Sakuma Shozan's Hegelian vision for Japan

Academic Article


  • By the mid-19th century, an increasing number of Japan's political leaders and scholars realized that Japan had to adapt and incorporate some elements of Western-style industrialization into their own political and economic order as the necessary means to remain independent of Western imperialism. The Opium War in China, and later the Euro-American bombardments of the domain capitals in Choshu and Satsuma demonstrated that trying to defend the realm with only an increased emphasis on coastal defense would ultimately fail to keep out the barbarians from the West. Sakuma Shozan, a samurai scholar from Matsushiro, proposed a dichotomous philosophy of 'Eastern ethics, Western science' as the means to strengthen Japan both internally and externally, and allow Japan to maintain its independence. In this paper, I argue that Sakuma's dichotomous approach can be interpreted within a Hegelian dialectical paradigm. After the traditional order of Japan (Eastern ethics as Idea/Thesis) came into contact with the industrializing order of the West (Western science as Nature/Anti-Thesis), Sakuma believed a new order would be created in Japan (Synthesis) that combined an increased knowledge on the Eastern ethics of Neo-Confucianism with the 'new' scientific knowledge of the West.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Van Sant JE
  • Start Page

  • 277
  • End Page

  • 292
  • Volume

  • 14
  • Issue

  • 3