Volume 61, 2018
Philosophy of Religion
Seung Chul Kim
Buddhist Appropriation of Darwinian Theory in Modern Northeast Asia
This paper inquiries into the way in which the worldview of natural science was received by the Buddhist world in modern Northeast Asia, focusing on the figures of Han Yong Woon (1879-1944), a Korean Zen monk, and two Japanese Buddhist scholars, Kiyozawa Manshi (1863-1903) and Minakata Kumagusu (1867-1841). These distinguished Buddhist scholars lived through a turbulent period in the histories of Korea and Japan when the two countries faced demands to modernize in their encounters with Western civilization. My paper deals with the questions of why and how the three scholars became interested in understanding social Darwinism as a worldview rooted in the Darwinian model of nature. Part of this story has to do with Northeast Asia’s interest in progress made in the natural sciences and how the methods of Western science were appropriated in distinctively Korean and Japanese ways that remain of interest even today.