-ethical credo: ‘men, who are supporting each other, exist in the world.”

According to Shields, Watsuji did not reject the existence of the individual so much as the ethical implications of individuals prioritizing their individuality over their sociality. He saw the conscious choice to subsume the independent self into a community of other people as ethically superior to the choice to privilege the independent self over connections to that community. Shields describes Watsuji’s thinking as follows:

“As an ethical being, that is, a truly human being, one negates individualism by abandoning one’s (already acquired) independence from others, and by ‘realizing’ (both in the sense of coming to see and making real or actualizing) the mutual interrelatedness of persons.”

The controversial nature of Watsuji’s advocacy of abandoning the individual self in devotion to something greater than the self

This negation of the self is one of the more controversial aspects of Watsuji’s thinking, particularly because of the time when Watsuji was writing. By the 1930s, the nation of Japan had gone from being a successful resistor of Western colonialism to a promulgator of its own form of imperialism. Japan’s imperial ambitions required a large military and one can see how encouraging individuals to negate their individual selves in service of a greater good or higher authority could make those individuals vulnerable to manipulation by leaders with authoritarian instincts.

During the pre-war period, Watsuji combined the choice to negate the self with the choice to sublimate oneself into the state. He drew on Japanese traditions such as a history of devotion to the emperor to justify this sublimation and though he acknowledged in the post-war period that Japan’s imperial activities had led to an unmitigated disaster for Japan, he never publicly renounced many of his pre-war positions. Watsuji seems to have believed that the state had the most potential to serve as an organizing community through which individuals would be able to make the greatest contribution. After World War II, many commentators found the political implications of a Japanese individual who negates or annihilates the self highly problematic. Partially because of the association of Watsuji’s thought with the authoritarian tendencies of the wartime Japanese government, Watsuji’s thought fell out of fashion for several decades.

Interest in Watsuji’s ideas increased again from the latter half of the 1970s as it became possible to consider them in a new context. During the post-war period, Watsuji had expanded on this thinking to clarify that while the fudo of Japan was what made Japan unique, that uniqueness should not be conflated with superiority or dominance. He argued rather that each nation or culture emerges from its own fudo and that this diversity should be protected and respected. He went so far as to blame Japan’s disasterous pre-war adventures on the fact that those who led Japan had isolated the nation and themselves from the world. Having lost curiosity about the outside world – which Watsuji saw as a fundamental trait of the Japanese character across history – they had also lost respect for the value of the diversity that existed around the world. Watsuji argued that Japanese nationalism must itself be sublimated into a large world with diverse variations emerging from a diverse varieties of fudo.

Recent applications of Watsuji’s ideas

As the world evolves, so evolve ideas. As places import ideas and people from other places, those places also change. At the time when Nitobe Inazo married American Mary Elkinton, inter-cultural and inter-racial marriages were exceedingly rare. Until the latter part of the 20th century, such mixing was not only frowned upon but literally illegal in some places. In this respect, the world has changed significantly over the past 50 years. When I was in graduate school in Hawaii around the year 2000, I was told that the majority of the children born in Hawaii were of mixed heritage. Hawaii is still an outlier in this respect, but if anything it seems to be on the leading edge of a fundamental change in our view of diversity with important implications for the meaning of place.

To what place does one belong when one’s heritage includes parents and ancestors from a diverse set of places? Is it possible that there might be a fudo that is neither static nor tied to any one place or nation? As words are translated for use by new people in new places, their meanings change. Watsuji wrote in a specific time and place for a specific audience, but his ideas have continued to be available to many who do not share the context in which he wrote. The process of international mixing and matching that Watsuji himself participated in as a student in Europe has accelerated and intensified in ways that bring out new potentialities for the constructive application of concepts like fudo and ningen sonzai.

Some of the more intriguing applications of Watsuji’s thinking to modern contexts come from Bruce Janz. Janz has suggested that Watsuji’s thinking can open up new ways of thinking about subjects as diverse as African philosophy and climate change. In a chapter of The Palgrave Handbook of African Philosophy, titled The Geography of African Philosophy, Janz suggests that with some modification Watsuji’s fudo provides an intellectual foundation for exploring the thinking of places that have traditionally been excluded from the Western philosophical tradition, such as Africa. According to Janz: 

“African philosophy, I will argue, has led the way in taking seriously the places and spaces in which philosophy happens and the constituencies and communities in which it matters. Philosophy in Africa analyzes (its) place as an object of inquiry, and also exists in that place in a wide variety of ways.” 

Janz extracts Watsuji’s concept of fudo from the context in which it was originally formulated and inserts it into a new context with a new sense of the meaning of place. Janz starts with Watsuji’s fudo as the foundation of a kind of philosophy that he calls “philosophy-in-place.” Then, drawing on the thinking of Gilles Deleuze, he re-frames place as something that emerges and evolves through the passage of time. While Watsuji’s concept of place feels static, Janz’s concept of place is emergent and dynamic. Janz argues that giving place a proper position in our exploration of philosophy opens up our thinking to forms of philosophy that emerged in places that might be fundamentally different from the places where Western philosophy emerged. To understand a Japanese self you must understand an emergent place called Japan. To understand African philosophy you must first learn more about an emergent place called Africa.

