Review of Metaphysics 51 (2):432-433 (1997)

Heidegger scholars have sometimes assumed that Heidegger’s experience of thinking was unprecedented and that the peculiarity of his idiom was related to the novelty of that experience. Reinhard May’s study suggests that Heidegger’s thought is fundamentally indebted to his early familiarity with Zen Buddhist ideas and to his reading of Taoist classics, including the Tao te Ching of Lao Tse and the works of Chuang Zu, in German translations Heidegger knew by Victor von Strauss, Martin Buber and Richard Wilhelm, and, later, to his contact with Chinese and Japanese philosophers studying in Germany with Rickert, Husserl and Heidegger himself. Many European artists and intellectuals were engrossed by East Asian ideas, of course, but May’s conclusion is that Heidegger was in a sense a Taoist philosopher, and that the peculiarities of his philosophy are the same as those which inhere in East Asian philosophy, which prizes silence and rejects the hegemony of Western logic. While Heidegger’s appreciation for East Asian philosophy and his influence on modern Japanese thinkers have been noted often enough, the suggestion that the heart of Heidegger’s thought was profoundly oriented in the early 1920s by Taoist and Zen Buddhist ideas is provocative. The translator, Graham Parkes, who has supplemented his translation with an essay detailing Heidegger’s contact with Japanese philosophers, was among the first to suggest a deeper connection between Heidegger and East Asian philosophy in a series of essays he edited on Heidegger and Asian Thought, which includes contributions by Japanese and Chinese philosophers who knew Heidegger and were in contact with him for many years.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph1997512148
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