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  • Japanese Environmental Philosophy ed. by Baird Callicott and James McRae
  • Lucy Schultz (bio)
Japanese Environmental Philosophy. Edited by Baird Callicott and James McRae. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xxvi + 310. Paperback $45.00, isbn 978-0-19-045633-7.

Japanese Environmental Philosophy is the latest contribution to an ever-growing discourse on non-Western and comparative approaches to nature and the environment spurred in no small part by the renowned environmental ethicist, J. Baird Callicott. This volume is the second book edited by Callicott and James McRae, the first being Environmental Philosophy in Asian Traditions of Thought (SUNY 2014). The latter is considered a sequel to Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought, edited by Callicott and Roger T. Ames, first published in 1989. As the most recent and most specialized of these three, Japanese Environmental Philosophy provides timely perspectives on the ecological exigencies facing our world while also offering essential scholarship in the burgeoning field of Japanese philosophy. This expertly curated collection contains essays covering a variety of approaches to environmental philosophy including more theoretical chapters on the concept of nature and Japanese metaphysical, religious and philosophical worldviews, as well as concrete discussions of the implementation of policy, cultural attitudes and responses to natural disasters. The contributing authors are representative of leading scholarship in Japanese philosophy from the United States, Europe, Japan, and Australia. Overall the entries are highly readable for those without prior knowledge of Japanese philosophy, and the ideas will engage those immersed in discourses of environmental philosophy. In fact, those who consider themselves specialists in these fields will be particularly interested in this book because it offers fresh perspectives on key debates.

Scholars of Japanese and comparative philosophy will enjoy this anthology for its exciting new work on Shintō, Zen, Pure Land Buddhism, and Kyoto School philosophy, in dialogue with major figures in the history of Western philosophy such as Plato, Heidegger, Whitehead, Leopold, and many others. Those working within environmental philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics will benefit from a sustained engagement with this volume because of the valuable insights afforded by the Japanese tradition. The scope of the ecological crises facing the planet in the twenty-first century are monumental and global, making it imperative that we all reflect on and critique the ideologies and cultural practices that have brought us to this point. In order to do this effectively we must [End Page 1] consider the issues from a variety of cultural perspectives. As the editors write in their introduction to Environmental Philosophy in Asian Traditions of Thought, "The comparative study of very different ways of viewing the world and different values concerning the world can reveal deep assumptions that might escape critical reflection in the absence of alternative assumptions."1 Often times what might seem self-evident within a given intellectual sphere is conceived differently or may even be absent in another. Callicott and McRae use the example of the concept of wilderness, which upon examination proves to be a distinctly Western concept. Imposing the Western value of wilderness preservation on other parts of the world has the potential to be harmful, especially to indigenous peoples. By expanding the conversation to include diverse cultural perspectives, not only will our philosophical understanding of nature and environmental problems be enriched, our approach to addressing these problems will be better informed.

There are many cultures whose views on nature and environment are fascinating and useful for understanding the relationship between humans and nature and are deserving of an anthology devoted to them. Japanese culture is certainly one of them. In the foreword to Japanese Environmental Philosophy Carl B. Becker explains how Japan's traditional, rural ways of life that valued humility, simplicity, and closeness to nature have shifted over time, becoming more modernized and conforming to the economic demands of the globalized world, often to the physical and spiritual detriment of its people. The need for environmental philosophy in Japan is as strong as anywhere, but there are unique resources in the Japanese tradition for cultivating ecological ways of thinking and living that have relevance beyond Japan. A central insight of WATSUJI Tetsurō, one of Japan's most prominent ethical thinkers who receives a...


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