This contribution examines how the Kyoto School philosopher Miki Kiyoshi sought to justify Japanese imperialism as a project in “cosmopolitan liberation” in his anonymously authored treatise The Principles of Thought for a New Japan. It traces how Miki adopted and critiqued Immanuel Kant's political philosophy and theory of subjectivity and argues that he unwittingly moved toward a view that he explicitly rejected, Hegelian cultural universality. Miki attempted to justify Japanese imperialism through a logic of cultural mediation by which the cultures of East Asia were to be mediated—or, more plainly, subjugated—by the putative “nothingness” of Japanese culture. However, by denying a positive essence to Japanese culture, Miki merely inverts the Hegelian narrative of European cultural development as arising out of “being,” or “Spirit.” This article shows that a logical slippage arises in his argument in which Japan, as ostensibly the most mediated modern culture, becomes the site for all cultural mediation without undergoing further mediation by its East Asian colonies. This logic of mediation masks Japanese colonial violence in the form of a transhistorical philosophical argument. This article concludes by arguing that Miki's logic of mediation is the operative principle underlying contemporary multiethnic imperialist projects, such as that of the United States.
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John Namjun Kim; On the Brink of Universality: German Cosmopolitanism in Japanese Imperialism. positions 1 February 2009; 17 (1): 73–95. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-2008-026
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