Confucian Logic in Sakuma Shōzan’s Political Ideas
33 , 2017-09-25 , 九州大学大学院地球社会統合科学府
This paper examines the role Confucianism played in Sakuma Shōzan’s political thought. Sakuma Shōzan was a philosopher in the late Edo period. Previous research has mainly focused on the so-called “modern” political awareness that manifested in Shōzan’s ideas. Furthermore, scholars generally hold that Confucian conceptions like “morality” were less prominent in his thinking due to an insistence on the significance of national strength. Through an examination of Sakuma Shōzan’s assertions on military, politics, and political reform, this paper sheds light on aspects of Confucian studies that have been marginalized in previous literature. Faced with external threats that plagued Japan, Shōzan advocated for urgent strengthening in order to acquire the same military capabilities as countries in the West. However, he developed the specifics for this plan by drawing on philosophical thought from ancient Chinese eras, such as Yao, Shun, and Yu, as well as the three dynasties of Hsia, Yin, and Zhou. Even when elaborating on his proposals to reform the political system, he drew on figures that appeared in Confucian texts. For Shōzan, Confucianism played a role not only in offering political lessons, models, and prototypes for reform, but also in providing a moral compass for the head of state to use as a guide. The political patterns that were idealized in the ancient Chinese concept of “rule by virtue” lay the foundations for Shōzan’s morality driven political ideas.