1. Th is chapter covers such phenomena as swamp gas, phosphorescent light, and
foxfi re, phenomena that produce the appearance of a fl ame in the absence of heat. See
Obata Tokujirō, “Tenpen chii.”
2. One ken equals 1.99 yards.
3. Obata, “Tenpen chii,” 36– 38.
4. Th is turn toward certainty following a period of chaos is also the basis of Stephen
Toulmin’s explanation for the eclipse of Re nais sance humanism and rise of Cartesian
rationalism aft er the Th irty- Years War. See Toulmin, Cosmopolis.
5. Th omas, Reconfi guring Modernity, 62. Th e “just laws of nature” have also been
translated as “according to international usage”: see Tanaka, New Times in Modern
Japan, 9.
6. Th is line of thinking applies to even the most “nature as subject” theorists of Meiji
liberalism, such as Ueki Emori. While in Ueki’s thought nature grants humans with
rights (tenpu jinken), those rights are explained as objective and indiff erent to human
values or abilities: “Th e rights of nature (ten) are possessed by everyone . . . whether
rich or poor, strong or weak, all men are the same under heaven.” Ueki Emori, quoted
in Reitan, “Ethics and Natural Rights Th eory,” 12.
7. “It is remarkable how Darwin rediscovers, among the beasts and plants, the
society of En gland with its division of labour, competition, opening up of new markets,
‘inventions’ and Malthusian ‘struggle for existence.’ See Marx and Engels, Karl Marx,
Frederick Engels: Collected Works, 41:380.
8. Obata, “Tenpen chii,” 40.
9. Th e protagonist in Obata’s example from Vesuvius does not survive.
10. Obata’s theory of earthquakes was the then current belief that they were the
result of surface water trickling down through cracks in the earth’s surface and
coming into contact with a hot core, at which point the resulting steam, having
nowhere to go, shook the earth. When the steam was able to make it to the surface,
the result was a volcanic eruption, meaning that earthquakes and volcanoes are
merely diff erent expressions of the same principle. Th is steam theory of earthquakes
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