Organized Panel Session
This paper offers a Daoist reading of Andō Shōeki’s (1703-1762) Shizenshin'eidō (The Way of Spontaneity and Authenticity) within the context of politically oriented Edo period commentaries on two ancient Confucian classics, Confucius’ Analects (Lunyu, Jp. Rongo) and the Mengzi (Jp. Mōshi). Shōeki’s signature claim that all rulers are thieves is first interpreted in relation to Confucius’ various appraisals, expressed in the Analects, of archaic legendary rulers such as Yao, Shun, Yu, Tang, and Wu. Shōeki’s thinking about Mencius and its positive appraisals of these rulers is examined as well. Earlier Edo commentaries by various leading Confucians, including Fujiwara Seika, Hayashi Razan, Itō Jinsai, Ogyū Sorai, Satō Natokata, and Asami Keisai, will also be discussed to indicate the plurality of Edo political thinking about how despotic rulers might be dealt with. Shōeki’s approach is cast as a rejection of both options of acceptance of and confrontation with despots. Instead, Shōeki is interpreted as an advocate of thinking akin to the ancient Daoist classic, the Zhuangzi (Jp. Sōshi), and its primitivistic, semi-anarchistic critiques of rulers. Overall, the paper emphasizes how multifaceted expressions of Edo political theory typically emerged as continued dialogues, or commentaries, on texts or key passages from some of the earliest philosophical writings of China. The paper further suggests that Shōeki’s thought received little credence by peers in the Edo period because of his apparent disregard of Mencius’s work, wherein ideas similar to his had already been effectively refuted.