Chrysanthemum and the Knife

To mention the most popular introductory work on Japanese culture, many people immediately think of American anthropologist Ruth Fulton Benedict’s masterpiece, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Admittedly, since its publication in 1946, this book has gained worldwide attention, and even its Japanese version has become a bestseller in postwar Japan. Although the time for Chinese intellectuals to contact this book is a little late, there are as many as seven or eight kinds of Chinese versions of this book (including simplified and traditional Chinese characters) have been published. However, my regret is also here: after all, this is a research report with a “rush” color published nearly 80 years ago, and both the current Japan itself and the current situation of Japanese cultural research have already been published. Huge changes have taken place – therefore, if today’s Chinese people only understand the mystery of Japanese culture based on this “Chrysanthemum and the Sword” written by Benedict many years ago, they will be guilty of “carving a boat and seeking a sword” and “generalizing with partiality”. mistake.
  So, what exactly are these mistakes in? I think even at the most superficial level, Chinese readers must avoid the following “pits” when reading this book:
  The first pit: This book was first written for the US authorities, so the arrangement of some specific chapters reflects the characteristics of “policy theory” (especially chapters 1, 2 and 13). For example, the first sentence of the whole book is very clear: “Among the enemies that the United States has fought with all its strength, the Japanese have the most unpredictable temper.” Press, 1990 edition, 1 page) Obviously, this sentence points to the author’s background (i.e. the Pacific War) when he wrote the first draft of the book, and implies that the purpose of his writing was to defeat Japan by understanding the Japanese nationality Or manage post-war Japan. Although such a writing purpose was of great urgency at the time, today, when the war has long since ended and Japan has long since been democratized, such a purpose seems narrow and unrealistic. Consider this scenario: Today, an American tycoon is invited to a baseball game by a Japanese guest, and as a result, he is shocked by the baseball standard of the Japanese as an Oriental – he is even told by the Japanese guest that the Japanese Playing baseball is not a post-war trend, because Japan has established a decent professional baseball activity as early as the 1920s. So the tycoon started muttering again: Why is the Japanese, whose traditional art form seems so “un-American”, so obsessed with baseball that is so “American”? However, if he continued to read “Chrysanthemum and the Knife” with this question in mind, he would not get an answer: the focus of the book’s description was on the differences between the Japanese and the Americans, but almost nothing was said about the differences between the Japanese and the Americans. Americans’ similar sports preferences, and the common humanity that this similarity suggests.
  The second pit: Because the author is an American, she naturally uses American culture as the coordinate system for judging Japanese culture, but she does not clearly realize that American culture itself is also a kind of “abnormal” in Western culture, which leads to out of focus for many reviews based on this coordinate system. For example, at the end of Chapter 7 of the book, the author compares the Japanese view of kindness with that of the Americans: in her view, the Japanese will take any account of kindness between strangers , for fear of accepting the kindness of strangers and forgetting to repay; in contrast, Americans are less sensitive to intangible accounts of kindness, but only to tangible money accounts. Obviously, Benedict seems to want to use this as a basis to highlight the weirdness of Japanese culture. Here, however, she owes us an explanation: why must it be A, not B, that should be labeled “anomalous” when there is a difference between the two things A and B? For example, as far as the concept of grace and righteousness is concerned, I have heard Chinese friends who have long-term working and living experience in the United States complain more than once that Americans seem to lack perception of the concept of “owing favor”, and sometimes appear to be too “heartless”. lung”.
  The third pit: From a theoretical point of view, Benedict is a believer in cultural relativism. Therefore, The Chrysanthemum and the Knife is an anthropological work with cultural relativism as its philosophical premise—but it is precisely not a generally agreed premise. So, what is “cultural relativism”? In the author’s more academic work, “Cultural Patterns,” she makes the point that any culture has a self-contained system of moral motivation, and that when making cross-cultural comparisons, outside observers must One cannot favor one over another, but can only be understood sympathetically from within a particular culture. Although I don’t think her study of Japanese culture has carried out her methodology thoroughly enough, the negative effects of cultural relativism are on full display in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: in short, in In this book, she does not try to explain the specificity of Japanese culture on the basis of some universal human nature or cultural theory, but only lists the specificity she sees externally, which makes Her discussion lacks a deep enough philosophical dimension.
  These shallow diagnoses above will help us uncover some of the more important omissions in Benedict’s argument:
  One of the omissions: the author’s acquiescence to the American cultural coordinate system makes the author almost miss “feudal culture”, a more suitable framework tool for analyzing Japanese culture. The short history of the United States has basically not experienced the “feudal” stage. Therefore, it is difficult for individuals immersed in American culture to understand the strict hierarchy formed in the long-term feudal tradition. In ancient Japanese history, daimyo from various places often controlled actual power for a long time. Even after Tokugawa Ieyasu unified Japan, the feudal system itself was still preserved, without replacing it with the prefecture system that was used in the Chinese Empire. In this way, an individual’s obedience to a particular feudal lord became part of the Japanese cultural DNA over time, and continues to exist in Japan today as a Japanese corporate culture.
