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date: 25 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Throughout its history Japan has shown a talent for using synthesis and syncretism to inspire philosophical innovation. Rather than refuting or rejecting the new or foreign, Japanese thinkers have more often aimed for assimilation, employing a rhetoric based in strategies of allocation, hybridization, or relegation. This article begins with a description of those strategies, citing examples from across the history of Japan’s philosophical tradition. Then it focuses on the Seventeen-Article Constitution, traditionally said to have been authored by Prince Shōtoku in 604 c.e. It is arguably the first extant example of a Japanese philosophical attempt to draw on multiple traditions: Confucianism, Buddhism, and early Shintō myth. The purpose of the Constitution was to create a coherent polity grounded in moral principles. As such, it has been upheld throughout history as a founding document of the Japanese nation.

Keywords: Shōtoku, Seventeen-article Constitution, syncretism, synthesis, rhetoric, Shintō, Confucianism, Buddhism

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