The Kyoto School and Confucianism: a Confucian reading of the philosophy of history and political thought of Masaaki Kosaka

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Rhydwen, Thomas Parry
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University College Cork
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This dissertation examines the philosophy of Masaaki Kōsaka (1900-1969) from the East Asian perspective of Confucianism, which I believe is the most appropriate moral paradigm for comprehending his political speculations. Although largely neglected in post-war scholarship, Kōsaka was a prominent member of the Kyoto School during the 1930s and 40s. This was a group of Japanese thinkers strongly associated with the philosophies of Kitarō Nishida and Hajime Tanabe. Kōsaka is now best known for his participation in the three Chūō Kōron symposia held in 1941 and 1942. These meetings have been routinely denounced by liberal historians due to the participants’ support for the Pacific War and the Co-Prosperity Sphere. However, many of these liberal portrayals have failed to take into account the full extent of the group’s resistance to the military junta of Hideki Tōjō. Adopting the methods and techniques of the empirical disciplines of academic history and Orientalism, I develop an interpretative framework that is more receptive to the political values that mattered to Kōsaka as a Confucian inspired intellectual. This has necessitated the rejection of moral history, which typically prioritises modern liberal values brought a priori to the historical record of wartime Japan, as well as recognition of the different ontological foundations that inform the unique political theories of the East Asian intellectual tradition. Reinforced by the prior research of Michel Dalissier and Graham Parkes, as well as my own reading of the Confucian canon, I adopt David Williams’s thesis of ‘Confucian Revolution’ as my principle schema of interpretation. This, I believe, is better able to reconcile Kōsaka’s support for the war with his strong condemnation of the imperialist practices of the Japanese military. Moreover, acknowledging the importance of Confucianism allows us to fully appreciate Kōsaka’s strong affinity for Kant’s practical metaphysics, Hegel’s political philosophy and Ranke’s historiography.
Masaaki Kosaka , Kyoto School , Confucianism , Orientalism , Confucian revolution , Philosophy of history , Political philosophy , Moral history , Historical world , Japanese philosophy
Rhydwen, T. P. 2016. The Kyoto School and Confucianism: a Confucian reading of the philosophy of history and political thought of Masaaki Kosaka. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.