392 pages, 75 b/w photos, 2 tables
Between the early seventeenth and the mid-nineteenth century, the field of natural history in Japan separated itself from the discipline of medicine, produced knowledge that questioned the traditional religious and philosophical understandings of the world, developed into a system (called honzogaku) that rivaled Western science in complexity – and then seemingly disappeared. Or did it? In The Knowledge of Nature and the Nature of Knowledge in Early Modern Japan, Federico Marcon recounts how Japanese scholars developed a sophisticated discipline of natural history analogous to Europe's but created independently, without direct influence, and argues convincingly that Japanese natural history succumbed to Western science not because of suppression and substitution, as scholars traditionally have contended, but by adaptation and transformation.
The first book-length English-language study devoted to the important field of honzogaku. The Knowledge of Nature and the Nature of Knowledge in Early Modern Japan will be an essential text for historians of Japanese and East Asian science and a fascinating read for anyone interested in the development of science in the early modern era.
"Books that invoke big thinkers' names abound, but few engage the ideas as profitably as this. The Knowledge of Nature and the Nature of Knowledge in Early Modern Japan is a magnificent work, erudite and sophisticated. This is the most stimulating work in the early modern field to appear in some time."
- David L. Howell, Harvard University
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Federico Marcon is assistant professor of Japanese history in the Department of History and the Department of East Asian Studies at Princeton University.