Prolonged response: The Kyoto School and the new Confucian movement as products of the Western impact

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




New Confucianism, Japan, Buddhist philosophy, Kyoto School, Confucian, Buddhist

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | History of Religions of Eastern Origins | Religion


This is a comparative and thematic study of the New Confucian movement of twentieth century China and the Kyoto School of twentieth century Japan, whose purpose is to show the two schools as a prolonged response to the Western impact.

This dissertation begins with considering the historical and cultural environments out of which the Kyoto School and New Confucianism came into being, and with discussing the evolution of the discourse of "tradition" in the debates between traditionalist and anti-traditionalist intellectuals in modern China and Japan.

Chapter two discusses the religious dimension of the New Confucians and Kyoto thinkers. Utilizing the works and bibliographical date of Tang Junyi, Mou Zongsan, Nishida Kitaro, and Nishitani Keiji, this chapter shows that their reappropriation of Confucianism and Buddhism was motivated as much by personal "spiritual" struggles as by the burning desire to preserve the nations' religious and cultural legacies.

New Confucianism and the Kyoto Philosophy are comparative religious philosophies par excellence. They stand or fall with the validity of the comparisons that these thinkers have made regarding Western and Asian religious and philosophical systems and conceptions. Chapter three discusses the "comparativist" endeavors of the two schools by showcasing the comparative philosophies of Mou Zongsan and Nishitani Keiji.

Chapter four discusses the political involvement of the two schools during the Chinese revolution and WWII, as well as the political implications for their philosophies.

This dissertation argues that the philosophies of New Confucianism and the Kyoto School ought to be viewed as a self-conscious reaction to the Western modernity, and to be evaluated with a sensitivity to their own reference systems, unique argumentation, and standards of rigor that are drastically distinct from those adopted in Western philosophical traditions. In the meantime, the political views of the New Confucians and Kyoto thinkers are best understood against the background of all the complexities surrounding the interplay between twentieth century Western imperialism and the East Asian response to it.


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