The Happiness of the Wicked: How Tokugawa Thinkers Dealt with the Problem

Asian Philosophy 22 (2):161-175 (2012)
Abstract
Phenomena like the happiness of the wicked or the misfortune of the worthies were for Confucian thinkers, just as for Christian theologians, puzzles that their ?theories on fortune and misfortune?, just like Theodicies in the West, were trying, with some difficulty, to explain or rationalize. This article first surveys some standard explanations of the phenomena given by scholars of eighteenth-century Japan within the framework of the available monist, rationalist paradigms. Afterward, it turns to another type of representation of the world that could answer the puzzles?not, it should be stressed, by solving them, but rather by dis-solving them: by making them disappear as problems. In this new representation, for which many inhabitants of industrialized societies today have much affinity, the world in which humans live is ruled by many independent and mutually irreducible rationalities?economic, productive, military, moral (under various forms), political, physical, etc. If humans view the world in such manner, they are certainly confronted by many questions?for example the need to order or prioritize those logics in order to achieve an overarching order?but they are delivered at least of one burden: the necessity to justify scandals like the happiness of the wicked. Most such tragedies arise then simply from the encounter of different rationalities qua independent rationalities: say, the encounter of the physical laws that produce devastating earthquakes with the moral principles that lead us to attach value to human lives. There is no mystery to explain, just a tragedy to lament. The article thus captures the most important developments in political, social and economic thought of the Japanese eighteenth century through the concept of concurrent rationalities, following the thread of the treatments of the puzzle of the happy villains
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