  The second omission: Benedict’s listing of the cultural phenomena she observed lacks a process of “free imagination change” as the German philosopher Husserl called it. For example, when discussing the Japanese view of loyalty and righteousness, Benedict did spend a lot of space discussing the story of “The Forty-Seven Ronin’s Revenge for the Lord” (the so-called “Loyalty Treasures” story, see the book 138- 139), but she makes little effort to slightly alter the original case in order to explore whether similar stories in other cultures constitute some kind of cultural commonality with Japanese-style revenge stories. In contrast, any reader who has a little knowledge of Chinese traditions will think of Chinese variants of the story through the story of “Loyalist Tibetan”, such as the story of Yu Rang’s assassination of Zhao Xiangzi, the story of Nie Zheng’s assassination of Xia Lei. The story, the assassination of Sun Ce by the Xu Gongmen, and the institutionalization of the above-mentioned behavior by the popular theory of “great revenge” in the Han Dynasty. Obviously, such observations can immediately dilute the specificity of Benedict attached to Japanese culture, and make the study of Japanese revenge culture a window into the general behavioral tendencies of human beings.
  The third omission: Benedict’s way of focusing on the specificity of Japanese culture is often influenced by certain literal information, but lacks the pursuit of the true meaning of relevant cultural keywords. Take the following statement, which has had widespread influence in Chinese thought circles as an example: Benedict pointed out that when Japanese culture introduced Chinese Confucian culture, it castrated “ren” and only emphasized “loyalty” (see pages 83-84 of the book). ). The above discussion actually ignores a basic fact: the same Chinese characters may refer to different concepts, situations or facts in the Chinese and Japanese languages ​​(friends who know a little about Japanese may wish to think about the meaning of “big man” in Japanese: “It doesn’t matter” ). To be more specific, if Benedict’s claim is true, and in Japanese culture “benevolence and righteousness” refers to uninstitutionalized favors beyond convention (see page 83 of the book), then in Chinese culture In , the meaning of “benevolence” is obviously different from that. In other words, the Chinese-style “ren” can be completely institutionalized, and thus constitute a fixed phrase like “renzheng”. The so-called “benevolent government” mainly refers to the low tax and welfare policies that an imperial government that conforms to Confucian tastes should implement (on the contrary, high tax and low welfare policies will be criticized by Confucians as “tyranny”). Therefore, the “benevolence” in Japan does not completely overlap with the “benevolence” in China. Therefore, commentators must not start from the Japanese’s few words of benevolence and righteousness on the surface, and deduce the “benevolence, righteousness and morality of the Japanese in the Chinese sense.” don’t care” conclusion. In fact, if we judge whether Japanese culture has the element of “benevolence” from the perspective of “real” rather than “name”, we can make a positive evaluation: due to the long feudal history of Japanese history, Chinese-style The “benevolent government” in Japan is mainly practiced within feudal groups, and has been institutionalized as a customary law within the relevant groups (for example, the “yearly merit system” of Japanese-style companies includes a complete set of employee welfare and security systems, can cover the decades from employee entry to death). Interestingly, according to the above-mentioned standards, the American-style free employment system, which lacks protection for the interests of employees, lacks the color of “benevolence” – in this regard, Benedict, an American, does not say a word.

  From this point of view, in order to gain a deep understanding of Japanese culture, Chinese intellectuals must get rid of the curious mentality of “looking at a diorama” as presupposed by “Chrysanthemum and the Sword”, and must seriously regard Japanese cultural studies as a general sense. A special case of the study of human civilization, thus re-understanding “particularity” in the dialectical dialogue between “universality” and “particularity”. This kind of change of research attitude naturally needs to presuppose a general research framework with universal significance. Two of them are worth considering:
  the first is an evolutionary framework in some general sense. For example, the emergence of the Japanese-style view of kindness can be studied under the title of “evolution of altruistic behavior”: specifically, the Japanese intolerance of ungrateful behavior can actually be seen as a variety of Some form of cultural intolerance toward “free-riding” (in the system of evolutionary ethics, “free-riding” refers to behavior that benefits others without giving them anything in return). As for why Americans care more about tangible money debts than intangible human debts than Japanese, it can also be explained by the fact that the capitalist culture of American society is more developed than that of Japan, so Americans are accustomed to all human favors. All favors are converted into monetary forms, and they show indifference to those human relationships that cannot be handled in this way; while Japan’s long-term feudal hierarchy makes it difficult for ordinary Japanese to calculate the favor and righteousness entanglement relationship with individuals outside the feudal group, Therefore, they tend to simply avoid such entanglements (for example, during the Warring States Period, the average Japanese had no way of knowing how the war alliance relationship between the various daimyo was established, and therefore, they also lacked the scope of the “name theory”. Spiritual training to deal freely with contracts). Such a historical tradition eventually led to the Japanese habit of “trying not to owe the debt of favor to strangers, so as not to damage the honor”.
