Thinking in transition: Nishida Kitaro and Martin Heidegger

Philosophy East and West 55 (2):232-256 (2005)
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: Two major philosophers of the twentieth century, the German existential phenomenologist Martin Heidegger and the seminal Japanese Kyoto School philosopher Nishida Kitarō are examined here in an attempt to discern to what extent their ideas may converge. Both are viewed as expressing, each through the lens of his own tradition, a world in transition with the rise of modernity in the West and its subsequent globalization. The popularity of Heidegger's thought among Japanese philosophers, despite its own admitted limitation to the Western "history of being," is connected to Nishida's opening of a uniquely Japanese path in its confrontation with Western philosophy. The focus is primarily on their later works (the post-Kehre Heidegger and the works of Nishida that have been designated "Nishida philosophy"), in which each in his own way attempts to overcome the subject-object dichotomy inherited from the tradition of Western metaphysics by looking to a deeper structure from out of which both subjectivity and objectivity are derived and which embraces both. For Heidegger, the answer lies in being as the opening of unconcealment, from out of which beings emerge, and for Nishida, it is the place of nothingness within which beings are co-determined in their oppositions and relations. Concepts such as Nishida's "discontinuous continuity," "absolutely self-contradictory identity" (between one and many, whole and part, world and things), the mutual interdependence of individuals, and the self-determination of the world through the co-relative self-determination of individuals, and Heidegger's "simultaneity" (zugleich) and "within one another" (ineinander) (of unconcealment and concealment, presencing and absencing), and their "between" (Zwischen) and "jointure" (Fuge) are examined. Through a discussion of these ideas, the suggestion is made of a possible "transition" (Übergang) of both Western and Eastern thinking, in their mutual encounter, both in relation to each other and each in relation to its own past history, leading to both a self-discovery in the other and to a simultaneous self-reconstitution


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