A Rational Method
One of the important influences on educational theory in Japan in the 1890s was the German philosopher J.F. Herbart (1776-1841), considered the founder of pedagogy as an academic discipline. Among the Herbartian concepts adopted by Makiguchi in The Geography of Human Life is the idea of multifaceted interest (vielseitige Interesse), the capacity to interact with the world in a multiplicity of ways. Echoing his earlier essay, Yama to jinsei (Mountains and Human Life), Makiguchi notes that the same geographic features will present an entirely different aspect to the observer, depending on their interests. A mountain, for example, may be appreciated for its utilitarian or economic potential, as an object of scientific measurement or observation, for its esthetic beauty, or as a source of moral or even religious inspiration. For Makiguchi, each of these different forms of interest and interaction was valid, and the ideal personality to which his educational project aspired was one in which these were fully harmonized and integrated within the individual. Thus, for Makiguchi, the inner integration of different aspects of the human personality was part and parcel of the work of integrating human activities with the workings of the natural world.
At the start of Part 1, Makiguchi outlines his method of observation, one that reveals him to be firmly rooted in the rationalist-scientific tradition.
Now as we set about observing the elements of the local community, turning our gaze in the four surrounding directions, at once a multitude of remarkable forms and shapes crowd our vision, competing for our attention and demanding our engagement, and nullifying, it would seem, our capacity to respond. We find ourselves at a loss as to how to choose among these, what to take and what to leave. Fortunately, there are a number of rules established by our predecessors over the course of past centuries and millennia to guide us here. If we follow these rules, we may be able to determine, at least to some degree, the proper order for observation. To wit, "from the close to the distant," "from the simple to the complex," "from the familiar to the unfamiliar," "from the whole to the parts," "from the outline to the details," "from cause to effect or, conversely, from effect to cause," "from the tangible to the intangible," and "from the component individual to the entirety." 1