A collaborative article by the Editorial Collective of Social Imaginaries. Investigations into social imaginaries have burgeoned in recent years. From ‘the capitalist imaginary’ to the ‘democratic imaginary’, from the ‘ecological imaginary’ to ‘the global imaginary’ – and beyond – the social imaginaries field has expanded across disciplines and beyond the academy. The recent debates on social imaginaries and potential new imaginaries reveal a recognisable field and paradigm-in-the-making. We argue that Castoriadis, Ricoeur, and Taylor have articulated the most important theoretical frameworks (...) for understanding social imaginaries, although the field as a whole remains heterogeneous. We further argue that the notion of social imaginaries draws on the modern understanding of the imagination as authentically creative. We contend that an elaboration of social imaginaries involves a significant, qualitative shift in the understanding of societies as collectively and politically-instituted formations that are irreducible to inter-subjectivity or systemic logics. After marking out the contours of the field and recounting a philosophical history of the imagination, the essay turns to debates on social imaginaries in more concrete contexts, specifically political-economic imaginaries, the ecological imaginary, multiple modernities and their inter-civilisational encounters. The social imaginaries field imparts powerful messages for the human sciences and wider publics. In particular, social imaginaries hold significant implications for ontological, phenomenological and philosophical anthropological questions; for the cultural, social, and political horizons of contemporary worlds; and for ecological and economic phenomena. The essay concludes with the argument that social imaginaries as a paradigm-in-the-making offers valuable means by which movements towards social change can be elucidated as well providing an open horizon for the critiques of existing social practices. (shrink)
Every metaphysic, according to Reiner Schürmann, involves the positing of a first principle for thinking and doing whereby the world becomes intelligible and masterable. What happens when such rules or norms no longer have the power they previously had? According to Cornelius Castoriadis, the world makes sense through institutions of imaginary significations. What happens when we discover that these significations and institutions truly are imaginary, without ground? Both thinkers begin their ontologies by acknowledging a radical finitude that threatens to destroy (...) meaning or order. For Schürmann it is the ontological anarchy revealed between epochs when principles governing modes of thinking and doing are foundering but new principles to take their place have not yet emerged. For Castoriadis it is chaos that names the indeterminationdetermination that governs the unfolding of the socio-historical with contingency and unpredictability. And yet for both thinkers their respective ontologies have political or ethical implications. On the basis of the anarchy of being, Schürmann unfolds an anarchic praxis or ethos of “living without why.” And on the basis of his notion of being as chaos, Castoriadis develops his political praxis of autonomy. The challenge for both is this move from ontology to practical philosophy, how to bridge theory and practice. The key for both seems to be a certain ontologically derived sense of freedom. In this paper, I analyze and compare their respective thoughts, and pursue the question of how anarchy or chaos and the implied sense of an ontological freedom might be made viable and sensible for human praxis, how radical finitude in the face of ontological groundlessness might nevertheless serve to situate a viable political praxis. (shrink)
The imagination—Einbildung—as its German makes clear is the faculty of formation. But this formative activity in various ways through the history of its concept has been intimately related to the concept of common sense, whether understood as the sense that gathers, orders, and makes coherent the various sense, or as the sensibility of the community. This contribution seeks to unfold that history of the concept of the creative or productive imagination while also tracing the parallel history of the concept of (...) common sense (sensus communis) and their relationship that begins with their inception in Aristotle, a connection that has been retained implicitly in one way or another, intentionally or not, at different times—but also often forgotten—in their history and that seems again to manifest with the recent conceptions of the social imaginary. I will trace this history in the Western philosophical tradition while also making use of a couple of Japanese philosophers who take part in this intellectual history. We shall follow the history