: Two major philosophers of the twentieth century, the German existential phenomenologist Martin Heidegger and the seminal Japanese Kyoto School philosopher Nishida Kitarō are examined here in an attempt to discern to what extent their ideas may converge. Both are viewed as expressing, each through the lens of his own tradition, a world in transition with the rise of modernity in the West and its subsequent globalization. The popularity of Heidegger's thought among Japanese philosophers, despite its own admitted limitation to (...) the Western "history of being," is connected to Nishida's opening of a uniquely Japanese path in its confrontation with Western philosophy. The focus is primarily on their later works (the post-Kehre Heidegger and the works of Nishida that have been designated "Nishida philosophy"), in which each in his own way attempts to overcome the subject-object dichotomy inherited from the tradition of Western metaphysics by looking to a deeper structure from out of which both subjectivity and objectivity are derived and which embraces both. For Heidegger, the answer lies in being as the opening of unconcealment, from out of which beings emerge, and for Nishida, it is the place of nothingness within which beings are co-determined in their oppositions and relations. Concepts such as Nishida's "discontinuous continuity," "absolutely self-contradictory identity" (between one and many, whole and part, world and things), the mutual interdependence of individuals, and the self-determination of the world through the co-relative self-determination of individuals, and Heidegger's "simultaneity" (zugleich) and "within one another" (ineinander) (of unconcealment and concealment, presencing and absencing), and their "between" (Zwischen) and "jointure" (Fuge) are examined. Through a discussion of these ideas, the suggestion is made of a possible "transition" (Übergang) of both Western and Eastern thinking, in their mutual encounter, both in relation to each other and each in relation to its own past history, leading to both a self-discovery in the other and to a simultaneous self-reconstitution. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore a possible convergence between two great twentieth century thinkers, Nishida Kitarō of Japan and Martin Heidegger of Germany. The focus is on the quasi-religious language they employ in discussing the grounding of human existence in terms of an encompassing Wherein for our being. Heidegger speaks of “the sacred” and “the passing of the last god” that mark an empty clearing wherein all metaphysical absolutes or gods have withdrawn but are simultaneously indicative of an opening wherein (...) beings are given. Nishida speaks of “the religious” dimension in the depths of one's being, that he calls “place,” and that somehow envelops the world through its kenotic self-negation. In both we find reference to a kind of originary space—the open or place—associated with quasireligious themes. I also point to their distinct approaches to metaphysical language in their attempts to give voice to that abysmal thought. (shrink)
In this review essay of Harumi Osaki’s book, Nothingness in the Heart of the Empire, about the Kyoto School’s wartime political philosophy, I examine the arguments and claims behind Osaki’s thesis that the Kyoto School tends to align itself with nationalist and imperialist formations that lead to political concerns. I focus on some of the concrete problems with her arguments, including the book’s lack of examination of the sociopolitical context behind and surrounding the philosophers’ wartime discourse. These problems result in (...) a one-sided or unbalanced image of the Kyoto School, lacking nuance and painting complex grey areas in black and white. (shrink)
Two major twentieth century philosophers, of East and West, for whom the nothing is a significant concept are Nishida Kitarō and Martin Heidegger. Nishida’s basic concept is the absolute nothing upon which the being of all is predicated. Heidegger, on the other hand, thematizes the nothing as the ulterior aspect of being. Both are responding to Western metaphysics that tends to substantialize being and dichotomize the real. Ironically, however, while Nishida regarded Heidegger as still trapped within the confines of Western (...) metaphysics with its tendency to objectify, Heidegger’s impression of Nishida was that he is too Western, that is, metaphysical. Yet neither was too familiar with the other’s philosophical work as a whole. I thus compare and assess Nishida’s and Heidegger’s discussions of the nothing in their attempts to undermine traditional metaphysics while examining lingering assumptions about the Nishida–Heidegger relationship. Neither Nishida nor Heidegger means by “nothing” a literal nothing, but rather that which permits beings in their relative determinacy to be what they are and wherein or whereby we find ourselves always already in our comportment to beings. Nishida characterizes this as a place that negates itself to give rise to, or make room for, beings. For Heidegger, being as an event that clears room for beings, releasing each into its own, is not a being, hence nothing. We may also contrast them on the basis of the language they employ in discussing the nothing. Yet each seemed to have had an intuitive grasp of an un/ground, foundational to experience and being. And in fact their paths cross in their respective critiques of Western substantialism, where they offer as an alterantive to that substantialist ontology, in different ways, what I call anontology. (shrink)
