Volume 3, 2015
James W. Heisig
Tanabe Hajime’s Elusive Pursuit of Art and Aesthetics
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.