Journal of Japanese Philosophy

Volume 6, 2020

Dennis Stromback
Pages 63-94

Nishida’s Resistance to Western Constructions of Religion

It has been common to frame Nishida Kitarō’s philosophy (西田哲学) as an attempt to overcome Western modernity, but what has been downplayed in this reading is how Nishida redefines the concept of religion in a way that undermines the secular-religion binary formulated in Western modernity. Nishida’s view of religion, as both a structuring logic of historical reality and as an existential form of awareness, with its own epistemological criteria, contrasts with Western accounts of religion, which has assumed religion to be a form opposite to the real. By designating religion as a logical category that structures the real, Nishida’s philosophy of religion seeks to liberate the races, cultures, and ethnicities of the world that have been historically subordinated to the West by giving them an epistemological footing to assert and participate in a world dialogue. In this sense, Nishida’s religious standpoint offers a way to think critically about the “problem of religion” and presents a discussion that speaks to some of the issues raised within postcolonial studies.