“Myth” comprises the first chapter of the book, The Logic of the Imagination, by Miki Kiyoshi.In this chapter Miki analyzes the significance of myth (shinwa) as possessing a certain reality despite being “fictions.” He begins by broadening the meaning of the imagination to argue for a logic of the imagination that involves expressive action or poiesis (production) in general, of which myth is one important product. The imagination gathers in myth material from the environing world lived by the social collectivity. (...) Its formation of images (Bilder) expresses the pathos of a people vis-a-vis their environment, but myth also contains elements of logos in the form of intellectual representations and figures. And their combination becomes expressed externally by stimulating and guiding action. In this way Miki argues that myths contain both emotive and kinetic elements, which by moving people to action, are capable of making history. Thus rooted in the symbiosis between individual and social and between society and environment, myth possesses a “historical creativity.” And he also argues that myths can be present with a sense of reality at any epoch in history, even today, wherever and whenever their primeval power is felt to function, “drawing out” a new reality, a new world, out of the natural world. (shrink)
In the last century and a half, many have lamented the loss of a sense of the holy (or the sacred)—das Heilige in German—that is, the condition of modernity that Friedrich Nietzsche called the “death or God” or what Friedrich Hölderlin poetized as the “flight of the gods.” Martin Heidegger, even while speaking of the forgetting of Being (Seinsvergessenheit) in the history of Being, and even as he had discoursed on the nihilism of modernity, appropriated this term, das Heilige, as (...) one of his many terms for Being (Sein) as distinct from, and yet granting, beings (Seiende). In what sense, then, is the holy for Heidegger tied to its apparent opposite in the modern world—the sense of desacralization or nihilism in modernity—while also being the Being of beings? And how are we to (co-)respond to the holy in an unholy (desacralized) world? In the following I will attempt to unpack this paradox. Keys to solving this question may be found in the ancient Greek concepts of chaos and chora to which Heidegger’s understanding of the holy is connected. Heidegger’s own concepts of Lichtung (clearing) and Gegend (that-which-regions, regioning) can also be related to his view of the holy. (shrink)
In this article I discuss how the Greek concept of chōra inspired both Martin Heidegger and Nishida Kitarō. Not only was Plato’s concept an important source, but we can also draw connections to the pre-Platonic understanding of the term as well. I argue that chōra in general entails concretion-cum-indetermination, a space that implaces human existence into its environment and clears room for the presencing-absencing of beings. One aim is to convince Nishida scholars of the significance of chōra in Nishida’s thought (...) vis-a-vis the other Greek concept of place, topos. Another is to convince Heidegger scholars who accuse him of neglecting chōra that, to the contrary, there is evidence of Heidegger’s appropriation of this concept. The point is to show that chōra is significant to the thinking of both while correcting certain misreadings and to show its relevance to us today. (shrink)
This paper discusses Reiner Schürmann’s notions of ontological anarché and anarchic praxis in his readings of Heidegger and Eckhart, while bringing his philosophy of anarchy into dialogue with Zen-inspired Japanese thought. I thereby hope to shed light on his thought of anarchy in terms of what I call “an-ontology.” The inspiration for this project is the fact that Schürmann himself had practiced Zen as a young adult in France and had engaged in comparative analyses of Zen and Eckhart in his (...) earlier works. I take what Schürmann meant by the principle of anarchy as a form of praxis that precedes the theoretical bifurcation between being and non-being. A similar sort of “anarchic praxis” is recognizable in Zen and we can find comparable (an)ontological implications of such praxis in the Zen-inspired writings of the Japanese medieval thinker Dōgen and of the contemporary philosopher Nishida Kitarō. (shrink)
This paper investigates the meaning of the neo-Confucian concept of 'li'. From early on, it has the sense of a pattern designating how things are and ought to be. But it takes on the appearance of something transcendent to the world only at a certain point in history, when it becomes juxtaposed to 'qi'. Zhu Xi has been criticized for this 'li-qi' dichotomization and the transcendentalization of 'li'. The paper re-examines this putative dualism and transcendentalism, looking into both Zhu's discussions (...) and pre- and post-Zhu discussions of 'li', and concludes it to be an inter-connective threading immanent to the world. (shrink)
