The intellectual and social theorist Yukichi Fukuzawa wrote An Encouragement of Learning (1872-1876) as a series of pamphlets while completing his critical masterpiece, An Outline of a Theory of Civilization (1875). These closely linked texts illustrate the core tenets of his philosophical outlook: freedom and equality as inherent to human nature, independence as the goal of any individual and nation, and the transformation of the Japanese mind as key to advancing in a rapidly evolving political and cultural world.
In these essays, Fukuzawa advocated for the adoption of Western modes of education to help the Japanese people build a modern nation. He also believed that human beings' treatment of one another extended to and was reflected in their government's behavior, echoing the work of John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and other Western thinkers in a classically structured Eastern text. This volume translates the full text into English and includes a chronology of Japanese history as it relates to Fukuzawa and his work. An introduction provides additional background on the life and influence of this profound thinker, and a selection of representative writings and suggestions for further reading fully introduce readers to the rare brilliance of his thought.
In An Encouragement of Learning, Yukichi Fukuzawa wrote that freedom and equality are inherent in man's nature, and presented ideas that John Locke or Thomas Jefferson would immediately have recognized. His logic justified the move from a highly stratified, four-class society to one in which any person could aspire to any occupation. He deliberated on the obligations between humans in society and generalized from these to relations between nations. Reading his book, you can just imagine life in a society that has suddenly become free, in which all of the trammels of caste and class have been dissolved. How might have Fukuzawa's words of encouragement helped late nineteenth-century Japanese as they faced their future?
Albert M. Craig, Harvard-Yenching Professor of Japanese History, Emeritus, Harvard University
Translator's New Foreword and Acknowledgments
Introduction by Nishikawa Shunsaku
A Note on the Text
Appendix: A Defense of Gakumon no Susume
Appendix: Chronology of Japanese History, with Special Reference to Fukuzawa Yukichi and An Encouragement of Learning
Appendix: Fukuzawa Yukichi: Some Representative Writings and Further Reading