of the imagination from Aristotle through Kant’s epistemology in his first Critique—when its productive function becomes positively, rather than negatively, evaluated—and on to the post-Kantians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Post-Kantians like Schelling and Heidegger ontologize that productivity of the imagination beyond the epistemic sphere and, in a parallel fashion, broaden its significance beyond the individual and onto the collective. Common sense also has a long and parallel history within the West that involves a variety of meanings starting with the Aristotelian faculty for integrating the various senses (as koinē aisthēsis) that was closely associated with the imagination (phantasia), and ending with two contrasting notions of a communal or social sensibility (as sensus communis)—the vulgar “commonplace” notion of common sense as habituated custom and the healthy sense of common sense as prudential, contextual, ethical judgment. Both senses of common sense together with the faculty of the imagination are found in Kant’s third Critique but the imagination’s creativity expressed in genius comes into tension with the latter communal sense of common sense (Gemeinsinn) that attempts to order and fetter that creativity with the judgment of taste. The contemporary notion of the social imaginary, for example, in Castoriadis, certainly recalls the close connection between the imagination and common sense in Aristotle but also seems to encompass both the vulgar and the healthy senses of common sense along with their tension in Kant. Although Kant wanted to argue for a transcendental basis of common sense as such that would fit with his theory of the imagination from the first Critique, the imagination itself has been broadened in the third Critique, making way for post-Kantian developments, such as in its ontologization, expanding it beyond the merely epistemic as noted above. At the same time this also broadens the significance of the faculty beyond the cognizing mind of the individual and onto the social sphere to unfold what was implicit in Kant’s third Critique. In Japan Miki Kiyoshi develops that ontology of the imagination even though he still affirms its transcendental status. Nonetheless he explicates its formative creativity as involving the human collective producing not only ideal forms for thought but also institutions and technics of human culture. Likewise, Castoriadis understands the creativity of the imagination in socio-collective terms. But in addition, he underscores—in contrast to Miki—its temporal contingency or historicity and non-transcendental status. At the same time, the tension between unbounded creativity and communal responsibility found in Kant’s third Critique—together with the form-formlessness dynamic found in Miki—in a certain sense reappears in Castoriadis’ theory of the social imaginary and the creative imagination. We might say that in general the notion of Gemeinsinn in Kant in that sense provides a bridge between the idea of a creative or productive imagination and the idea of the social imaginary, while harking back to the original relationship between koinē aisthēsis and phantasia in Aristotle. This connection is implicitly assumed, perhaps unintentionally, by many of the relevant thinkers who discuss either concept. It is made explicit in contemporary Japanese philosopher Nakamura Yūjirō’s discussions of common sense, but can also be extracted out of Hannah Arendt’s discussions of the imagination, judgment, and sensus communis. Conceptually the two converge in Castoriadis’ and Ricoeur’s notions of the social imagination/imaginary. I thus plan to trace the parallel history of these two concepts (imagination and common sense). This is a chapter in the book 'Social Imaginaries: Critical Interventions' edited by Suzi Adams and Jeremy Smith. (shrink)
: 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. (shrink)
The “shrinking” of the globe in the last few centuries has made explicit that the world is a tense unity of many: the many worlds are forced to contend with one another. Nishida Kitarō, the founder of the Kyoto school, once stated that to be is to be implaced. We exist by partaking in “the socio-historical world.” More recently, Jean-luc Nancy has conceived of the world in terms of sense. What is striking in both is that the world emerges out (...) of a nothing, created ex nihilo—the phrase stripped of its theistic connotations. While for Nishida the world is ultimately implaced in the “place of absolute nothing,” Nancy speaks of the nothing that is the basis of the world’s self-creation. I will explore a possible convergence between these and any light it may shed upon our contemporary situation of globalization and its implications for praxis. I look to a sense of the nothing as a chōratic spatiality, an opening that provides space for co-being and serves as the source of creativity. In face of globalization, the project for meaning through mondialisation (in Nancy) and within a multi-cultural world (in Nishida) would imply the appropriation of such an originary spatiality. (shrink)