In a 2011 paper in the Journal of Global Ethics, Janz suggests that Watsuji’s concept of fudo might also open up new ways of thinking about our obligations to each other and the planet which is after all the place we all share.

“When viewed through the lens of thinkers such as Deleuze and Heidegger, there is ethical insight in Watsuji’s approach. Watsuji’s major work in ethics, Rinrigaku, provides concepts such as between-ness and trust that enable his philosophy of climate to move from a theory of national characters (as Fudo is often seen to be) to an approach to living well within one’s milieu.”

Janz argues that concepts such as fudo and ningen sonzai allow for ways of viewing the world in a connected fashion that open us up to ethical concern for an ever-expanding range of people and things. Once again, though, in order to get the full value of Watsuji’s thinking, Janz argues that we need to adapt this thinking to a new sense of what place means. Janz suggests that in combination with the thinking of Gilles Deleuze, Watsuji’s concept of fudo can take on a new set of meanings that enable us to realize that our lives as individuals take shape through inter-connected relationships (ningen sonzai) in an emerging place called the Earth.

“If we start with Watsuji’s position, that there is a kind of philosophy-in-place which correlates with particular kinds of concepts and patterns of life, we can move to thinking about another kind of philosophy-in-place, one in which continual stressors and points of tension have given rise to concepts and patterns of life.”  

On it’s own Watsuji’s concept of place feels conservative and static, but when we consider the nature of fudo in tandem with Deleuze’s sense that the world is essentially emergent, we can re-imagine our relationships with each other and with our shared place as generative and creative rather than conservative and isolated. As people move around and mix together, we are becoming increasingly aware that we share different parts of a shared place and that we are playing a very active role in shaping both the greater place and each other’s parts of it. Moreover, the changes we are causing in this place are likely to have profound implications for how long and perhaps even whether we’ll be able to continue to live together in this place known as Earth at all. Applying the concepts of fudo and ningen to a rapidly-evolving global climate provides a philosophical foundation for thinking about the global climate as something that we share in common as an essential element of what each of us is as an individual.

Like Janz, I find something very attractive in Watsuji’s thinking of humans as contextual beings.  Also like Janz, I am less attracted to the implications of framing fudo and ningen sonzai as static or monolithic. Watsuji was writing at a time when the world was dominated by nation-states competing for survival and/or dominance over each other. In this context, national identity might be seen as something not only ontologically descriptive but also politically desirable. In the time and place in which Watsuji was writing, Watsuji’s ideas seem to have been co-opted for political and ideological purposes. The potential for abuse of concepts like sublimation of the self into a greater national identity has hardly disappeared from the world. Virtually all national leaders in all nations at times resort to a form of story-telling that either explicitly or implicitly calls on individual citizens to define themselves in terms of some sort of nationalist fudo. Sometimes these calls lead to collective virtue, but sometimes these calls lead to collective idiocy, cheuvinism, and even violence.

But is sublimation of self to authority our only option for behaving as ningen? The word after all does not emphasize vertical authority so much as horizontal connection. Here, once again for reference is the translation of ningen sonzai: ‘men, who are supporting each other, exist in the world.”

When we contextualize ningen sonzai in a world that is constantly emerging and re-inventing itself in time and place, thinking of ourselves as ningen can open our eyes to ways in which we are all connected and inter-dependent.

As an American I have spent the past 35 years living, working and raising a family across cultural and geographical boundaries. My family inherits much from the fudo of both the United States and Japan. I can only assume that my experience of what it means to be a ningen is very different from Watsuji’s. Nontheless, I feel very comfortable adopting the term ningen to describe what it feels like to me to be human, whether in the United States or Japan. The older I become, the more I have come to realize that virtually everything I experience internally takes on much greater significance when I bring it to life through my relationships with people and places. Without those people and places, I would not be the individual I am today, and the individual I become in the future will also take shape in the context of the people and places that surround my future self.

My sense is that this is not a culture-specific reality experienced only by Japanese people, but rather a universal principle of human existence. As human beings, we are “people, supporting each other, existing in the world.” This is a fundamental truth whether we choose to address it or reject it. My sense is that individuals in Japan tend to openly embrace this fundamental connectedness. They may bewail the constraints that come with being tied to other people, and some people in Japan will even try to break out of the constraints that come as fundamental conditions of their current place and people. Even these Japanese rebels, though, do so by searching for new places and people with whom to become someone that they want to be. Like many Americans who sing the praises of rugged individualism, they are not creating a truly independent self (the pure expression of which might be impossible) so much as they are searching for a new set of people and places where they can share a story of self that they like. Likewise, the subset of individuals in America who share bromides about self-reliance and independent thought might paradoxically just be sending out signals that enable them to connect with each other by claiming to reject connectedness. In either case, we become who we are in the context of the people we are with and place that we share with those people. Some of this process of self-creation happens by accident, some of it by choice, but all of it entails connections with people and places.

