Freedom and Equality for the Sake of National Independance?
The Liberalism of Fukuzawa Yukichi and its Shortcomings
Fukuzawa Yukichi is considered to be one of the most important Japanese philosophers during the Meiji period (1868-1912) who is known for his strong advocacy of liberal values such as freedom and equality. His plea contained the political demands of liberalising Japanese society and reforming its strict social hierarchy. However, within the logical structure of Fukuzawa’s argument, these principles only assume an instrumental value in which they are conceived as a means to secure Japan’s national independence, which ultimately weakens his endorsement of liberalism. The case of Fukuzawa Yukichi thereby constitutes a particularly important example of how the instrumental approach towards liberal rights by philosophers in Meiji Japan undermined the liberal movement itself and contributed to its own decline and the corresponding rise of nationalism.
Keywords: Liberalism, Nationalism, Fukuzawa Yukichi, Meiji Japan, Japanese Philosophy