Academic journal article Tamkang Review

The World According to Nishida Kitaro: A New Proposal

Academic journal article Tamkang Review

The World According to Nishida Kitaro: A New Proposal

Article excerpt


One of the problems of today's world is the aggressive way of solving conflicts, which is, in my opinion, more or less in accordance with Parmenidian logic and Hegelian dialectics. Hegel viewed conflicts of any kind as contradictions that are to be solved by dialectics, a means of proceeding from opposition to contradiction, from contradiction to synthesis. This procedure implies denial of oneself and others in the name of synthesis, which I esteem unethical following Emmanuel Levinas who saw it would necessarily eliminate "duality" (Levinas 22). Duality is one of the things we have to protect from any synthesis.

As for Parmenidian logic, I agree with Levinas again when he said the following:

To deal Being as an entity is to enclose it in Unity, the oneness, which would let Parmenides go away from every parricide that his descendants would be tempted to commit against him. (Levinas 22)

By saying this, he insinuated the assassination of Parmenides as a right thing to do. Parmenidean "Unity" denies "duality." All philosophy based upon the "Unity" should be rejected. That is the way Levinas thought from his ethical point of view.

I am entirely for the ethics he proposed, the refusal of making synthesis. His Le temps et l'autre (1980) says insistently that synthesis should lead to "ecstatic fusion" without "duality." Making synthesis out of the two terms is a denial of the otherness, l'alterite that is sacred. Levinas was led to think likewise because of his Nazi experience.

Some of the biggest problems of today's world are violence and terrorism. I dare say it is due to incessant unthinking trials of making Hegelian synthesis and application of Parmenidian logic to any conflict. So long as we are attached to Hegelian and Parmenedian solutions, we are likely to be condemned to remain prisoners of violence and terrorism. My proposal is clear: "Abandon Hegel and Parmenides and listen more to Levinas."

All of you must know the famous phrase of Hamlet, the prince of Denmark: " To be or not to be, that is the question." I am afraid his way of questioning himself reflects the philosophical basis Levinas puts in question. Hamlet followed Parmenidean logic based on a choice between two terms: Being and Non-Being. This could not but lead him to violence against the world surrounding him.

The problem with Parmenides is that he set up antagonism between Life and Death, Being and Non-being. Thus he compelled us to choose the former abandoning the latter. Hegelian dialectics is an extension of this in the sense that it is based on Being, not on Non-Being. Both, Hegel and Parmenides, were monists who denied "duality." They actually ignored Death.

Parmenides said that you had to choose Being to start with, abandoning Non-being because you could only think of the former, never of the latter. Let us quote a passage from the fragment 2 of his work On Nature:

   Come, I shall tell you, and do you listen and convey the story,
   What routes of inquiry alone there are for thinking:
   The one--that (it) is, and that (it) cannot not be,
   Is the path of Persuasion (for it attends on truth);
   The other--that (it) is not and that (it) needs must not be,
   That I point out to you to be a path wholly unlearnable,
   For you could not know what-is-not (for that is not feasible),
   Nor could you point it out. (Parmenides 55)

The selection that Parmenides made out of the two terms--Being and Non-Being--has deeply marked Western thought, which is manifest not only in Hegelian dialectics but even in Hamlet's way of thinking. We should inquire whether Hamlet's questioning is a right one or not. His "to be or not to be" might have been posed in a wrong way.


Quite different from Parmenidian premise is a mythological vision that we can find in ancient Japan. Japanese mythology recorded in the oldest book of Japan titled Kojiki, Records of Ancient Matters (1) compiled in 712 AD indicates that Life and Death eternally coexist, facing each other. …

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