  The second perspective that cuts into Japanese culture is of a philosophical nature—the “philosophy” here refers especially to the Japanese philosophy represented by the “Kyoto School” formed after the Meiji Restoration in Japan. Briefly, the essence of Kyoto School philosophy is to use the terms and argumentation methods of European philosophy (especially German philosophy) that Japanese thinkers had just learned at that time, to give the thought of Eastern Buddhism (such as Tiantai School, Pure Land School, Zen Buddhism, etc.) A philosophical form of re-elaboration. Its closest form in the history of Western philosophy is Schopenhauer’s philosophy, because the essence of Schopenhauer’s philosophy is to use Kantian philosophical terms to complete the restatement of Buddhism and Hinduism. Although the thinkers of the Kyoto School were still accustomed to writing in Japanese, their philosophical framework was still universal for the following reasons: the discourse system of European philosophy borrowed by Japanese philosophers was universal (for example, when Plato When he came up with the “Theory of Ideas” in ancient Greek, he did not think that the theory was meaningful only to the Greeks); the philosophical arguments Japanese philosophers borrowed from the European tradition (including those based on formal logic and those based on Hegelianism); The way of argumentation of dialectical logic) is also universal; the Buddhist position based on “nothing” or “emptiness” which Japanese philosophers try to defend is also universal. The peculiarity of Japanese philosophers is that they organically integrated the above-mentioned different elements, and finally created some new philosophical theories that combine the East and the West, such as the place philosophy of Nishida Kitaro, the contingency philosophy of Jiugui Zhouzao, and Tsuji Tetsuro’s philosophy of terroir, Tanabe Moto’s “species” philosophy, Miki Kiyoshi’s philosophy based on “creative imagination”, Nishiya Keiji’s “empty” philosophy, and so on. In comparison, this kind of philosophical research path of “taking Western philosophy as the skin and Eastern thought as the filling” is relatively rare in both Western philosophy and Chinese philosophy. It is Schopenhauer who should be reconciled; and in the history of Chinese philosophy in the twentieth century, the absorption of Western philosophical resources by the Neo-Confucianists represented by Mou Zongsan has not actually achieved the goal of “completely changing the East in accordance with the academic norms of Western philosophy”. Philosophical Appearance”. It should also be noted that these philosophical achievements completed by the Kyoto School are not only aimed at Japanese culture, but have an ideological attempt to “stand on the basis of Japanese culture and embrace human civilization”.
  So, can the general philosophical framework given by Japanese philosophers, in turn, provide an explanation for the special cultural phenomenon proposed in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword? The answer is yes.
  In Chapter 12 (p. 197) of The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Benedict mentions the difference between Japanese sexual attitudes and Western culture: Japanese men and women, both men and women, change their sexuality according to their environment and location. Sexual Attitudes – For example, Japanese men can be highly reserved in the workplace, but far more presumptuous when accompanied by a geisha; at the same time, Japanese culture’s requirements for women’s behavior vary with age and occasion. Change and change without distinguishing women as “virgins” and “sluts” as Westerners do.
  The characteristic of Japanese sexual attitudes that “change according to the place” can be fully explained in Nishida Kitaro’s “place logic”. In his essay “Location” first published in 1926, Kitaro Nishida, the leading philosopher of the Kyoto School, made a severe critique of the subject-predicate logic popular in traditional Western philosophy. The essence of subject-predicate logic is that the core of a judgment is its subject (such as “Pan Jinlian”), and the related predicate (such as “slut”) is a supplement to the subject. Users of subject-predicate logic often acquiesce that the world is composed of relatively stable people (such as Pan Jinlian, Wu Dalang, etc.) and physical objects (such as cooking cakes, poisons), and related predicates can help us to understand these people or things are classified. It is not difficult to imagine that the application of this logic by a metaphysical system can easily lead to a substantive ontological view, that is, there are some people or objects in the world that can undergo various predicate changes and remain unchanged (in Western In the philosophical tradition, “substance” originally refers to the matrix that carries various changes and remains unchanged). Therefore, this kind of thinking can easily lead Western philosophers to ignore a fundamental question: how does a specific subject combine with a specific predicate? For example, how did the subject “Pan Jinlian” get labeled as a “slut”?