Watsuji’s sense of people as ‘men, who are supporting each other, exist in the world” is attractive in many ways. It works not only as an image for what it means to be a Japanese self, but also as an image of what it means to be a human self in the highly dynamic, intertwined world in which we currently live. Robert Carter and Erin McCarthy conclude their entry on Watsuji in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as follows:

“His analysis of ‘betweenness’ shows it to be communality, and communality as a mutuality wherein each individual may affect every other individual and thereby affect the community or communities; and the community, as an historical expression of the whole may affect each individual. Ideally, what would result would be an enlightened sense of our interconnectedness with all human beings, regardless of race, color, religion, or creed, and a selfless, compassionate capacity to identify with others as though they were oneself. By reintroducing a vivial sense of our communitarian interconnectedness, and our spatial and bodily place in the betweenness between us, where we meet, love, and strive to live ethical lives together, Watsuji provides an ethical and political theory which might well prove to be helpful both to non-Japanese societies, and to a modern Japan itself which is torn between what it was, and what it is becoming.”

I find much of value for humanity as a whole in Watsuji’s formulation of the social self. When applied to a dynamic, evolving world populated by people emerging from diverse and inter-mingling cultures, concepts like ningen sonzaifudo and aidagarashugi add structure to George Mead’s “I/me” model, making it easier to see not only how each individual emerges in the context of places and people, but also how each individual might choose to integrate him or herself with other people to join in the creation of an emerging world. We do not need to negate or annihilate ourselves in order to connect with others, but we may benefit from giving more explicit acknowledgement to the role that others play in enabling us to become individual selves. Moreover, embracing our fundamentally-connected nature may help us to see all the ways we can create a better future for ourselves and others through those connections.

In the second half of the 20th century, Hamaguchi Eshun continued to build on the ningen concept. Much as Janz re-formulates the concept of fudo as something dynamic and emergent, Hamaguchi reconstructs the concept of ningen to make sense of the fundamental tension between the individual as an internally-separate being and the individual as externally-connected being. Hamaguchi starts with the concept of ningen, but he inverts the characters nin (人)and gen (間) to coin the neologism kanjin (間人). I’ll introduce Hamaguchi’s thinking in a later post.

Sources and Resources relating to Watsuji Tetsuro:

Robert Carter and Erin McCarthy, Watsuji Tetsuro entry on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy @ https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/watsuji-tetsuro/

Bruce B Janz, “Watsuji Tetsuro, Fudo, and climate change.” Journal of Global Ethics, Vol. 7, No. 2, August 2011, 173-184, Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group)

Bruce B Janz, “The Geography of African Philosophy.” Chapter 11 of The Palgrave Handbook of African Philosophy, 2017, Palgrave McMillan

Steve Odin, 1996. The Social Self in Zen and American Pragmatism.  Albany:  State University of New York Press

James M. Shields, “The Art of Aidagara: Ethics, Aesthetics, and the Quest for an Ontology of Social Existence in Watsuji Tetsuro’s Rinrigaku.” Asian Philosophy, Vol. 19, No. 3, November 2009, pp. 265-283, Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group)


Sources related to Nitobe Inazo:

Nitobe, Inazo, 1969 Bushido: The Soul of Japan, Charles A. Tuttle Company (This is a subsequent edition of Nitobe’s book, which was originally published in 1905)


Sources related to my initial research project comparing the thought of G. H. Mead and Hamaguchi Eshun:

Dana Cogan, 1998, The Social Self: How is it constructed and what does it mean? – This article builds on a paper I wrote as part of a graduate course in Anthropology of Japan taught by Takie Lebra at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1998. I’ll happily share the paper with anyone who is interested in reading more about the topic.

Here are some of the resources I referred to as part of that project. Some of these sources are frequently categorized as fitting into the category of nihonjinron studies. Others might be more accurately described as criticisms of nihonjinron. All of them are in some sense attempts to “explain Japan”:

Hamaguchi, Eshun, 1997. “A Methodological Basis for Japanese Studies – With Regard to ‘Relatum’ and its Foundation.”  Japan Review  9: 41-63.

Doi, Takeo, 1981   The anatomy of dependence. Tokyo:  Kodansha International.

Hamaguchi, Eshun, 1997. “A Methodological Basis for Japanese Studies – With Regard to ‘Relatum’ and its Foundation.”  Japan Review  9: 41-63.

Kondo, Dorinne, 1990.   Crafting selves: Power, gender and discourses of identity in a Japanese      workplace. Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.

Lebra, Takie, 1992    “The Self in Japanese Culture.” In Japanese Sense of Self. Nancy Rosenberger R. ed. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.1984. Review of Kanjin-shugi no shakai: Nihon in Journal of Japanese Studies 10 (2): 462-468.

Lebra, Takie Sugiyama, 1976. Japanese Patterns of Behavior, University of Hawaii Press

© Dana Cogan, 2022, all rights reserved.

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