- Itō Jinsai
, who also went by the
pen nameKeisai, was a Japanese Confucian philosopher and educator. He is considered to be one of the most influential Confucian scholars of seventeenth century Japan. His Kogigaku school rejected the Neo-Confucianismof Zhu Xiand instead advocated looking to the original works. His school is considered part of a larger school, Kogaku, led by scholars such as Yamaga Sokōand Ogyū Sorai. He believed human emotion should be allowed to express itself, and introduced Chinese poetryto his school for this reason.
Itō Jinsai was born the eldest son of a Kyoto merchant, Itō Ryōshitsu. He began studying Chinese from an early age and devoted himself to Zhu Xi's Song Confucianism. By the age of ten, he was learning under his uncle, a noted
physicianwho had once treated the emperor Go-Yōzei. Together they commented on works such as "The Great Learning". He continued to study Confucianism throughout his teens, going over old books his uncle had left his father. [Yamashita, Samuel Hideo. (1983). "The Early Life and Thought of Ito Jinsai," in "Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies." 43:2, pp. 455-457.] Itō suffered from an illness when he was twenty-eight and left the family business to his younger brother. Afterwards he became a recluse, studying Buddhismand Daoism, and at this time began to have his first doubts over Zhu Xi's philosophy, even changing his pen name which showed his commitment to humaneness ("jin").De Bary, William "et al." (2005). "Sources Of Japanese Tradition: Volume 2, 1600 to 2000," pp. 206-207.] He established a private school, the Kogidō, in Kyoto in 1662 with the help of his son Tōgai. The Kogidō was located on the east bank of the Horikawa River, directly across from the school of Yamazaki Ansai, which was a great proponent of Song Confucianism and rejected the place of poetry in philosophy. Itō's school, in contrast, offered a sustained critique of Song Confucianism. The school met with great success, attracting three thousand students from many different classes and professions.Shirane, Haruo. (2006). "Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900." p. 362.]
Itō formed his own understanding of Confucian philosophy after coming to realize that the speculative philosophy of Song Confucianism was not practical in implementing in everyday ethics. Instead, he felt one could learn the way of the sages through understanding of the "
Analects" and the " Mencius", the original two of the Four Books. The other two, "The Doctrine of the Mean" and " The Great Learning", were theories and elaborations added by later philosophers. It was upon these latter two that had formed the basis of Song Confucianism which Itō thought were closer to Buddhism and Daoism than the original works. As such, Itō's approach was to abandon these later commentaries and rather focus on the interpretation of the "Analects" and the "Mencius". His method was a careful linguistic reconstruction of the works' meaning. This is today known as "kogigaku" or "study of ancient meanings". This approach was taken up by later Confucian scholars, particularly Ogyū Sorai. [see above] ]
Itō has several fundamental philosophical disagreements with Song Confucianism. For one, the Zhu Xi school had claimed that human nature is inherently good. Itō disagreed and instead argued it had the potential to become good, but only through daily practice and deeds can this potential be realized. Additionally, he rejected the dualism of rational principal ("li") and material force ("
qi") proposed by Song Confucianism, believing it was material force alone that led to the creation of life and all things. Furthermore, Song Confucianism connected the Heavenly Way ("tendō") with the Human Way ("jindō") through rational principal. Itō on the other hand saw the Way ("michi") as being embedded in the common and everyday, and not some elevated plane as the Song Confucianists had. To Itō, the material force of the world was constantly shifting, and the main question had become how to conduct oneself in everyday life. Song Confucianists felt that all humans were born of "original human character" ("sei"), including being naturally good and with moral virtues, Itō however rejected this, and became even more concerned with the idea of everyday conduct. His solution was simply to stress natural human emotions ("ninjō"), which he found to be rooted in everyday life and constantly changing based on such. Extending from this came the importance that was placed on poetry which allowed for the expression of human emotions. This, he believed, provided a needed release of emotions and desires. Song Confucianism he felt too much advocated seriousness and a restraint of human nature. [see above] ] His support for literature even led to the Kogidō attracting some students more interested in Chinese poetry than his Confucian teachings. [see above] ]
* "The Meaning of Words in the Analects and Mencius" (Gomō jigi, 1683)
* "Questions From Children" (Dōjimon, 1693)
* "Postscripts to the Collected Works of Bo Juyi" (Hakushimonjū, 1704)
* De Bary, William Theodore, Arthur E. Tiedemann and Carol Gluck. (2005). "Sources Of Japanese Tradition: 1600 to 2000." New York:
Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12984-X
* Shirane, Haruo. (2006). "Early Modern Japanese Literature." New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-10990-3
* Yamashita, Samuel Hideo (1983). "The Early Life and Thought of Ito Jinsai," in "Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies." 43(2): 455-7.
* East Asia Institute,
University of Cambridge: [http://www.oriental.cam.ac.uk/jbib/edoint3.html Further reading/bibliography]
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