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date: 26 June 2022

(p. xi) Preface

(p. xi) Preface

When Peter Ohlin of Oxford University Press first approached me in 2011 about submitting a proposal for this Handbook of Japanese Philosophy, my first thought was that it was indeed high time for such a volume to be produced. The timing was especially fortuitous, given the impending publication of Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook (2011), edited by James Heisig, Thomas Kasulis, and John Maraldo, which would for the first time make accessible in a single volume a wide selection of key texts in translation from the entire history of philosophical thinking in Japan. In the belatedly burgeoning field of Japanese philosophy, what was called for next, it seemed to me, was a Handbook that would, in effect, complement the Sourcebook. That is to say, what was called for was a collection of interpretive elucidations and critical engagements with a selection of the most important topics, figures, schools, and texts from the entire history of philosophical thinking in Japan.

My second thought, however, was how daunting the task of producing such a Handbook would be. As I began to envision the range of material that would need to be covered and to draft a table of contents, I quickly realized that the project could be done properly only if I were able to assemble a veritable “dream team” of contributors. In the end, after just a bit of groveling and arm twisting, almost every one of the scholars I contacted on account of their unparalleled expertise and acumen graciously agreed to collaborate. Although I regret not having been able to include in this project a few other established and upcoming scholars, I am very grateful to those who contributed for carving time out in their busy schedules and for their willingness to work closely with me on what has, I think, turned out to be a remarkably coherent and comprehensive volume. They proved willing to write not just outstanding articles that could each be savored independently but, moreover, articles that were contentiously composed as chapters with the vision of the volume as a whole in mind.

Japanese philosophy is now a flourishing field, with thriving societies, conferences, and journals dedicated to it in North America and Europe as well as in Japan—not to mention an ever-growing library of translations, books, and articles. However, it is still a relative newcomer on the academic landscape. In particular, after having long been confined to fields such as Asian Studies and Religious Studies, it is still finding its legs in the field of Philosophy. Accordingly, it seemed exigent to begin this Handbook with an extensive introductory chapter that addresses head-on the many complex and controversial issues enfolded in the deceptively simple question, “What is Japanese Philosophy?”

One of the main questions addressed in the Introduction is that of the semantic and historical range of “Japanese philosophy.” Of course, the material presented in the (p. xii) Modern Japanese Philosophies section, which constitutes nearly half the volume, is unquestionably and recognizably “philosophical.” True, the style of most modern Japanese philosophers may be more familiar to students and scholars trained in the continental rather than analytic tradition since modern Japanese philosophers have typically engaged continental European, especially German, philosophy more than they have Anglo-American analytic philosophy. In any case, no one doubts that modern Japanese philosophy is philosophy.

Potentially controversial, however, is the inclusion of coverage of “premodern” discourses in this Handbook. Did “philosophy” exist in Japan prior to the Japanese encounter with and appropriation of Western philosophy in the final decades of the nineteenth century? While this question continues to be debated (and these debates are discussed at length in the Introduction), it is at least incontrovertible that premodern Japanese discourses are replete with profoundly significant sources for philosophical thinking. In other words, the question of whether the writings of Kūkai, Shinran, Motoori Norinaga or Ogyū Sorai should themselves be called “philosophy” can be debated; but, regardless of the outcome of that debate, they are unquestionably valuable sources for any contemporary philosopher who wishes to expand his or her horizon beyond the borders of the Western tradition. Western philosophers have long been accustomed to drawing insights and ideas from literature, religious writings, political speeches, and other texts that need not be considered philosophy to be considered philosophically significant. Why limit these sources of philosophy to one tradition? Whether or not the reader is willing to rethink the definition of philosophy in light of premodern Japanese discourses, there can be no doubt that his or her philosophizing will be all the broader and better for having engaged with the discourses discussed in the first half of this Handbook—which consists of sections on Shintō and the Synthetic Nature of Japanese Philosophical Thought, Philosophies of Japanese Buddhism, and Philosophies of Japanese Confucianism and Bushidō.

These sections on the philosophical dimensions of premodern Japanese thought are followed by the large section on Modern Japanese Philosophies. After a substantial chapter on the initial decades of the Japanese encounter with and appropriation of Western philosophy, this section is divided into one subsection on the most well-known group of twentieth-century Japanese philosophers, The Kyoto School, and a second subsection on the no less interesting and important array of Other Modern Japanese Philosophies. Rounding out the volume is a section on Pervasive Topics in Japanese Philosophical Thought, which includes topics that span a range of schools and time periods. In this final section, the reader will find chapters on language, nature and freedom, ethics, aesthetics, and a concluding chapter that returns to a key issue first addressed in the Introduction: the controversial cultural identity of Japanese philosophy. The selection of chapter topics is discussed in greater detail at the end of the Introduction. Readers can explore the thematic interconnections among the chapters by consulting the detailed index at the back of this volume.

The most enjoyable part of completing a large and lengthy project such as this one is the opportunity afforded me to express my gratitude to the many people who made it (p. xiii) possible. During the course of the composition of the chapters of this Handbook, it was a great pleasure and a great learning experience to work closely with the contributors, either per email or in person. Peter Ohlin, Cecily Berberat, Laura Heston, Madelein Freeman and the other editors at Oxford University Press who ushered me through the process were always very responsive and very helpful, as were Anitha Alagusundaram and the rest of the highly competent and cordial copyeditors and print production team. I am very grateful for the support I receive from my home institution, Loyola University Maryland. I began this project in Kyoto during one sabbatical and finished it in Baltimore during a second one. In between, summer research grants from LUM enabled me concentrate on it while spending valuable time back in Japan.