This chapter will explicate what Nishida means by “nothing” (mu, 無), as well as “being” (yū, 有), through an exposition of his concept of the “place of nothing” (mu no basho). We do so through an investigation of his exposition of “the place of nothing” vis-àvis the self, the world, and God, as it shows up in his epistemology, metaphysics, theology and religious ethics during the various periods of his oeuvre – in other words, his understanding of nothingness that he (...) takes to be the root of the self, the world, and the religious notion of an absolute or God. We will also indicate some of the sources of his notion from the Eastern and the Western traditions. What unites his view to nothing from the different periods is an existential praxis, and what I call an “anontology” that avoids reduction to either opposites of being and non-being (on-mēon). (shrink)
In this paper, I explore a possible convergence between two great twentieth century thinkers, Nishida Kitarō of Japan and Martin Heidegger of Germany. The focus is on the quasi-religious language they employ in discussing the grounding of human existence in terms of an encompassing Wherein for our being. Heidegger speaks of “the sacred” and “the passing of the last god” that mark an empty clearing wherein all metaphysical absolutes or gods have withdrawn but are simultaneously indicative of an opening wherein (...) beings are given. Nishida speaks of “the religious” dimension in the depths of one's being, that he calls “place,” and that somehow envelops the world through its kenotic self-negation. In both we find reference to a kind of originary space—the open or place—associated with quasireligious themes. I also point to their distinct approaches to metaphysical language in their attempts to give voice to that abysmal thought. (shrink)
Nishida Kitarō is considered Japan's first and greatest modern philosopher. As founder of the Kyoto School, he began a rigorous philosophical engagement and dialogue with Western philosophical traditions, especially the work of G. W. F. Hegel. John W. M. Krummel explores the Buddhist roots of Nishida’s thought and places him in connection with Hegel and other philosophers of the Continental tradition. Krummel develops notions of self-awareness, will, being, place, the environment, religion, and politics in Nishida’s thought and shows how his (...) ethics of humility may best serve us in our complex world. (shrink)
Within the context of Heidegger’s claim that his thinking has moved from the “meaning of being” to the “truth of being” and finally to the “place of being,” this paper examines the “spatial” motifs that become pronounced in his post-1930 attempts to think being apart from temporality. My contention is that his “shift” (Wendung) in thinking was a move beyond his earlier focus upon the project-horizon of the meaning (Sinn) of being, i.e., time, based on the existential hermeneutic of mortality, (...) and instead towards a focus upon the “space”—variously discussed in terms of the open, the clearing, the expanse, the region, etc.—that allows fur such horizonal projection. The very matter of thought that becomes discussed in the 1930s Beiträge as the “turning” (Kehre) of “en-ownment” (Ereignis) involves this clearing or opening of a “space” in the strife of unconcealment-concealment. This in turn underscores the alterity from out of which the emission of the Sinn of being is possible. In the 1940s and ‘50s this spacing becomes developed in terms of a “regionalizing” (Gegnen) in explicit distinction from the “horizon.” I shall also examine the implications for human spatiality, i.e., our receptivity vis-à-vis this alterity of Ereignis or Gegnen, which Heidegger discusses in terms of “letting” or “releasement.”. (shrink)
The paper will explicate the Sache or matter of the dialectic of the founder of Kyoto School philosophy, Nishida Kitarō (1870-1945), from the standpoint of his mature thought, especially from the 1930s and 40s. Rather than providing a simple exposition of his thought I will engage in a creative reading of his concept of basho (place) in terms of chiasma and chōra, or a chiasmatic chōra. I argue that Nishida’s appropriation of nineteenth century German, especially Hegelian, terminology was inadequate in (...) expressing what he strove to say—for his concept of basho confounds traditional metaphysical discourse. Because of its chiasmatic and chōratic nature, the Sache he strove to capture and express through the language of dialectical philosophy, perpetually slips away from any