Nakae Tōju developed a distinctive philosophy centered on a novel conception of filial piety combined with a form of theism. He combined these themes with neo-Confucian metaphysics, native Shintō beliefs, and the concerns of bushidō to describe a characteristically Japanese expression of Confucianism. Roughly, Tōju expanded and transformed the scope of the traditional conception of filial feelings, refocusing them ultimately on the shared origin of the universe itself: Heaven. He understood this spontaneous filial tendency of “loving reverence” to be like Wang Yangming’s “pure knowing,” and the explicitly emotional cast of this core moral capacity linked his philosophy to Cheng Hao’s early vision and the School of Wang Yangming.
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