John Maraldo on the Project 'Sourcebook In Japanese Philosophy'

10 February, 2009 └Japanese Intellectual History

Prof. Emeritus John C. Maraldo of the University of North Florida visited UTCP in January and gave two seminars on Japanese philosophy. Here he is presenting his current project, a 'Sourcebook in Japanese Philosophy'. Prof. Maraldo is one of the co-editors of the project, which also includes contributions by UTCP prof. Nakajima Takahiro.

Compiling A Sourcebook in Japanese Philosophy
by John C. Maraldo

For several years my co-editors James Heisig and Thomas Kasulis and I have been preparing a Sourcebook In Japanese Philosophy, a project now nearing completion. We have benefited from the help of some eighty translators and scholars, including Prof. T. Nakajima of the UTCP. We have also enjoyed the support of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (日本学術振興会) that enabled us to partially compensate translators and to convene three workshops in the United States for scholars of Confucianism, Buddhism, and modern academic philosophy. The 1000-page work will be published by the University of Hawaii Press.

For over forty years students and teachers of philosophy have benefited from S. Radhakrishnan & C. A. Moore's Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy and Wing-Tsit Chan's Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy. We hope that our work on Japanese philosophy will be a worthy addition that introduces teachers and students to a variety of texts in an easily accessible way. It will differ from previous sourcebooks in both its format and its composition. Our book is organized into two primary sections, Major Traditions and Themes. Texts from Confucianism, Buddhism, Shinto & Native Studies (Kokugaku), and Modern Academic Philosophy will comprise the Major Traditions section, with a substantial essay introducing each tradition, a shorter introduction for each author, and explanatory notes within each translated text—all intended to help the reader understand the context of the selection. The second primary section called Themes consists of explanatory essays and translated texts on Samurai Thought, Culture and Identity, Aesthetics and Creativity, Women Philosophers, and Bioethics. Our volume will begin with a general introduction to the notion of Japanese philosophy, and some pointers on how to use the book. It will conclude with a glossary of technical terms, a bibliography, a chronology of selections, and a very detailed index giving 漢字 as well as romanized readings of names and terms. A more complete list of contents and contributors can be found on this web site, under "Japanese Philosophy Project" and then "Sourcebook in Japanese Philosophy."

We do not take the idea of "Japanese philosophy" for granted. The general introduction to the volume will discuss at length the possible meanings of that term and the arguments for and against its usage. We will also try to explain how and why we chose the authors and the texts we include, selections from Kūkai in the ninth century to Ōhashi Ryōsuke in the twenty-first. In addition, my essay on "The Beginnings of Modern Academic Philosophy" documents the definitions of tetsugaku in the Meiji Period and the early debates on the existence of Japanese philosophy. A section prepared by Prof. Nakajima about similar debates in China on zhexue 哲学, and another called "Buddhism and Confucianism—Religion, Philosophy, or Ethics?" likewise examine the categories in which these traditions have been constructed and defined. Although we editors obviously hold the position that Japanese philosophy is indeed a valid field of study, we also want to present the material in a manner that questions the nature of philosophy and the classification of academic fields. All in all, we use the word sourcebook to mean a selection of texts that 1) enable readers to understand the sources of intellectual discussions in Japan through the centuries, and that 2) serve as resources for teaching and doing philosophy today. Speaking of resources, I cannot fail to mention again the generous funding of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the support of the Nanzan Institute of Religion and Culture, and the assistance of numerous contributors that have made this endeavor possible.

For further reading on "Japanese philosophy" as a problematic name:
John C. Maraldo, 「生成中の哲学を定義すること」 in 『日本哲学の国際性——海外における受容と展望』, ed. James W. Heisig (Tokyo: Sekai shisō sha, 2006), pp. 261-294; and 
"Defining Philosophy in the Making,” in Japanese Philosophy Abroad , ed. James W. Heisig (Nagoya: Nanzan University Press, 2004), 220-245.

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