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An Inquiry into the Historical Development of Philosophy in Japan

Kelly Louise Rexzy P. Agra


What is Japanese philosophy? This paper will address this question, not by giving a survey of the works of Japanese philosophers or a definition of the subject matter of Japanese philosophy, but by attempting to present how it emerged as a distinct philosophical tradition—by sketching the controversies that gave rise to its formation; the social, intellectual, and historical factors that paved the way to its development; and the revolution of thought which finally gave it the title “Japanese philosophy.” I will argue that Japanese philosophy was born not because Japanese thinkers desperately wanted a philosophy that they could call their own, but because, first and foremost, they were thinking of ways to articulate the ever changing and paradoxical nature of reality. Formed by their religion and informed by the Chinese and Japanese classics, they used the language learned from the West and tried to answer the most fundamental questions of existence. A unique way of philosophizing thus emerged and became a true locus of dialogue between Eastern and Western thought.

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