The Confucian Roots of zen no kenkyū: Nishida's Debt to Wang Yang-Ming in the Search for a Philosophy of Praxis
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Asian Philosophy 21 (4):361 - 372 (2011)
This essay takes as its focus Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitar? (1870?1945) and his seminal first text, An Inquiry into the Good (or in Japanese zen no kenky?). Until now scholarship has taken for granted the predominantly Buddhist orientation of this text, centered around an analysis of the central concept of ?pure experience? (junsui keiken) as something Nishdia extrapolates from his early experience of Zen meditation. However, in this paper I will present an alternative and more accurate account of the origins of this important work, a text often seen as marking the beginning of Modern Japanese philosophy. I will show that while Buddhism is an important part of Nishida's early intellectual development, there is ample biographical and textual evidence to suggest that zen no kenky? is at its core a text which attempts to solve key ethical problems via a modern interpretation of concepts drawn from the Confucian tradition. This analysis thus places the concept of ?Conduct? (koi), rather than ?pure experience?, at the center of the text, suggesting that ethics, rather than metaphysics, is the core theme of the book.
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