Learning from the Pine and the Bamboo: Bashō as a Resource in Teaching Japanese Philosophy

Netsol 3 (1):1-15 (2018)
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In American universities, even Asian Philosophy is still often taught following methods adapted from European universities of the nineteenth century. Whether or not this approach is well-suited to philosophy as it was conceived in that era, it is inadequate if the aim is to develop a deep appreciation of Japanese philosophy. To limit what we consider Japanese philosophy to only what bears a distinct resemblance to academic Western philosophy, and accordingly to approach Japanese philosophy purely theoretically, is to risk missing the greater part. Much of Japanese philosophy is applied philosophy, or in other words, what Pierre Hadot calls a “way of life,” and to appropriate it meaningfully requires practice rather than mere intellectual study alone. Thus, I contend that a proper means for introducing Western students is a more holistic method grounded in practicing traditional arts, such as composing haiku. I argue that the seventeenth century poet Matsuo Bashō can serve as a valuable resource in this process. I conclude with a description of the methods that I use in my efforts at teaching Japanese philosophy to undergraduate university students in South Texas.

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Stephen Leach
Keele University


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