Do you know any name of Japanese philosopher before Edo period (1603-1867) ? In Japan there have been many thinkers as Buddhism monk or commentator on old Chinese Scripts. But I guess you do not think of the name of Japanese philosopher like Kant or Hegel in Germany.
Baien Miura (1723 - 1789) is a unique thinker who can be regarded as a true philosopher. Among many scholars in those days who were commentator on old texts or other concrete problems, he studied the nature itself and tried to understand it by his original thought. He considered that the nature exists according to fundamental principle 'jori', which is formulized 'ONE is one-one, one-one is ONE'. This ontological principle is abstract and universal but all beings depends on it. Gengo figure that is found in his main writing 'Gengo' will show you how natural world arises according to 'jori'.
Many of his philosophical terms come from Chinese philosophy but he gave them his original meanings. For example, the most important concept 'ki (in Chinese 'chi') in his philosophy has his own meaning and become more abstract and various than its original meaning in China. I think he interpreted the nature by fundamental principle (jori) and universal categories as western philosophers did.
On the other hand, he had some conscious method for philosophy like modern western philosophers. He called it 'Hankan-gouitzu'. According to 'jori' principle he thought that we should observe natural objects from the point of pair-relations. Every object can be considered to be in one side of pair-relation, for example [water- fire] or [heaven-earth]. He insisted that we can not recognize any essence of beings without understanding this pair-relation.
And also he noticed the linguistic problem in philosophy. 'Seisyuron (the theory concerning the relation between voices (words) and objects)' show that he already had interest in human language. But the most significant point is he became aware of the limit of human intelligence and gave the idea of 'Gen (deep or dark)' to the nature itself as beyond human description.
These peculiarities of his thought represent that he is a philosopher in western sense, too. But he was also a positivist who tried to test his theory by observing natural facts. Even if his knowledge about nature is limited and he misunderstood natural beings as well (he supported the Ptolemaic system), he made effort to learn from natural facts. Compared with western philosophers, his attitude to nature should be respected because they did not understand how to relate their theory to actual facts until C.S. Pierce proposed Pragmatic Maxim.
In this home Page, I provide you Baien's 'Reply
to Taga'. It is the best 'Prolegomena' to his philosophy. Mrs. Rosemary
Mercer (Massey University in New Zealand) translated it into English. She
published 'Deep Words - Miura Baien's System of natural Philosophy' through
BRILL. In this book we can read Baien's main writings including 'Reply
to Taga' in English. I thank her very much for allowing me to publish it
in my HP.
*** Baien's Writing ***
Reply to Taga
Part 1 Part
2 Part 3 Part
4 Part 5 Part
6 Part 7
*** Related Page ***
by Mr. Robert
※ These pictures are provided by Mr. Tatsuya Kitabayashi. If you read Japanese, you can get more detailed information concerning Baien in his Home Page.