Volume 56, Issue 3, September 2016
The Concept of “Person” in Keiji Nishitani and Max Scheler
This essay compares Scheler’s view of the person in his last (“pantheistic”) period with the views of Keiji Nishitani, a Buddhist representative of the Kyoto School of phenomenology. Scheler eschewed a “substantialist” concept of the person, as did Nishitani in view of the Buddhist “non-self” (muga) doctrine. Both had experienced spiritual crises in their lives. Why did Nishitani turn to the Buddhist concept of “absolute nothingness”? Why did Scheler turn from theism to pantheism? Both saw traditional Christianity and its understanding of the person as intellectually inadequate, though for different reasons. Nishitani focuses on the inadequacies of secondary influences (like Cartesianism) in the Western concept of person, while Scheler focuses on problems of theodicy stemming from the problem of evil and of volition (divine and human) as the source of evil. Both abandon the Christian meaning of personhood.