- Civilization and Enlightenment: The Early Thought of Fukuzawa Yukichi
At one time, the thoughts of early Meiji intellectuals were explained and evaluated within the framework of “tradition” versus “modernity,” as if there had been a single, unified “tradition” in Japan and, at the same time, a single, coherent “modernity” in Europe and North America. For example, Carmen Blacker characterized Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835–1901) as “the most comprehensive exponent of the doctrines of Enlightenment” in “the movement to modernise Japan.” But she never explained concretely which parts of Fukuzawa’s thought were the same as the “doctrines” of the philosophes of the “Enlightenment” of the eighteenth century. She just crudely opposed “a ‘scientific’ view of the external world” (i.e., a “modern” and “enlightened” Western view) with “the old ideas of value, of practical morals, of history and of political obligation”1 (i.e., Confucianism). (Probably she forgot, when she wrote the book on Fukuzawa, that the “Enlightenment” was only one aspect of modern Europe and that the twentieth century had proved amply that a “scientific view of the external world” could coexist with any barbarity and bigotry.)
Such a time passed away long ago, at least among Japanese academic historians. They no longer simplistically ask to what extent a Meiji thinker was “modern” (i.e., “scientific,” “secular,” “democratic,” or “liberal”). They now ask which versions of which books, printed in Europe or North America, he read; and they try to figure out specifically how and what he learned from them. Although the Western books read in the Meiji period are not necessarily famous today, they are important in the context of Japanese history.
For instance, major studies on Nakae Chōmin (1847–1901), who translated Du contrat social into classical Chinese, analyze his thought not only in relation to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Confucianism but also in relation to minor contemporary French thinkers, such as Émile Acollas (1825–1891), Jules Barni (1818–1878), and André Paul Émile [End Page 462] Lefèvre (1834–1904), whose books Chōmin read.2 A recent study elucidates the thoughts of Nishi Amane (1829–1897) and Tsuda Mamichi (1829–1903) in relation to both Simon Vissering (1818–1888), who was their tutor during their stay in Leiden (1863–1865), and other Dutch scholars, such as Johan Rudolph Thorbecke, Hendrik Cock, and Cornelis Willem Opzoomer.3 (This study leaves one with the impression that anyone without a good command of Dutch and a deep knowledge of nineteenth-century Dutch intellectual history is not qualified to do research on Nishi Amane and Tsuda Mamichi.)
Similarly, Anzai Toshimitsu has been meticulously analyzing Fukuzawa’s marginal notes on the Western books he read.4 Matsuzawa Hiroaki discovered that the author of the petitions to Queen Victoria and the British Parliament in 1861, which had a great impact on young Fukuzawa’s thought, was George Crawshay (1821–1896), a mid-Victorian radical. Matsuzawa articulated the meaning of a Crawshayan moment in Fukuzawa’s thought.5
The long-awaited book on Fukuzawa by Albert Craig stands among the vanguard of Fukuzawa studies in terms of its exquisite methodology. As every Fukuzawa researcher knows, in 1984 Craig contributed enormously toward the advancement of Fukuzawa studies by identifying the anonymous author of Political Economy for Use in Schools, and for Private Instruction, a work published by William and Robert Chambers in 1852. This book taught Fukuzawa the basic structure of modern Western society, as depicted by a mid-Victorian liberalist.6 Fukuzawa translated its major part into Japanese and published it in 1868 as Gaihen (Supplementary volume) to accompany his bestseller, Seiyo jijo (Conditions in the West). The author, John Hill Burton [End Page 463] (1809–1881), was a prolific independent writer of biography, history, law, and economics.
According to his wife, although Burton’s “greatest mental defect was an almost entire want of imagination,” when he began his literary endeavaors “he rapidly acquired a power of mastering almost any subject on which he had to write.”7 His books include Life and Correspondence of...