This essay by Nishida Kitarō from 1927, translated into English here for the first time, is from the initial period of what has come to be called “Nishida philosophy” (Nishida tetsugaku), when Nishida was first developing his conception of “place” (basho). Nishida here inquires into the relationship between logic and consciousness in terms of place and implacement in order to overcome the shortcomings of previous philosophical attempts—from the ancient Greeks to the moderns—to dualistically conceive the relationship between being and knowing (...) in terms of subject-object or form-matter. During the course of articulating his novel approach to consciousness and cognition, Nishida discusses what he takes to be the weaknesses of Greek hylomorphism, Kantian (and neo-Kantian) dualism, and Husserlian phenomenology. Dissatisfied with the attribution of mere passivity to placiality, and turning away from consciousness objectified as a subject of statement, Nishida imparts to consciousness qua place a certain logical independence as an active yet un-objectifiable “predicate.” This investigation of consciousness as the unobjectifiable place for objectification leads Nishida to the notion of what precedes consciousness itself, a “place of nothing” (mu no basho) that envelops the dichotomized structures of subject-predicate, being-nothing, subject-object, universal-particular, et cetera. (shrink)
In this article Kobayashi Toshiaki discusses the importance in all periods of Karatani’s oeuvre of the notion of an “exterior” that necessarily falls beyond the bounds of a system, together with the notion of “singularity” as that which cannot be contained within a “universal.” The existential dread vis-à-vis the uncanny other that Karatani in his early works of literary criticism had initially found to be the underlying tone in Sōseki’s works remained with Karatani himself throughout his career and is what (...) had drawn him closer to philosophy. This sense of the “exterior” to—or other than—the normality of consciousness and the meaningfulness of the world is then extended and applied as the “exterior to systems” in his analyses of logical, mathematical, and linguistic systems, in his reading of Marx’s discussion of capitalist economics, and most recently in his analysis of commodity exchange between communities. (shrink)
The following essay, “The Unsolved Issue of Consciousness” (Torinokosaretaru ishiki no mondai 取残されたる意識の問題), by Nishida Kitarō 西田幾多郎 from 1927 is significant in regard to the development of what has come to be called “Nishida philosophy” (Nishida tetsugaku 西田哲学). In what follows, in addition to providing some commentary on the important points of his essay, I would like to show its relevance or significance not only for those who would like to study Nishida’s thought but also for philosophy in general, especially (...) in the contemporary setting. It was first published in 1927 by Iwanami Publishers in a collection of essays by different authors, Philosophical Essays in Commemoration of the Sixtieth Birthday of Dr. .. (shrink)
This article focuses on Kyoto School philosophy’s “philosophy of world history,” during World War II, and its arguments for a multipolar world order in opposition to the older Eurocentric and colonialist world order. The idea was articulated by the second generation of the Kyoto School—Nishitani Keiji, Kōyama Iwao, Kōsaka Masaaki, and Suzuki Shigetaka—in a series of symposia held during 1941 to 1942 and titled the “The World-historical Standpoint and Japan.” While rejecting on the one hand the myopic patriotism of the (...) ultranationalists, they argued for a view to the world and its history, that in contrast to the Eurocentric view to world history, was polycentric. In terms of world politics they associated their view with the aim to construct a co-prosperity sphere in East Asia of autonomous nations to counter European colonialism as part of a new polycentric or multipolar world order. Metaphysically this notion of a co-prosperity sphere as well as of a multipolar world was grounded in the Kyoto School’s concept of “nothingness” as an open space for autonomous but corelated subjects. During the war, these discussions came under fire by critics from the Right, and then after the war, from the Left. I will examine the potential viability of these ideas today as a polycentric world may be on the horizon that ideally would give space to difference and diversity and avoid the violence of homogenization. A comparison of their notion of the nothing with Jean-luc Nancy’s concept of the same may provide some clues. (shrink)
Two Japanese philosophers not often read together but both with valuable insights concerning body and place are Kūkai 空海, the founder of Shingon 真言 Buddhism, and Nishida Kitarō 西田幾多郎, the founder of Kyoto School philosophy. This essay will examine the importance of embodied implacement in correlativity with the environment in the philosophies of these two preeminent intellects of Japan. One was a medieval religionist and the other a modern philosopher, and yet similarities inherited from Mahāyāna Buddhism are to be found (...) in the way each conceives of the interrelationship between self and environment via the body. Both figures emerged in Japan when the nation was undergoing radical.. (shrink)
This is an introduction to Miki Kiyoshi and his philosophy of the imagination and to the translation of the first chapter of his Logic of Imagination, "Myth," published in the same issue of the journal.
