Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 1

Views of/apanese Selfhood: Japanese and \X/estem Perspectives 155

such acts of reproval of authorities are a positive responsibility of ministers.

O n e might indeed understand the principle of Mandate of Heaven as a
recognition of the greater importance of virrue in gmeral over obedience to
IE is also worth noting that even obedience per se does not lead to elimina-
tion of the self-it may in face;ncrc.ase the sclfi awareness of Itsell, for either
(or both) of two reasons. First, the self that truly tries to put its acts at the
will of others may find itself in intellectual disagreement or emotional rebel-
lion with those others? and this may jead to the point where knowledge of
one's own feelings and desires and ambitions becomes exceptionally keen,
and self-awareness and self-reflection are intensified. Second, obedience
often requires a very strong will, which is a kind of self-development, and
there can be a great deal of personal satisfaction in the exercise of such indi-
vidual will power. (These reasons are of course not unknown in the West,
where religious traditions and monastic orders in parlicular have long used
obedience for training of the soul.)
Anthropologist Robert Smith has suggested that Jayanese and Americans
have diametrically opposcd vicws of individuality and individuaIizcttion: that
Americans see persons as fundamentally alike and needing to work at the
cultivation of the desirable ends of individuality, autonomy, and creativity,
whereas Japanese understand persons as inherently different and needing ro
work at the cultivation of similarity and self-discipline.38
This brings us to a third area of difference between (many) Western views
and Confucianist ones: &c difference in ways of understanding the Aation
between the individual person and her individuality, creativity, or autonomy,
and the implications of this difference for education and action. The latter
may be mmmed up in terms of the various kinds of emphasis put on "self-
cultivation." Note that we have been considering a number of different types
of differences: differences between Western and Japanese views, differences
a m o q tile various Japanese schools of thought;, and differences bcrwcen
those Japanese views and American misconceptions or o~ersim~lihcations.
The current problem, like the problem of obedience, falls within the last cat-
egory. This is the simplistic view of Confucianism as ignoring the claims of
the individual or devaluing the self. The same category of differences has
bearing on the perception of the relation between autonomy and original-
ityicrcativity in the arts. Itss not that originality is not valued but, rather, that
it is realized differently.
Both painting and calligraphy are frequently done "in the style of" a fa-
mous artist. This process, however, does not involve copyirrg or blind imita-
tion. From the Confucianist point of view, perfect copyil~gis not only unde-
sirable, it may even be impossible.)' The reason is that a work of art can arise
only from the i n d i v i d ~ a l kof~a given pcrson in a particular environment at a
particular time. Recall the view of the individual as not essentiagy the same at
different times and in different circumstances but relative to a particular time