systemic bounds. His “dialectic” (benshōhō) implies a chiasma or a criss-crossing of multiple factors on multi-dimensional levels that exceed in complexity simplistic binomial oppositions or the triadic formula of traditional dialectics. The complexity is one of over-determination that threatens to undermine the very language of such a dialectic. As the deep complexity of over-inter-determinations would deconstruct any notion of a substance, what Nishida offers—as opposed to an ousiology (or logic of substance)—is a chiasmology. I thus argue that his so-called dialectic is really an unfolding of that chiasma. And if chiasma expresses the over-determinate aspect of Nishida’s matter of thinking, chōra would express its under-determinate aspect. Nishida himself based his concept of basho or “place” on Plato’s notion of the chōra from the Timaeus. I take Nishida’s basho in its chōratic nature as what simultaneously unfolds and enfolds the chiasma. But in the case of the chōra it is its under-determinate nature that refuses reduction to any of the terms of opposition. In its self-withdrawal, it provides a clearing, a space, for the chiasmatic unraveling of the many. Like the chiasma it undermines any claim to a first substance or the hegemony of a universal First. For in its indeterminateness, it is “nothing” (mu). The unfolding it enfolds is, as Nishida states, “a determination without determiner.” In concrete terms, however, we might develop Nishida’s concept further by returning to the original pre-Platonic Greek meaning of chōra in the sense of “region” or “country,” to understand chōra or basho here as the very space of co-existence provided by this very earth. As a chiasmatic chōra irreducible, in its over- and under-determinations, to being or non-being, Nishida’s basho qua mu proves to be the an-ontological origin of both on and meon (being and non-being). Rejecting the culture-nature dichotomy this notion of our place of being as chiasma and chōra underscores our holistic symbiosis with the earth as the anontological (un)ground and clearing for our co-existence in a concrete milieau with one another and with nature. It is this earth as our ultimate contextual wherein that provides a clearing for co-dwelling and mutual encounter with one’s other, that we must acknowledge today if we are to co-exist authentically and freely vis-à-vis our global neighbors and vis-à-vis the surrounding nature. (shrink)
This paper investigates the meaning of the neo-Confucian concept of 'li'. From early on, it has the sense of a pattern designating how things are and ought to be. But it takes on the appearance of something transcendent to the world only at a certain point in history, when it becomes juxtaposed to 'qi'. Zhu Xi has been criticized for this 'li-qi' dichotomization and the transcendentalization of 'li'. The paper re-examines this putative dualism and transcendentalism, looking into both Zhu's discussions (...) and pre- and post-Zhu discussions of 'li', and concludes it to be an inter-connective threading immanent to the world. (shrink)
This is an English translation of Waldenfels' German essay: Equality and inequality are basic elements of law, justice and politics. Equality integrates each of us into a common sphere by distributing rights, duties and chances among us. Equality turns into mere indifference as far as we get overintegrated into social orders. When differences are fading away experience loses its relief and individuals lose their face. Our critical reflections start from the inevitable paradox of making equal what is not equal. In (...) various ways they refer to Nietzsche’s concept of order, to Marx’s analysis of money, to Lévinas’s ethics of the Other, and to novelists like Dostoevsky and Musil. Our critique turns against two extremes, on the one hand against any sort of normalism fixed on functioning orders, on the other hand against any sort of anomalism dreaming of mere events and permanent ruptures. Responsive phenomenology shows how we are confronted with extraordinary events. Those deviate from the ordinary and transgress its borders, without leaving the normality of our everyday world behind. The process of equalizing moves between the ordinary and the extraordinary. What makes the difference and resists mere indifference are creative responses which are to be invented again and again. (shrink)
My very first published article as a graduate student in 1995 in a peer-reviewed journal (PoMo Magazine) that no longer exists. Published in PoMo Magazine, vol. 1, nr. 1 (Spring/Summer 1995). I elaborate a non-metaphysical phenomenology that is at the same time a way of thinking and a way of being "without why." My starting point is Reiner Schürmann's anarchistic interpretation of Heidegger. It was my first (somewhat sophmoric) attempt to develop a kind of ontology.