I examine the role of the imagination (Einbildung) for Martin Heidegger after his Kant-reading of 1929. In 1929 he broadens the imagination to the openness of Dasein. But after 1930 Heidegger either disparages it as a representational faculty belonging to modernity; or further develops and clarifies its ontological broadening as the clearing or poiesis. If the hylo-morphic duality implied by Kantian imagination requires a prior unity, that underlying power unfolding beings in aletheic formations (poiesis) of being (the happening of being, (...) the opening of the world) would have to ultimately be in excess to any spontaneous power of subjectivity. (shrink)
This chapter tracks the development of the concept of self-awareness (jikaku, 自覚) in the thought of the Japanese modern philosopher Nishida Kitarō (西田幾多郎) (Kitarō Nishida) (1870–1945), founder of the Kyoto School. Nishida’s oeuvre can be divided into distinct periods, from the 1910s to the 1940s until his passing, during which he thematized and focused on different issues. Nevertheless, self-awareness is a unifying theme throughout. In the chapter we trace how Nishida develops this concept through distinct periods in his career. His (...) initial focus upon pure experience gives way to his focus upon its articulation in reflection vis-à-vis intuition as the unfolding of the will. This then leads to his thematization of the place wherein judgment or propositional thought unfolds and the broader contextual place wherein that place is situated. That thematization of place, in turn, develops into a look at the world where we interact as historical and social bodies with others (nature, other people, etc.). Nishida understands self-awareness in accordance with each of these themes in the respective periods of his oeuvre. But common to all of them is how Nishida understands self-awareness as a self-mirroring – self-reflection as reflexivity – founded upon the premise assumed by the articulated image or object of awareness, a premise necessarily irreducible to, and in excess of, the image or object. This is the a priori that Nishida for the most part calls the “absolute nothing” (zettai mu, 絶対無). To explain this Nishida makes use of Josiah Royce’s notion of a self-representative system as well as Richard Dedekind’s notion of an infinite system in his set theory. On the basis of Nishida’s references to the mathematics of set theory, I further compare his understanding of self-awareness to Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems as well as to more recent mathematical theorists, influenced by Gödel, whose understanding of the infinite resonates with Nishida’s understanding of the absolute nothing as assumed by self-awareness. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore a possible a/theological response to what Nietzsche called the ‘death of God’—or Hölderlin’s and Heidegger’s ‘flight of the gods’—through a juxtaposition of the Christian-Pauline concept of kenōsis and the ancient Greek-Platonic notion of chōra, and by taking Nishida Kitarō’s appropriations of these concepts as a clue and starting point. Nishida refers to chōra in 1926 to initiate his philosophy of place and then makes reference to kenōsis in 1945 in his final work that culminates—without necessarily (...) completing—his oeuvre. What he had thereby accomplished is an inversion of Platonism resulting in the collapse of the transcendent/immanent—idea/genesis and by implication the Heaven/Earth—dichotomy. I then unpack the ethical implication of this kenotic chōra Nishida has left us with. It suggests from us a certain response to the desacralization or secularization of the world. I shall build upon this suggestion and unfold its implications by drawing from a variety of sources, starting with Nishida but including others, such as Meister Eckhart, Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, Gianni Vattimo, Reiner Schürmann, Mark Taylor, Jürgen Moltmann, and other philosophical and theological sources. (shrink)
This chapter explicates the philosophy of the body of sixth-century Buddhist thinker Kūkai. Kūkai brings together what initially seem to be opposing concepts: body and emptiness. He does this in the context of formulating a system of cosmology inseparable from religious practice. We interact with the rest of the cosmos through our body. Kūkai characterizes the cosmos in turn as the body of the Buddha, who personifies the embodiment of the dharma. This cosmic body is comprised of myriad bodies through (...) their interactivities, in which we ourselves partake. The interdependence obtains both horizontally (among microcosmic bodies) and vertically (between macrocosm and microcosm). But this interdependent nature of bodies also means emptiness. All bodies are empty of substantiality. Enlightenment is to realize this emptiness of all. An additional factor is language because Kūkai conceives the body as the linguistic medium for communicating that dharma of emptiness. (shrink)
