Confucianism, Kant, and the Pacifist Tradition in the Constitution of Japan

Benedict S.B. Chan*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    The debate over Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan is a practical case in the ethics of war and peace. Critics of the Constitution claim that its pacifist sentiment was completely foreign to Japanese culture before 1947, when the Constitution came into effect. However, other scholars argue that pacifist ideas were part of Japanese culture long before 1947. This chapter focuses on the philosophical side of the pacifist tradition in the Constitution (in short, “the Japanese pacifist tradition”), with two main aims. First, the chapter aims to show that instead of debating whether the Constitution is completely foreign to Japan, we should discuss the long-term dialogues and interactions between the Japanese pacifist tradition and philosophical theories outside Japan. On this front, the chapter discusses in detail two overseas philosophical theories: Kant’s philosophy of perpetual peace and Confucianism. The chapter’s second aim is to demonstrate that the Japanese pacifist tradition has an anti-war focus. The chapter explains why this conclusion implies that the Japanese pacifist tradition can be considered a close relative of or even a pioneer in contingent pacifism, a new understanding of pacifism from within the just war tradition. This finding also explains why individual self-defense is morally permissible in the Japanese pacifist tradition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationWarfare Ethics in Comparative Perspective
    Subtitle of host publicationChina and the West
    EditorsSumner B. Twiss, Ping-cheung Lo, Benedict S. B. Chan
    Place of PublicationLondon
    Number of pages18
    ISBN (Electronic)9781003336372
    ISBN (Print)9781032373126, 9781032373119
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2024

    Publication series

    NameWar, Conflict and Ethics

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Arts and Humanities(all)
    • Social Sciences(all)


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