“Myth” comprises the first chapter of the book, The Logic of the Imagination, by Miki Kiyoshi. In this chapter Miki analyzes the significance of myth (shinwa) as possessing a certain reality despite being “fictions.” He begins by broadening the meaning of the imagination to argue for a logic of the imagination that involves expressive action or poiesis (production) in general, of which myth is one important product. The imagination gathers in myth material from the environing world lived by the social (...) collectivity. Its formation of images (Bilder) expresses the pathos of a people vis-à-vis their environment, but myth also contains elements of logos in the form of intellectual representations and figures. And their combination becomes expressed externally by stimulating and guiding action. In this way Miki argues that myths contain both emotive and kinetic elements, which by moving people to action, are capable of making history. Thus rooted in the symbiosis between individual and social and between society and environment, myth possesses a “historical creativity.” And he also argues that myths can be present with a sense of reality at any epoch in history, even today, wherever and whenever their primeval power is felt to function, “drawing out” a new reality, a new world, out of the natural world. (shrink)
Published in PoMo Magazine vol. 2, nr. 1 (Spring/Summer 1996) during my years as a grad student at the New School. I examine Nietzsche's presentation of the eternal recurrence, and discuss its interpretations by Heidegger, Bataille, Derrida, Klossowski, Stambaugh, and Vattimo. I will be returning to Nietzsche in the future.
This essay by Nishida Kitarō from 1927, translated into English here for the first time, is from the initial period of what has come to be called “Nishida philosophy” (Nishida tetsugaku), when Nishida was first developing his conception of “place” (basho). Nishida here inquires into the relationship between logic and consciousness in terms of place and implacement in order to overcome the shortcomings of previous philosophical attempts—from the ancient Greeks to the moderns—to dualistically conceive the relationship between being and knowing (...) in terms of subject-object or form-matter. During the course of articulating his novel approach to consciousness and cognition, Nishida discusses what he takes to be the weaknesses of Greek hylomorphism, Kantian (and neo-Kantian) dualism, and Husserlian phenomenology. Dissatisfied with the attribution of mere passivity to placiality, and turning away from consciousness objectified as a subject of statement, Nishida imparts to consciousness qua place a certain logical independence as an active yet un-objectifiable “predicate.” This investigation of consciousness as the unobjectifiable place for objectification leads Nishida to the notion of what precedes consciousness itself, a “place of nothing” (mu no basho) that envelops the dichotomized structures of subject-predicate, being-nothing, subject-object, universal-particular, et cetera. (shrink)
In this article Kobayashi Toshiaki discusses the importance in all periods of Karatani’s oeuvre of the notion of an “exterior” that necessarily falls beyond the bounds of a system, together with the notion of “singularity” as that which cannot be contained within a “universal.” The existential dread vis-à-vis the uncanny other that Karatani in his early works of literary criticism had initially found to be the underlying tone in Sōseki’s works remained with Karatani himself throughout his career and is what (...) had drawn him closer to philosophy. This sense of the “exterior” to—or other than—the normality of consciousness and the meaningfulness of the world is then extended and applied as the “exterior to systems” in his analyses of logical, mathematical, and linguistic systems, in his reading of Marx’s discussion of capitalist economics, and most recently in his analysis of commodity exchange between communities. (shrink)
The essay is a written version of a talk Nakamura Yūjirō gave at the Collège international de philosophie in Paris in 1983. In the talk Nakamura connects the issue of common sense in his own work to that of place in Nishida Kitarō and the creative imagination in Miki Kiyoshi. He presents this connection between the notions of common sense, imagination, and place as constituting one important thread in contemporary Japanese philosophy. He begins by discussing the significance of place (basho) (...) that is being rediscovered today in response to the shortcomings of the modern Western paradigm, and discusses it in its various senses, such as ontological ground or substratum, the body, symbolic space, and linguistic or discursive topos in ancient rhetoric. He then relates this issue to the philosophy of place Nishida developed in the late 1920s, and after providing an explication of Nishida’s theory, discusses it further in light of some linguistic and psychological theories. Nakamura goes on to discuss his own interest in the notion of common sense traceable to Aristotle and its connection to the rhetorical concept of topos, and Miki’s development of the notion of the imagination in the 1930s in response to Nishida’s theory. And in doing so he ties all three—common sense, place, and imagination—together as suggestive of an alternative to the modern Cartesian standpoint of the rational subject that has constituted the traditional paradigm of the modern West. (shrink)