In this paper, I explicate Ueda Shizuteru’s philosophy of the twofold being-in-the-world and the ethics he draws from it. Ueda provides an original reading of Nishida’s concept of pure experience and develops it together with an understanding of Nishida’s concept of place by combining it with the phenomenological notion of the horizon. This leads him to understand the world, or place wherein we are, as twofold, implying the semantic space or network of meanings within it, on the one hand, and, (...) on the other hand, the boundless or undetermined open which envelops the former as its other. Our being as being-in-the-world is thus also twofold in implying both sides of the horizon, inside and outside, whereby we are ontologically grounded but at the same time without ground in being suspended by the semantic emptiness and ontological nothingness lying beyond. (shrink)
This interdisciplinary collection of essays highlights the relevance of Buddhist doctrine and practice to issues of globalization. From philosophical, religious, historical, and political perspectives, the authors show that Buddhism—arguably the world’s first transnational religion—is a rich resource for navigating todays interconnected world.
A chapter in the book, Philosophies of Place: An Intercultural Conversation, edited by Peter D. Hershock and Roger T. Ames, and published by University of Hawaii Press. In this chapter I present a phenomenological ontology of place vis-a-vis horizon and also alterity (otherness), discussing related themes in Heidegger, Kitaro Nishida, Shizuteru Ueda, Otto Bollnow, Karl Jaspers, Ed Casey, Günter Figal, Bernhard Waldenfels, and others. Wherever we are we are implaced, delimited in our being-in-the-world constituted by a horizon that implaces us, (...) not only literally but semantically and ontologically. Whether we take place in its semantic sense or as ontological, I underscore its duplicity—taking off from Ueda Shizuteru’s concept of two-fold being-in-the-world—as on the one hand demarcating a realm of determinacy, our ontological finitude or our social imaginary world, and on the other hand through its horizonal nature as pointing to an indeterminacy or exteriority that demarcates or delimits that realm, finitizing us. That latter may be characterized as an excess irreducible to semantic or ontological determination or as a nothing or a-meaning. Hence place with its horizon implies the interface of meaning and a-meaning, nomos and anomy, principles and anarché, in Nishidian terms being and the nothing (mu), in Heideggerian terms unconcealment and concealment or world and earth. Thus the horizon that constitutes place entails both finitude and openness, allowing for alterity and alteration, whereby the determinations within place are never fixed, secure, or guaranteed. In demarcating a place, the horizon always points to a yonder beyond the place, its other. In its very contact with the unassmilable or irreducible, the line of demarcation is itself thus unpredictable in its fluctuations. The place determined within the nothing or the clearing of unconcealment amidst the concealed will thus always be provisional despite any appearance or claims to the contrary. Its determination is indeterminate. (shrink)
This paper considers the controversy surrounding the Buddhist doctrine of “no-self”, and especially the question of whether the Buddha himself meant by it unequivocally the ontological denial of the self. The emergence of this doctrine is connected with the Buddha’s attempt to forge a “middle way” that avoids the extreme views of “eternalism” in regards to the soul and “annihilationism” of the soul at bodily death. By looking at the earliest works of the Pāli canon, three of the five Nikāyas (...) along with later Abhidharmist developments, my discussion shows that its original intent was not explicitly ontological. The intent was more practical than theoretical, with the aim of bringing about a freedom from attachment to such theories as eternalism and annihilationism. The Buddha’s “middle” position was, hence, a praxis towards freedom rather than a theoria about the existence or non-existence of the self. (shrink)
This chapter discusses the comparative philosophies of two premier comparativists of postwar Japan, Nakamura Hajime and Izutsu Toshihiko. Both were known as accomplished scholars within their respective fields—Buddhist studies and Indology for Nakamura, and Islamic studies for Izutsu—when they initiated their comparative projects. Each had a distinct vision of what comparison entails and the sort of philosophy it would produce. Nakamura’s project was a world history of ideas that uncovers basic patterns in the unfolding of human thought. Izutsu aims to (...) reconstruct Oriental philosophy on the basis of certain key concepts common to the traditions. The chapter covers the aims, methods, and philosophical achievements of their comparative projects. In their juxtaposition, it makes evident significant differences in their projects, methods, and results. (shrink)
