Nishida Kitaro's Chiasmatic Chorology: Place of Dialectic, Dialectic of Place

Nishida Kitaro's Chiasmatic Chorology: Place of Dialectic, Dialectic of Place

Nishida Kitaro's Chiasmatic Chorology: Place of Dialectic, Dialectic of Place

Nishida Kitaro's Chiasmatic Chorology: Place of Dialectic, Dialectic of Place

Synopsis

Nishida Kitarō (1870-1945) is considered Japan's first and greatest modern philosopher. As founder of the Kyoto School, he began a rigorous philosophical engagement and dialogue with Western philosophical traditions, especially the work of G. W. F. Hegel. John W. M. Krummel explores the Buddhist roots of Nishida's thought and places him in connection with Hegel and other philosophers of the Continental tradition. Krummel develops notions of self-awareness, will, being, place, the environment, religion, and politics in Nishida's thought and shows how his ethics of humility may best serve us in our complex world.

Excerpt

Many who have read the writings of the seminal philosopher of the Japanese Kyoto School, Nishida Kitarō (1870–1945), have been mystified by his enigmatic assertions regarding “contradictory self-identity,” “inverse correspondence,” “continuity of discontinuity,” and “self-negation,” which seem to shamelessly defy any allegiance to the logical law of non-contradiction. All these ideas pertain to his “dialectic” (benshōhō) and his philosophy of “place” (basho), which together characterize what has come to be called “Nishidian philosophy” (Nishida tetsugaku), belonging to the later half of his oeuvre. in this work I propose to explicate Nishida’s dialectic of place—a dialectic of mutual “self-negation” (jiko hitei) that results in his notion of “absolutely contradictory self-identity” (zettai mujunteki jikodōitsu)—vis-à-vis Mahāyāna Buddhist thought and Hegelian dialectical philosophy and in terms of what I will call a “chiasmatic chorology.” What I mean by the latter phrase, in brief, is that Nishida’s so-called dialectic seeks to express the concretely real in its complexity that proves to be both a chiasma of (over-)inter-determinations and an undeterminable field or chōra that makes room for these determinations. Nishida as a philosopher was concerned with the perennial questions of metaphysics, questions concerning the one and the many, identity and difference, being and non-being, and so on, in the determination of things, including the world, the cosmos, the human self, and their interrelations. These concerns inform his epistemological interests, for example, the relationship between the epistemological subject and its object or the determining act of knowledge and its determined content. I find that the metaphysical and the epistemological in Nishida’s thought are inseparable: they mirror each other as self-expressions of the real. One’s selfawareness mirrors the self-awareness of reality predicated on a self-determining place. What is mirrored or expressed precisely is what Nishida regards as the “contradictory” or “dialectical” nature of reality, wherein all that is is implaced. Nishida’s interest in the interrelationality between opposites and among distinct elements becomes most pronounced and most developed dialectically under the rubric of “contradictory identity” in his later years, from the 1930s to his death. (Commentators differ in exactly how his oeuvre is to be segmented. I shall adopt a fourfold periodization for heuristic purposes.) It is during this period that Nishida develops his conception of “contradictory self-identity” in a “dialectical” fashion to encompass not only the internal self-reflective experience of . . .

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