The following essay, “The Unsolved Issue of Consciousness” (Torinokosaretaru ishiki no mondai 取残されたる意識の問題), by Nishida Kitarō 西田幾多郎 from 1927 is significant in regard to the development of what has come to be called “Nishida philosophy” (Nishida tetsugaku 西田哲学). In what follows, in addition to providing some commentary on the important points of his essay, I would like to show its relevance or significance not only for those who would like to study Nishida’s thought but also for philosophy in general, especially (...) in the contemporary setting. It was first published in 1927 by Iwanami Publishers in a collection of essays by different authors, Philosophical Essays in Commemoration of the Sixtieth Birthday of Dr. .. (shrink)
I examine the role of the imagination (Einbildung) for Martin Heidegger after his Kant-reading of 1929. In 1929 he broadens the imagination to the openness of Dasein. But after 1930 Heidegger either disparages it as a representational faculty belonging to modernity; or further develops and clarifies its ontological broadening as the clearing or poiesis. If the hylo-morphic duality implied by Kantian imagination requires a prior unity, that underlying power unfolding beings in aletheic formations (poiesis) of being (the happening of being, (...) the opening of the world) would have to ultimately be in excess to any spontaneous power of subjectivity. (shrink)
This chapter examines the imagination, its relationship to “common sense,” and its recent development in the notion of the social imaginary in Western philosophy and the contributions Miki Kiyoshi and Nakamura Yūjirō can make in this regard. I trace the historical evolution of the notion of the productive imagination from its seeds in Aristotle through Kant and into the social imagination or imaginary as bearing on our collective being-in-the-world, with semantic and ontological significance, in Paul Ricoeur, Cornelius Castoriadis, and Charles (...) Taylor. The two Japanese philosophers, when brought into dialogue with the above contemporary Western thinkers, can contribute to this recent development of the imagination’s creativity into the collective sphere. Miki shows a connection between the imagination and a certain form-formlessness dynamic he inherits from Nishida. Nakamura in turn points to a connection between imagination and place via his development of the Aristotelian notion of common sense. Both have implications on how we understand the social imaginary. (shrink)
My contribution seeks to unfold an ontology of the imagination based on the history of the productive imagination in its relation to common sense and recent developments of the notion of the social imaginary, while making use of ideas found in both Western and Japanese thinkers. Kyoto School philosopher Miki Kiyoshi shows a connection between the imagination he inherits from Kant and a certain form-formlessness dynamic he inherits from Nishida Kitarō’s notion of a self-forming formlessness. The source of the imagination’s (...) creativity is in that formlessness that lies both within the interior depths of the psyche and outside in the environing nature. Post-war Japanese philosopher Nakamura Yūjirō—taking off from Miki’s attempts to concretize Nishida’s theory of place in terms of the imagination—in turn points to a connection between imagination and place and explicates this via his development of the Aristotelian notion of common sense (koinē aisthēsis, sensus communis). Common sense in itself has a long history within the West that involves a variety of meanings starting with the Aristotelian faculty for integrating the various senses (as koinē aisthēsis) that was closely associated with the imagination, and ending with two contrasting notions of a communal or social sensibility (as sensus communis)—the vulgar “commonplace” notion of common sense as habituated custom and the healthy sense of common sense as prudential, contextual, ethical judgment explicated by thinkers like Hannah Arendt. Both are found in Kant’s Critique of Judgment but the imagination’s creativity expressed in genius comes into tension with the latter communal sense of common sense that attempts to fetter that creativity of genius with the judgment of taste. The contemporary notion of the social