The essay is a written version of a talk Nakamura Yūjirō gave at the College international de philosophie in Paris in 1983. In the talk Nakamura connects the issue of common sense in his own work to that of place in Nishida Kitarō and the creative imagination in Miki Kiyoshi. He presents this connection between the notions of common sense, imagination, and place as constituting one important thread in contemporary Japanese philosophy. He begins by discussing the significance of place (basho) (...) that is being rediscovered today in response to the shortcomings of the modern Western paradigm, and discusses it in its various senses, such as ontological ground or substratum, the body, symbolic space, and linguistic or discursive topos in ancient rhetoric. He then relates this issue to the philosophy of place Nishida developed in the late 1920s, and after providing an explication of Nishida’s theory, discusses it further in light of some linguistic and psychological theories. Nakamura goes on to discuss his own interest in the notion of common sense traceable to Aristotle and its connection to the rhetorical concept of topos, and Miki’s development of the notion of the imagination in the 1930s in response to Nishida’s theory. And in doing so he ties all three—common sense, place, and imagination—together as suggestive of an alternative to the modern Cartesian standpoint of the rational subject that has constituted the traditional paradigm of the modern West. (shrink)
In the paper/chapter, I examine Nishitani's appropriation of Buddhist thought as a response to nihilism and I regard his stance as an 'anontology' (neither ontology nor meontology), a neologism I've applied in my discussions of Nishida in other works as well.
This paper discusses the idea of "pure experience" within the context of the Buddhist tradition and in connection with the notions of emptiness and dependent origination via a reading of Dale Wright's reading of 'Huangbo' in his 'Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism'. The purpose is to appropriate Wright's text in order to engender a response to Steven Katz's contextualist-constructivist thesis that there are no "pure" (i.e., unmediated) experiences. In light of the Mahayana claim that everything is empty of substance, i.e., (...) originates dependently through conditions, contingencies, and contexts, what does the "purity" of the Enlightenment experience mean for Chan/Zen Buddhism? (shrink)
This paper considers the controversy surrounding the Buddhist doctrine of “no-self” (anattā, anātman), and especially the question of whether the Buddha himself meant by it unequivocally the ontological denial of the self. The emergence of this doctrine is connected with the Buddha’s attempt to forge a “middle way” that avoids the extreme views of “eternalism” in regards to the soul and “annihilationism” of the soul at bodily death. By looking at the earliest works of the Pāli canon, three of the (...) five Nikāyas (Dīgha, Majjhima, and Sayutta) along with later Abhidharmist developments, my discussion shows that its original intent was not explicitly ontological. The intent was more practical than theoretical, with the aim of bringing about a freedom from attachment to such theories as eternalism and annihilationism. The Buddha’s “middle” position was, hence, a praxis towards freedom rather than a theoria about the existence or non-existence of the self. (shrink)
This is a book review of the book Frontiers of Japanese Philosophy 2: Neglected Themes and Hidden Variations edited by Victor Sōgen Hori and Melissa Anne-Marie Curley, published in 2008 by the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nagoya, Japan.
In this presentation I discuss the concept of “place” in the Japanese twentieth century philosopher and founder of the Kyoto School of philosophy, Nishida Kitarō, in light of the ancient Greek concept of chōra, and compare it with the German thinker Martin Heidegger’s notion of “region” that was also inspired by chōra. We can point to Plato’s concept of chōra in his Timaeus as an important source for both twentieth century philosophers of the East and the West. But we can (...) also draw connections to the pre-Platonic everyday understanding of chōra as well. I argue that chōra in general entails concretion-cum-indetermination, a space that implaces human existence into its environment and clears room for the presencing-absencing of beings. (shrink)