Japanese Ethics

Robert E. Carter

in The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195328998
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Japanese Ethics


This article provides an introduction to Japanese ethics. Many philosophers working in the field of “Western” ethics find it difficult to come to grips with those approaches to ethics taken by the Japanese. To begin with, the Japanese perceive no hard and fast dividing line between religion and philosophy. While philosophy in Japan is grounded on evidence and rigorous thinking, much of the evidence comes from four major religious influences: Shintō, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism. “True” ethics is spontaneous caring and concern for others that has been achieved by lifelong practice yielding a transformation of both understanding and action. Thus, true ethical action results from being ethical through and through. For those of us who are en route, there are still rules, regulations, calculations, and precepts, but the goal and heart of ethics is the spontaneous and selfless expression of human-heartedness.

Keywords: Japanese philosophy; ethics; Watsuji Tetsurō; Buddhism; ethical action

Article.  7466 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy

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