Philosophy East and West 59 (1):pp. 1-21 (2009)

Robert E. Carter
Trent University
The idea of nothingness has been viewed as neither a vital nor a positive element in Western philosophy or theology. With the exception of a handful of mystics, nothingness has been taken to refer to the negation of being, or to some theoretical void. By contrast, the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitarō gave nothingness a central role in philosophy. The strategy of this essay is to use the German mystic Meister Eckhart as a more familiar thinker who did take nothingness seriously, and then to look closely at Nishida’s philosophy, and at the work of his contemporary Ueda Shizuteru, in exploring the central importance of nothingness in Zen Buddhist thought. Eckhart writes of the nothingness of the godhead, whereas Nishida and Ueda speak of nothingness “pure and simple.” Eckhart remains within the being of the godhead and theology. Nishida moves directly to nothingness. Some have claimed that Nishida is not a mystic, and Nishida himself concurred, yet it is Ueda who explains why Nishida can rightly be read as a mystic and as not a mystic. He argues that Zen includes mysticism, but then goes beyond it to a “non-mysticism.” Mystic or non-mystic, the guidance that Nishida and Ueda offer leads to a compelling outlook on life.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1353/pew.0.0042
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,259
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Moon in a Dewdrop: Writings of Zen Master Dogen.Kazuaki Tanahashi - 1987 - Philosophy East and West 37 (3):331-332.
An Interpretation of Zen Experience.Daisetz Teitarō Suzuki - 1967 - In Charles Alexander Moore (ed.), The Japanese Mind. Honolulu, East-West Center Press.
Affective Feeling.Nishida Kitaro - 1978 - Analecta Husserliana 7:223.
Ontology and Utterance.Keiji Nishitani - 1981 - Philosophy East and West 31 (1):29-43.

View all 6 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
126 ( #93,913 of 2,518,693 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #137,673 of 2,518,693 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes