The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism

The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism

The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism

The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism


Nishitani Keiji was for many years Professor of Religious Philosophy at Kyoto University, and since his retirement has been Professor Emeritus at Otani Buddhist University in Kyoto.

Graham Parkes is Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is the editor of Heidegger and Asian Thought and Nietzsche and Asian Thought.

Setsuko Aihara teaches Japanese at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is the author of Reading Japanese: Strategies for Decoding Japanese Sentence Structure.


"But may I ask, first of all: just what would be the point of translating this book of mine into English?" I remained silent for a while, somewhat bemused by the question -- addressed to me, as it was, by the author of a book entitled Nihilism. The main point of Professor Nishitani's text, which we had just begun to translate, had not yet penetrated so far as to prompt any question about the point of it all.

It was the first time we had met with the author after the decision to devote full time to the translation, and now his characteristic modesty was putting the whole enterprise into question by injecting an appropriate dose of what he would call "nihility" at its ground. Taking his question on the more restricted level, we learned that his concern was that an English translation of a book written forty years ago for a Japanese audience might not be of interest today to readers in the West. It consisted, after all, merely of a series of talks on a topic that happened to be rather fashionable at the time, and so was not endowed with any overarching structure or unified theme. But since the phenomenon of nihilism appears to have increased rather than diminished in intensity over the past four decades, I had simply assumed that the singular perspective from which Nishitani writes about what is traditionally regarded as a Western problem would render his treatment intrinsically interesting to the English-speaking world, where Japanese philosophical discourse is still largely unfamiliar. But perhaps, in deference to the author's concern with the value of a translation of the book, we might well begin by reflecting on where we stand with respect to the issue of nihilism.

What I am recounting is the history of the next two centuries.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Counting from when these words were written -- just over a hun-

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