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Study information

Mind and World in Contemporary Japanese Philosophy

Module titleMind and World in Contemporary Japanese Philosophy
Module codePHL3125
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Joel Krueger (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

TetsurÃ?� Watsuji (1889-1960) is one of the most important and original Japanese philosophers of the twentieth century. His voluminous output spanned literature, the arts, philosophy, cultural theory, sociology, and anthropology, and encompassed Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Western traditions. Watsuji wrote on many Western philosophers, from Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes to Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger. And he elevated the work of the thirteenth-century Zen Buddhist philosopher DÃ?�gen from near-total obscurity to the place he now enjoys as Japan’s first great philosopher. This module is a careful reading of Watsuji’s most influential book, Rinrigaku (Ethics). We will consider the critique of Western individualistic ethics Watsuji develops and explore the alternative model he proposes, one based on the rich network of interconnections and social relationships that make us human. Along the way, we will consider Watsuji’s discussion of topics like the nature of consciousness, self, embodiment, time, space, freedom, and Buddhist approaches to “nothingness”. We will also consider what it means to engage in cross-cultural comparative philosophy. No prior coursework or disciplinary training is necessary for taking this module.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to familiarize students with one of the key texts in twentieth-century Japanese philosophy and to see how this text can inform our thinking about a range of important philosophical topics. You will develop the skills needed to read, understand, and critically engage with a philosophical text. You will also gain familiarity with the practice of cross-cultural comparative philosophy, an understanding of challenges to doing this kind of philosophy, and an appreciation for how abstract philosophical debates can have concrete relevance to everyday life. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate comprehensive understanding of the main arguments of the discussed philosophical text
  • 2. 2 Critically evaluate the validity of the arguments of the discussed philosophical text Discipline Specific Skills and Knowledge:

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Read and gain a critical understanding of original philosophical texts
  • 4. Critically discuss philosophical arguments from source texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Analyse and evaluate difficult texts
  • 6. Communicate independent assessments of complex arguments in speaking and writing
  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to work independently, within a limited time frame, and without access to external sources, to complete a specified task.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • What is Comparative Philosophy? Who is Tetsuro Watsuji?
  • Phenomenology as Comparative Philosophy
  • Part 1: Introductory Essays
  • Part 2: The Fundamental Structure of Human Existence
  • Part 2: The Fundamental Structure of Human Existence; Part 3: The Spatio-Temporal Structure of a Human Being
  • Part 3: The Spatio-Temporal Structure of a Human Being
  • Application 1: Watsuji and Environmental Ethics
  • Application 2: Watsuji and Care Ethics
  • Application 3: Watsuji and Psychopathology

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activity22Weekly 2-hour lectures / seminars or 1 hour lecture + 1 hour seminar
Guided Independent Study44Weekly readings
Guided Independent Study5Preparation of Seminar Report
Guided Independent Study36Research and write essay
Guided Independent Study42Examination revision

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan300 words written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay501700 words1-6Written feedback
Examination501 hour1-7Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay (1700 words)1-6August/September reassessment period
ExamExam (1 hour)1-7August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Watsuji, Tetsuro (1996). Watsuji Tetsuro’s Rinrigaku: Ethics in Japan. Trans. S. Yamamoto & R. E. Carter. SUNY Press.

Carter, Robert E. (2013). The Kyoto School: An Introduction. SUNY Press.

Additional readings will be provided on ELE.

Key words search

Tetsur�� Watsuji, Ethics, Aesthetics, Phenomenology, Buddhism, Japanese Philosophy

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date