Annals of Ethics
Online ISSN : 2434-4699
Watsuji Tetsuro’s unpublished draft “Ethics”
A study of the background of his ethical theory
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2020 Volume 69 Pages 263-276


 The purpose of this paper is to examine Watsuji Teturo’s unpublished draft “Ethics” in order to shed light on developments in his ethical theory. The draft, which is archived in the National Diet Library, is assumed to be a follow-up of his 1931 paper that bears the same title. However, to our best knowledge, the philosophical and historiographical significance of the text has not been studied up to now. Therefore, this study would be the first attempt to analyze the draft’s significance.  The draft is composed of three chapters in analogy to the 1937 and 1942 volumes of Watsuji’s magnum opus “Ethics”. The two works are distinct in terms of Watsuji’s definition of ‘ethics’(rinri-gaku): the draft defines ‘ethics’ as ‘the study of human being,’ whereas the book defines as ‘the study of the ethos’(rinri). The difference suggests that in the draft Watsuji had yet to develop his understanding of human beings in relation to ‘ethos’ as their ontological ground. The draft does not go beyond an attempt at grasping the essence of humanity in terms of its social nature, thereby describing actual human beings as social dynamisms.  The above suggests that the main characteristics of Watsuji’s magnum opus consists in its purpose to reveal the nature of ‘ethos’, thereby describing human beings as its products. In other words, it reveals the dual nature of humanity by depicting ‘ethos’ as a dialectical relation between individuals and society. Nevertheless, previous studies tend to neglect the updated definition of humanity, thus overemphasizing the social aspect of human beings. This misinterpretation is probably due researchers’ obliviousness of the existence of Watsuji’s unpublished draft, which sheds light on the intellectual development of his ‘ethics.’

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