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Journal of Japanese Philosophy

Volume 6, 2020

Takahiro Nakajima
Pages 45-62

Confucian Modernity in Japan
Religion and the State

Japanese Modernity questioned the relationship between religion and the state. By referring to Confucianism, Japanese philosophers tried to give answers to this question. Inoue Enryō tried to establish an officially recognized religion that could be represented in Buddhism or Shintoism. Confucianism was excluded then. However, with the enactment of the Imperial Rescript on Education (1890), the situation would change: Confucianism, along with Shintoism, was introduced as the foundation of national morality. Following this, Nishida Kitarō emphasized the role of religion instead of morality to support the foundation of a nation. In this vein, Buddhism and Confucianism played an important role of religion in Nishida’s discourse. Inoue Tetsujirō took an ambiguous attitude to religion and morality. In contrast to Nishida, he regarded morality as having a status higher than religion. Nonetheless, he still thought Confucianism had some religious aspect. Hattori Unokichi radicalized moralization in the claim that Confucianism was a teaching of morality without any aspect of religion. By dereligionizing Confucianism, he tried to reappropriate Confucianism in Japan. From these different approaches to religion and morality as the possible foundations of the nation-state, we can find different philosophical understandings of Confucianism in modern Japan.

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