Tetsuro Watsuji (和辻 哲郎 Watsuji Tetsurō) (March 1 1889–December 26 1960) was a Japanese moral philosopher, cultural historian, and intellectual historian.
Watsuji was born in Himeji
, Hyōgo Prefecture
to a physician. During his youth he enjoyed poetry and had a passion for Western literature. For a short time he was the coeditor of a literary magazine and was involved in writing poems and plays. His interests in Philosophy came to light while he was a student at First Higher School in Tokyo, although his interest in literature would always remain strong throughout his life. In his early writings (between 1913 and 1915) he introduced the work of Soren Kierkegaard
to Japan, as well as working on Friedrich Nietzsche
, but in 1918 he turned against this earlier position, criticizing Western philosophical individualism
, and attacking its influence on Japanese thought and life. This led to a study of the roots of Japanese culture, including Japanese Buddhist art
, and notably the work of the mediæval Zen Buddhist Dogen
. Watsuji was also interested in the famous Japanese writer Natsume Sōseki
, whose books were influential during Watsuji's early years.
In the early 1920s Watsuji taught at Toyo, Hosei and Keio universities, and at Tsuda Eigaku-juku.
In 1925 Watsuji became professor of ethics at Kyoto University, joining the other leading philosophers of the time, Nishida Kitaro and Tanabe Hajime. He held the university's chair in ethics from 1934 until 1949. During World War II his ethical theories (which claimed the superiority of Japanese approaches to and understanding of human nature and ethics, and argued for the negation of self) provided support for certain nationalistic, military factions — a fact which, after the war, he said that he regretted.
Watsuji died at the age of seventy-one, his philosophical influence in Japan continuing long after his death.
Watsuji's three main works were his two-volume 1954 History of Japanese Ethical Thought
, his three-volume Rinrigaku
), first published in 1937, 1942, and 1949, and his 1935 Fudo
. The last of these develops his most distinctive thought. In it, Watsuji argues for an essential relationship between climate and other environmental factors and the nature of human cultures, and he distinguished three types of culture: pastoral, desert, and monsoon. (The French
had developed a theory along similar lines, though with very different conclusions.)
- 1961–1963: Watsuji Tetsurō Zenshū (Complete Works of Tetsuro Watsuji) 20 volumes (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten)
- 1988: Climate and Culture: A Philosophical Study trans. from Fudo by Geoffrey Bownas (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press)
- 1996: Watsuji Tetsurō's Rinrigaku: Ethics in Japan trans. from Ririgaku'' by Seisaku Yamamoto & Robert Carter (Albany: State University of New York Press)
Sources and external links