  This question, which has been ignored by the mainstream of Western philosophy, constitutes the starting point of Nishida’s philosophical speculation. In Nishida’s view, any combination of subject and predicate depends on the speaker’s comprehension of a specific “place”, and changes in place will immediately lead to different subject-predicate matching results. For example, in the context of “Water Margin”, Pan Jinlian’s betrayal of her husband made her a “slut”; but in the context of “Three Kingdoms”, Diaochan was tossing between different men. Her behavior makes her a heroine—this difference in evaluation is obviously due to the fact that Pan Jinlian’s and Diaochan’s behaviors have different deep meaning fields. It should also be noted that while the shallow field itself can be stated, the deep field has certain characteristics that are difficult to fully articulate—for example, if you think that the behavior of Diaochan can be rationalized How can you make it clear what is “morality” without leading to circular definitions? Obviously, in Nishida’s view, the grasp of “morality” can only be carried out by relying on some pre-linguistic intuition, rather than relying on the mechanical definition of “genus plus species difference”. Moreover, it is precisely these seemingly inexplicable understandings of “place” that enable those relatively clear subject-predicate judgments to be formed—the relationship between the two is quite similar to the invisible movement of the mantle and the visible relationship between plate motions.

  If we use this new analytical framework to look at the description of Japanese sexual attitudes in “Chrysanthemum and the Sword”, it is not difficult to obtain a better explanation for this phenomenon. Specifically, from the standpoint of site logic, the judgment of whether a gender relationship is appropriate is not particularly related to the objects referred to by a specific subject (that is, a specific male or female individual), but the interaction with these objects. The characteristics of the place itself are related. As for the specificity of the specific place itself, specific cues are provided to the actors in order to tell them exactly how to control the scale of behavior. Apparently, a standard Japanese would receive similar training from an early age on how to translate implicit information in a given place into more explicit behavior. This kind of training based on “place perception” has even influenced the way anime is produced in Japan today: for example, when dubbing an anime, even if a character’s lines are only a few sentences, the voice actor who is dubbing it must cooperate with each other. Other voice actors complete the collective dubbing in the same dubbing workspace, so as to feel the aura of the entire anime, and finally make the dubbing effect as perfect as possible.
  Western readers might complain that Japanese culture’s high reliance on the implicit message of “place” does make Japanese culture very difficult to understand – but let’s not forget that Nishida’s “logic of place” is not just for Japanese culture. Tailor-made, but can in turn constitute an explanation for any kind of human culture. In other words, in Nishida’s view, even Westerners rely on the implicit information in the “place” when making judgments, but the scope and frequency of their dependence is not as good as that of Japanese culture. Of course, the task of explaining why Westerners are less reliant on implicit information in “places” should be left to anthropologists, linguists, and social psychologists rather than philosophers—but whatever they may No matter what the explanatory scheme is given, it does not affect the generality of the philosophical view itself. In fact, a Western philosopher can see the possibility of deconstructing Western metaphysical traditions from Nishida’s philosophy, just as Van Gogh saw the possibility of deconstructing Western traditional painting traditions from Japanese Ukiyo-e. In this sense, Nishida’s philosophy (and other Kyoto School philosophers), which attempted to stand against the Western philosophical tradition, belonged to the world, not just Japan or Japan, as did Derrida’s philosophy, which also attempted to do so. French.
  From this point of view, if one really wants to understand the mysteries of Japanese culture and see the complex relationship between Japanese culture and world culture on this basis, “Chrysanthemum and the Sword” is definitely not a reliable introductory work. Even for those readers who are afraid of the obscure expressions of Japanese philosophy, the introductory book I would like to recommend is by no means “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”, but “On the Frontiers of Japan” by the Japanese writer Mr. Uchida. Because the book accurately grasps the pluralistic structural characteristics of Japanese culture of “the combination of the East and the West”, and makes a reasonable cultural psychological analysis on the causes of the structure. Of course, because of my philosophical background, I still have to insist: Japanese philosophy represented by the Kyoto School is the ultimate ideological framework for understanding Japanese culture. As a Chinese scholar who is close to Japan, I feel ashamed that in the study of Japanese philosophy, the Chinese intellectual circle has been left far behind by the English-speaking academic circle. In 2020, Oxford University Press has published the “Oxford Handbook of Japanese Philosophy”. The book contains the existing research results of Japanese philosophy in the international academic community. The Japanese philosophers involved are not only the modern Kyoto School , including Kukai, Qinluan and other ancient Buddhist philosophers. For the Chinese philosophical circle, which generally lacks Japanese philosophical knowledge, the primary task now is to catch up with the research progress of the English-speaking world, and seize the time to make up for their own shortcomings in knowledge. In this process, getting rid of the negative impact of “Chrysanthemum and the Sword” on our view of Japan is only the first step.