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1. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
John C. Maraldo Japanese Philosophy as a Lens on Greco-European Thought
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To answer the question of whether there is such a thing as Japanese philosophy, and what its characteristics might be, scholars have typi­cally used Western philosophy as a measure to examine Japanese texts. This article turns the tables and asks what Western thought looks like from the perspective of Japanese philosophy. It uses Japanese philo­sophical sources as a lens to bring into sharper focus the qualities and biases of Greek-derived Western philosophy. It first examines ques­tions related to the reputed sole origin and the nature of philosophy in ancient Greece. Using the analyses of Robert Bernasconi, it con­cludes that this reputation is a bias instilled by philosophers such as Hegel in the modern era. It then uses the scholarship of Pierre Hadot to show that Greek philosophy was not argumentative discourse for its own sake, but a way of life where reason was in the service of spir­itual progress. This suggests a definition broad enough to accommo­date Asian and other non-Western philosophies. Under the lens of Japanese philosophy, however, Greek-based Western philosophy often displays a double detachment, from everyday life and from embod­ied existence. In contrast, Japanese Buddhist and Confucian philoso­phies evince an appreciation of embodied existence in the ordinary world. The article raises several questions for further investigation in the prospect that the lens of Japanese philosophy can refocus the task of philosophizing today.
2. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Shaoyang Lin Japanese Postmodern Philosophy’s Turn to Historicity
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In this paper, I will outline and categorize the history of postmodern­ism in the Japanese context. I will also critically analyze its changes from the perspective of postwar Japanese intellectual history as well as the postwar history of Japanese political philosophy. I will position this new intellectual and philosophical tendency, which has been around for nearly forty years since the late 1970s, in a global context, and I will especially position it within an East Asian perspective, which from my point of view, has been neglected. It also means that I will not only see Japanese postmodernism as the outcome of imported theory, rather, I will attempt to see it in its own historical context. And by outlining the shift of Japanese postmodernism over these forty years, I will also attempt to see the differences and continuities between Japanese modernism and postmodernism, thus attempting to over­come the opposing dichotomy of “modernism versus postmodernism” in the postwar Japanese intellectual context. As my conclusion, I regard the shifts in the history of postmodern philosophy over the past forty years, as a process of its turn to achieve historicity, and I also see it as a kind of localization of new Western thoughts in a modern Japanese context.
3. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Graham Parkes Kūkai and Dōgen as Exemplars of Ecological Engagement
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Although the planet is currently facing an unprecedented array of environmental crises, those who are in a position to do something about them seem to be paralyzed and the general public apathetic. This pathological situation derives in part from a particular concep­tion of the human relationship to nature which is central to anthro­pocentric traditions of thought in the West, and which understands the human being as separate from, and superior to, all other beings in the natural world. Traditional East Asian understandings of this relationship are quite different and remarkably un-anthropocentric, especially as exemplified in the ideas of Chinese Daoism and Japanese Buddhism—even though Western conceptions now predominate in both China and Japan. Nevertheless, these ideas and understandings are experientially accessible to any contemporary person who has full contact with the natural world, regardless of which tradition that per­son stands in.This essay examines the understanding of the human-nature rela­tion that we find in the philosophies of Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi, 774–835) and Dōgen (1200–1253), from whom we can learn much that is ben­eficial in the context of our current environmental predicament. The ideas of both thinkers are firmly rooted in practice, and especially bodily or somatic practice, designed to bring about a transformation of experience. The argument is not that we should appropriate their conceptions of nature in order to solve our environmental problems; rather, since they both practice “philosophy as a way of life,” the sug­gestion is that we can learn from the practices they advocate in the light of what they say about natural phenomena and would benefit from emulating their ways of engaging the world ecologically.
4. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Bret W. Davis Opening Up the West: Toward Dialogue with Japanese Philosophy
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This essay aims to help prepare the way for those trained in Western philosophy to enter into dialogue with non-Western traditions of phi­losophy such as that of Japan. This will be done mainly by means of critical examination of some key instances of the ambivalence—the tension between the openings and closures—toward dialogue with non-Western traditions found throughout the history of Western phi­losophy. After tracing this ambivalence back to the Greeks, and to the figure of Socrates in particular, the essay focuses in particular on a selection of modern continental philosophers: Hegel, Gadamer, Heidegger, and Derrida. While ambivalences can be found in all four, the order in which they are presented corresponds roughly to the degrees to which they contribute to opening up the West to cross-cultural philosophical dialogue. The positive lesson we glean from an examination of their thought is that hermeneutical and deconstruc­tive reflection on one’s own tradition should accompany any venture into discourse with other ways of thinking and being. The critical point to be made, however, is that the latter venture into dialogue with others should at the same time accompany the former self-reflection. Even Heidegger and Derrida, after all, declined to fully engage in the kind of radical cross-cultural dialogue toward which they occasionally gestured. To begin with, in the opening section of this essay, a contrast will be drawn between the lingering Ameri-Eurocentrism of Western philosophy and the inherently cross-cultural nature of Japanese phi­losophy. The philosophers associated with the Kyoto School in par­ticular have endeavored to open up philosophical discourse between Eastern and Western traditions. In the second section of this essay, a critical reflection on Karl Löwith’s critique of modern Japanese intel­lectuals will serve as a pivot, turning our attention back on the ambiva­lence toward cross-cultural dialogue found in the history of Western philosophy. As will be discussed in the third section, this ambivalence can also be discerned in the recent “hermeneutical turn.” Together with the examinations of Hegel, Gadamer, Heidegger, and Derrida undertaken in the remaining sections of the essay, the purpose of these reflections is to assist in ushering those trained in Western phi­losophy toward an engagement in cross-cultural philosophical dia­logue with traditions such as that of Japan.
5. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Masakatsu Fujita, Bret W. Davis The Significance of Japanese Philosophy
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When I deliver an introductory lecture on Japanese Philosophy, I always raise the following question: Is it appropriate to modify the word philosophy with an adjective such as Japanese? Philosophy is, after all, a discipline that addresses universal problems, and so transcends the restrictions implied in geographical descriptors. However, as Kuki Shūzō argues in his essay “Tokyo and Kyoto,” I think that this is only part, and not the whole truth of the matter.One’s thinking takes place within the framework of one’s cultural heritage, and the different nuances of each of the words one uses can influence how one thinks. It is for this reason that every philoso­phy has its own unique character. As Otto Pöggeler suggests, there is something about the thought of Japanese philosophers such as Nishida Kitarō and Nishitani Keiji that does not fit easily into the framework of “philosophy” in the Western tradition. This is a conse­quence of the fact that they did not simply passively adopt, but rather attempted to critically challenge Western philosophy. I suppose that their grounding in Japanese and other Eastern traditions contributed to their critical challenge of Western philosophy. And I submit that there is a strong tendency in traditional East Asian thought to not simply grasp things within a presupposed framework of “knowledge,” but rather, since “knowledge” itself is understood to be a certain kind of restriction, to return to its roots.Needless to say, neither Nishida’s nor Nishitani’s thought is merely a philosophical reiteration of such traditional East Asian teachings. Nevertheless, we can say that the East Asian idea that knowledge is at root something restrictive lives on in their thinking. The radical­ity of Nishida’s and Nishitani’s thought can be understood to lie in the manner in which they cast light on the limits of the “knowledge” pursued by Western philosophy, problematizing the basis on which this knowledge is established as well as the framework it sets up.I think that the “character” of this or that philosophy arises from such different ways of seeing things and different attitudes toward “knowledge.” It is crucial to point out, however, that the gaps resulting from these differences need not become hindrances for philosophical thinking. Indeed, I think that the existence of such gaps, rather than hindering “dialogues” between different philosophies, is precisely what enables them to be meaningful. This is also what I have in mind when I stress the importance of dialogue in my lectures on Japanese philoso­phy. It is, after all, the creative dialogue engendered in this manner that enables philosophy to progress along its path of radical inquiry.
6. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Leah Kalmanson Ethics Embodied: Rethinking Selfhood through Continental, Japanese, and Feminist Philosophies
7. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Mayuko Uehara Introduction
8. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Bradley Douglas Park Japanese and Continental Philosophy: Conversations with the Kyoto School
9. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Yasunari Takada Opening Remark: Against the Grain of Reductio ad Japonicum
10. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Michiko Yusa Parsing the Topos and Dusting the Mirror: A Radical Internalization of “Basho-Topos”
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In order to clarify Nishida’s notion of topos (basho), I trace its forma­tion, starting with the notion of “pure experience,” of which he says: “To experience is to know the thing as it is.” By taking the act of “to know” as the thread that connects the ideas of pure experience and topos, I examine his early writings leading up to 1929, going beyond 1926, when Nishida’s essay “Basho” was published. Over against the commonly held “objectified” view of the topos as a “location” or “field” in which the individual exists, a radically ontological reading of this notion emerges, requiring us to shift the vantage point from which we approach it. I conclude that Nishida introduced into his philosophi­cal system a locative dimension as an ontological feature, and we, con­scious beings, exist in this world “topologically” (bashoteki). The topos refers to the very logico-ontological mode of our being.In order to clarify what knowledge is, we need to begin with [the investigation of] reflective consciousness (jikakuteki ishiki 自覚的意識), rather than starting out with intellectual judgment (handan 判断). Consciousness pertaining to judgment cannot include the one [who judges] within it. It is an incomplete awareness that looks at the self externally. The explanation of how we know begins with the critical reflection of self-consciousness itself (jikaku jishin no jisei 自覚自身の自省). Therein, we obtain the standpoint of genuine epistemology.Our real knowledge starts out with “I exist.” That “I exist” means that the topos is directly in the topos, and this is the standpoint of both inner perception and actual experience (taiken 体験).
11. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Raquel Bouso Garcia Arakawa and Gins’s Nonplace: An Approach from an Apophatic Aesthetics
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With the expression “apophatic aesthetics,” Amador Vega names dif-ferent cases of twentieth-century hermeneutics of negativity that show a spiritual debt to negative theology and in particular to the major mystical trends of Medieval Europe. Our aim here is to explore how this category applies to the artistic work created by the contemporary artists Arakawa and Gins. However, our focus is not on the debt of these artists to apophatism in the Christian tradition but in Buddhism, especially in Zen. Through an analysis of various artworks, the article intends to determine the reminiscences of the evocation of emptiness in Zen-related arts. By so doing, despite the lack of continuity with tra-dition, it seems possible to uncover certain links with Japanese classic aesthetics. At the same time, since emptiness is a notion revisited in modern Japanese thought, the paper raises the question of its role as an ascetic way of thought, capable of avoiding conceptual limitations and thus opening new paths to philosophy. In this sense, insofar as thinkers well known as critics of modernity, such as Lyotard, Danto, or Taylor, have dialogued with Arakawa and Gins’s artistic proposal, a connection between certain aspects of Japanese philosophy and socalled postmodern thought is suggested.
12. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Laura Specker Sullivan The Self-Contradictory Identity of the Personal Self: Nishida’s Argument against Kantian Pure Practical Reason
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Throughout his entire career, Nishida Kitarō was, arguably, inter­ested in challenging Immanuel Kant’s formulation of the moral will. In his first work, An Inquiry into the Good, he criticizes Kant’s pure practical reason as idealistic, arguing that the good should be understood not in terms of an abstract, formal relation of reason with itself, but in terms of personality as a single, unique, unifying power that is the true reality of the self. He echoes this language in his last work, “The Logic of the Place of Nothingness and the Religious Worldview,” proposing that the personal self exists as a self-determining individual through creative expression. This article will investigate how Nishida’s development of this concept of the personal self grounds his proposal that the goal of the moral will is realization of the good as a personal, rather than abstract, ideal, through the intentional action of active intuition.
13. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Anton Luis Sevilla Watsuji’s Balancing Act: Changes in his Understanding of Individuality and Totality from 1937 to 1949
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Watsuji Tetsuro-’s ethics is founded on the idea of the dual structure of human beings: that we are both individual and communal at the same time, and that these two elements constantly negate each other. But the interpretation of this structure shifts over the prewar, wartime, and postwar volumes. In the first volume, double negation is ambigu­ously explained as either an endless cycle that balances individuality and totality or a three-stage dialectic that privileges totality. Also, total­ity is seen as shaping a largely obedient but self-aware individual, with no real sense of social change worked in. In the second volume, the individual is largely subsumed beneath finite and exclusive totalities, and social change is restricted to advances in culture. But in the third volume, individuality is reinstated as that which guides social change by intuiting how the totality ought to be. Also, double negation is rein­terpreted as heading toward unity-in-difference. These changes can be interpreted historically, with the emphasis on totality rising with the wartime pressures, and the emphasis on individuality rising in postwar occupied Japan. Finally, a historically nuanced and balanced interpretation of Watsuji’s ethics can have contemporary relevance, for instance by contributing to the liberal-communitarian debates.
14. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 2 > Issue: 1
Katsuya Akitomi On the Possibility of Discussing Technology from the Standpoint of Nishitani Keiji’s Religious Philosophy
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Nishitani Keiji (1900–1990) is well known as a leading representative of the Kyoto School. His main contributions are in the field of reli­gious philosophy based on Maha-ya-na Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism, as his main works Religion and Nothingness (1961) and The Standpoint of Zen (1986) indicate. It may seem incongruous to asso­ciate Nishitani’s name with a discussion on science and technology. But it was this relationship to science, that is to say, the relationship between religion and science, to which Nishitani mostly directed his interests which gradually led him to the study of technology itself.In this article, I have relied on Nishitani’s main work Religion and Nothingness to ascertain how he interpreted the conflict between religion and science in relation to nihility and then consider his insights on technology. The appearance of the mechanistic view of modern science connected with mechanical technology and the ten­dency toward the mechanization of man permeate increasingly not only the social structures but the inner life of man. At the same time, the individual is transformed into a subject in pursuit of his desires with a sense of meaninglessness. The nihility which modern science and technology produced ultimately turns into “emptiness” (空 Śūnyatā). The main concern here is how the problems of science and technology can be understood from the standpoint of “empti­ness.” Nishitani’s work that I mentioned above, however, does not necessarily deal with this question directly. Thus, I chose another treatise from the same period, “Science and Zen” (1960), and approached the problem of science from the standpoint of empti­ness. Nishitani quotes a Zen Buddhist discussion about the “big fire” of space. It considers the position of the real self in the big fire that extinguishes all things. This reference to the big fire in space seems metaphorical but it is also scientifically plausible. Death is also a scientific actuality in space from a certain perspective. To take this actuality seriously as a problem of existence means, “the existential­izing of science” (科学を実存すること). It means to take outer space with its face of death as a place of death in the religious sense. This has been called “the Great Death” (大死) in Zen Buddhism, which is nothing other than conversion in a religious existence. At the same time, in this essay we learn Nishitani’s perspective about nuclear power, which continues to trouble us today. We will also consider “originary imagination” (根源的な構想力) in his last treatise “Kū and Soku” (“Emptiness and Sameness”) (1982) as a possibility for discuss­ing technology in terms of emptiness.
15. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 3
Rein Raud Casting off the Bonds of Karma: Watsuji, Shinran, and Dōgen on the Problem of Free Will
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The article approaches the interpretation of the principle of karma as suggested in a sideline in Watsuji Tetsurō’s early reading of the phi­losophy of Dōgen: Karma is the historic, conditioned origin of how our being is enacted at every single instant, of which each individual is the constantly renewed product. In a sense, any sentient existence in the world is thus karmic because it has a history. The consequences of the problem thus posed are explored in the context of the question of subjectivity, causality, and free will, reformulated here as the prob­lem of “genuine choice,” the position where different inputs, such as desires, moral codes, and duties, prompt a person to choose between contradictory courses of action. The results of this analysis are then used to develop a rationalistic reading of one of Dōgen’s key terms, shinjin datsuraku (“casting off the bodymind”), building on Tsujiguchi Yūichirō’s recent work, as the refusal of a person to succumb to her primary karmic determination or to follow the most readily available course of action that her biological, social, and mental structures propose to her.
16. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 3
James W. Heisig Tanabe Hajime’s Elusive Pursuit of Art and Aesthetics
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In philosophical circles at home and abroad, Tanabe’s work has attracted far less attention than that of others in the Kyoto School. The rarefied and abstract cast of his prose often impedes contact with the underlying, existential questions that drove him. This is nowhere more apparent than in the way he treats art and the mind of the artist in his mature work. After a review of Tanabe’s comments on aesthetics in his Collected Works, the premises in his general philosophy on which they rely and the questions they neglect, this article suggests that that we cannot stop at accusing him of failing to draw direct, essential con­nections between artistic sensibility and the guiding principles of his logic, but must attend to the dimly felt presence of an aesthetic at work beneath the surface of Tanabe’s very mode of thought.
17. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 3
Shigenori Nagatomo Dōgen’s “Do No Evil” as Nonproduction of Evil”: An Achievement and Its Micro-Macrocosmic Correlativity
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Dōgen’s treatment of evil starts with a reflection on four statements found in the Pali Buddhist Cannon, namely, “Do no evil, Do good, and Purify the mind. This is the teaching of the Buddhas.” In order to grasp his philosophical reflection on evil, we must cast our inquiry within the wider issues that conceptually frame these four statements; namely, the idea of karmic retribution and an agent trapped in it. This requires us to clarify why “do no evil” precedes “do good,” and why there is a demand to “purify the mind.” The first two injunctions deal with an issue of human nature, and the third with the practice of Zen meditation, which is Dōgen’s method for “purify[ing] the mind.” His reflection on medi­tation experiences enabled him to discover how “do no evil” changes into “nonproduction of evil.” Dōgen’s contention then is that “do no evil” as an ethical imperative transforms into “nonproduction of evil.” Therefore, an ethical imperative as understood by an ordinary person is not the true intent of the above injunction for a practicing Buddhist. This is because the practice of meditation renders a practicing Buddhist inca­pable of producing evil. “Nonproduction of evil” describes an achieved state of personhood. It is for Dōgen a term of achievement, that is, a transformative process reached from a prescriptive imperative to a state descriptive of embodied, meditational experience. With this transforma­tion, one comes to understand “the teaching of the Buddhas.”
18. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 3
Takeshi Mitsuhara Nishida and Husserl between 1911 and 1917
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This article clarifies the role Husserl’s philosophy plays in the development of Nishida’s philosophy between 1911 and 1917. During this period, Nishida formulates his thought against Rickert’s and Takahashi’s view that sharply distinguishes the transcendence of meaning from mental process. In doing so, showing the mutual dependence of the “transcendent” and the “immanent” was neces­sary. Nishida believes that Husserl’s idea of the mutual dependence of act-matter and act-quality could highlight the mutual dependence of the “transcendent” and the “immanent.” Consequently, Nishida attempts to develop his thought with the help of Husserl’s philoso­phy, which brings about a change in Nishida’s thought. First, Nishida develops his philosophy on the basis of the mutual dependence of act-matter and act-quality in intentional experience. Second, Nishida tries to elucidate the qualitative difference in self-awareness with the concept of act-quality. In addition, Nishida understands the qualita­tive difference as that of various worlds based on Husserl’s view of the constitution of various worlds. Finally, Nishida argues for the unity of worlds through the will, under the influence of Husserl’s assertion concerning the connection of various worlds through the “I.”
19. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 3
Eiji Suhara Is Shōmyō Nembutsu Magic?: Reconsidering Shinran’s Nembutsu Debate in Japanese Scholarship from a Multidimensional Perspective
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This research offers a fresh perspective helpful in navigating the debate in modern Japanese scholarship of the so-called nembutsu = magic debate. According to the majority of scholars, Shinran had no need to embrace the practice of “magical” recitation in his Pure Land soteriology that emphasized faith, but chose to keep it only because of his respect for Hōnen. I argue, on the contrary, that Shinran was following Hōnen’s intention to make use of the “magical function” of recitation practice, brought about through Pure Land metaphors and syntactic rhetorics, as a tool for training people incapable of performing the mental act of contemplation practice.
20. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 3
Steve Odin Hallucinating the End of History: Nishida, Zen, and the Psychedelic Eschaton