Environmental Ethics

Volume 11, Issue 3, Fall 1989

David Edward Shaner, R. Shannon Duval
Pages 197-214

Conservation Ethics and the Japanese Intellectual Tradition

A systematic philosophy that presupposes an ecocentric world view, rather than a homocentric or egocentric world view, can be a viable resource for investigating issues in environmental philosophy and conservation ethics. Generally speaking, the Japanese philosophical and religious tradition represents a commitment to ecocentrism. This philosophical orientation is in concert with the world view of many naturalists. We explore one example of ecocentrism by unveiling the crosscultural connection between the naturalistic philosophy of Louis Agassiz, a nineteenth-century French-American biologist, and the early writings of Nishida Kitarō, a twentieth-century Japanese philosopher. We suggest that the central player in understanding the ecocentric connection between Agassiz and Nishida is American philosopher-psychologist William James. James was once a student of Agassiz and his writings influenced Nishida's early work. Related issues concerning conservation ethics and the Japanese intellectual tradition are also addressed.