I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the many teachers, colleagues, and students in Japan, the United States, and Europe who have guided or accompanied me on my journey through the thickets and into the clearings of Japanese philosophy. Allow me to single out a number of benefactors. During the decade I spent in Kyoto, my main teachers were Horio Tsutomu at Ōtani University, Fujita Masakatsu at Kyoto University, and Ueda Shizuteru at Shōkokuji and elsewhere. Supplementing my philosophical studies, I have had the great fortune of being able to practice Zen at the Rinzai Zen training monastery of Shōkokuji under the guidance of Tanaka Hōjū Rōshi from 1996 until 2006, and, since he passed away in 2008, with Kobayashi Gentoku Rōshi. Other teachers and mentors in Kyoto have included Ōhashi Ryōsuke, Hase Shōtō, Keta Masako, Mori Tetsurō, Okada Katsuaki, Ōkōchi Ryōgi, Matsumaru Hisao, Mine Hideo, Hanaoka Eiko, Arifuku Kōgaku, Ogawa Tadashi, Kōsaka Shirō, and, on a memorable visit to his home, Tsujimura Kōichi. Colleagues and conversation partners in Kyoto have included Uehara Mayuko, Akitomi Katsuya, Minobe Hitoshi, Matsumoto Naoki, Sugimura Yasuhiko, Thomas Kirchner, Terao Kazuyoshi, Yoshie Takami, Mizuno Tomoharu, Wu Guanghui, Sugimoto Kōichi, Tanaka Yoshiko, Kawabata Shinsuke, Andrea Leonardi, Miyano Makiko, Takehana Yōsuke, Ōta Hironobu, and Nakajima Yūta. Over the years I have benefitted from conversations about Japanese philosophy at international conferences, during research sojourns in Japan and Germany, and per email with numerous other mentors and colleagues, including John Maraldo, James Heisig, Thomas Kasulis, Rolf Elberfeld, Graham Parkes, Michiko Yusa, Agustín Jacinto Z., Jan Van Bragt, Arisaka Yōko, Tani Tōru, Inoue Katsuhito, Tanaka Yū, Victor Sōgen Hori, Kobayashi Yasuo, Noé Keiichi, Paul Swanson, Mark Blum, Dennis Hirota, Chris Goto-Jones, John Krummel, Gereon Kopf, Itabashi Yūjin, Abe Hiroshi, Nakajima Takahiro, Kajitani Shinji, Steffen Döll, Rein Raud, Ralf Müller, Matteo Cestari, Raquel Bouso, Bernard Stevens, Curtis Rigsby, Lam Wing-keung, Cheung Ching-yuen, Morisato Takeshi, Ishihara Yūko, Leah Kalmanson, Enrico Fongaro, Andrew Whitehead, Hans Peter Liederbach, Anton Luis Sevilla, Jason Wirth, Brian Schroeder, Erin McCarthy, Mark Unno, Melissa Anne-Marie Curley, Brad Park, Steve Lofts, David Johnson, Jacynthe Tremblay, David Jones, Frank Perkins, Elizabeth Tyler, Jan Gerrit Strala, Leon Krings, Inutsuka Yū, Kuwayama Yukiko, James Mark Shields, Brook Ziporyn, Sarah Flavel, Lucy Schultz, and Carolyn Culbertson. Closer to home, I am ever appreciative of the weekly hours of shared silence as well as engaging discussion with members of the Heart of Zen Meditation Group, (p. xiv) including Ethan Duckworth, Ed Stokes, Janet Preis, Mickey Fenzel, Janet Maher, Susan Gresens, John Pie, Rhonda Grandy, Bess Garrett, Jeffrey McGrath, Rick Boothby, Steve DeCaroli, and Drew Leder. Among students, let me single out, in memoriam, a special one who took my first seminar on Japanese philosophy at Loyola University Maryland in 2005: Luke Dorsey. Despite what he called my rusty English that first semester back in the States, Luke nevertheless managed to get hooked on studying Dōgen and Watsuji and on practicing zazen.

As always, I would like express my heartfelt gratitude to my family. As distant as they are geographically, my three brothers, Peter, Chris, and Sean are always near in spirit, as is the shared memory of our tirelessly supportive mother. Photos and stories exchanged via the Internet and occasional family gatherings with my brothers and their clans are a great source of often lighthearted yet always deeply felt joy. My nearest and dearest support continues to come from my wife, Naomi, and from our two children, Toshi and Koto. Naomi’s positive energy radiates through our home and her vita activa enables not only my vita contemplativa but also the eventful school, soccer, and social lives of our two youngsters. Toshi and Koto are growing up so fast and yet, thankfully, also so well. Even in the midst of these admittedly at times trying preteen and teen years, I am often surprised to discover how they are helping me grow up along with them. Both of them can already easily sprint past me on the track, and it may not be long before they cruise past me in the lifelong maturity marathon as well. In any case, perhaps they are now old enough to appreciate having a book dedicated to them—if, that is, I can get them to glance at it on their way from school to soccer practice.

Note on names and terms: Throughout this volume, Japanese names are generally written in the Japanese order of family name first, followed by given name. This convention is also followed for the names of Japanese contributors, except in the cases of those who work and publish primarily in a Western language. To avoid any confusion, in the list of contributors on pages xv–xxv, the family names of all contributors appear in small caps. Unless otherwise specified, italicized non-English terms are Japanese. The following abbreviations for languages are used: Ch. = Chinese, Gk. = Greek, Jp. = Japanese, Sk. = Sanskrit. As is customary, diacritical marks are not used in well-known place names such as Kyoto and Tokyo or in some anglicized terms such as sutra.