imaginary, for example in Cornelius Castoriadis, seems to encompass both the vulgar and the healthy senses of common sense, and also recalls the close connection between the imagination and common sense in Aristotle. Contrary to what Kant sought, however, this underscores the temporal contingency or historicity and non-transcendental status of common sense, even in its healthy sense, and its communal judgments. At the same time, the form-formlessness dynamic found in Miki and the tension between unbounded creativity and communal responsibility found in Kant’s third Critique in a certain sense also reappears in Castoriadis’ ontology (of magmas) whereby chaos is the source of the imagination’s creativity not only for the individual psyche but for the social-historical or social imaginary significations as well, that is, in the social imaginary’s inner tension between the instituting and the instituted. Recalling the fact that Nishida was inspired by the Greek notion of chōra in developing his theory of place, I then suggest that the linking of the imagination with the process of the forming of the formless as well as with place may allow us in turn to understand the creative imagination ontologically in the Greek terms of chōrismos—etymologically related to chōra—as the difference that brings order to chaos by allotting beings, each to its own place. Imagination as Ein-bildung might then be viewed as the ontological formation that, through differentiation, gives shape, form, to place. This then leads to the issue of autonomy—To whom does the spontaneity of the creative imagination belong when the chaos or formlessness, indeed “freedom,” at the root of its creativity exceeds the boundaries of subjectivity or reason? Heidegger in his later works, albeit in only a few places, suggests such a sense of the imagination as no longer a faculty of the human subject, no longer a doing of man. (shrink)
This paper discusses the idea of "pure experience" within the context of the Buddhist tradition and in connection with the notions of emptiness and dependent origination via a reading of Dale Wright's reading of 'Huangbo' in his 'Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism'. The purpose is to appropriate Wright's text in order to engender a response to Steven Katz's contextualist-constructivist thesis that there are no "pure" (i.e., unmediated) experiences. In light of the Mahayana claim that everything is empty of substance, i.e., (...) originates dependently through conditions, contingencies, and contexts, what does the "purity" of the Enlightenment experience mean for Chan/Zen Buddhism? (shrink)
Nishida Kitarō, the cofounder and central figure of the Kyoto school, once stated that to be is to be implaced. Nishida’s second generation Kyoto School descendant and current representative of the Kyoto School, Ueda Shizuteru, furthered this concept to understand both place and implacement in terms of a twofold world or twofold horizon. Nishida initially understood the self in its unobjectifiability as a kind of place wherein subject and object correlate. But this placial self came to be seen as itself (...) implaced within a contextualizing place wherein it can interact with things in the world and with other subjects in an “I-thou” relationship, but which ultimately is further implaced in an abyssal place of absolute nothing. He developed this understanding of place in terms of the socio-historical world and ultimately in terms of the divinity that negates itself in kenōsis to make room for the world of many. Roughly speaking and in a variety of versions, Nishida takes the system of places to involve the following: the place of beings or objects, the place that is consciousness, the place that is the world of human interactivity, and finally the place of absolute nothing. Ueda on the other hand, focuses on the twofold structure of place itself as involving the twofold structure of the horizon of experience. We are implaced in the world that in turn is implaced in a boundless openness. Our place is twofold in that there is the world of significances on this side of its horizon and the a-meaning of the nothing beyond its horizon. While Nishida formulates the system of places in terms of place of being, place of relative nothing, and place of absolute nothing, Ueda uses the fraction symbol as world/open expanse to convey his idea of “world amidst the open expanse.” I will explore this legacy of place as Nishida first formulated it and then as developed more recently by Ueda. While doing so I will also discuss each of their relations to phenomenology. Nishida was developing his theory of place cotemporaneous to the careers of Husserl and Heidegger. While he was aware of their work, it was only to a limited extent and he was quite critical of both thinkers and phenomenology in general. On the other hand, Ueda is quite knowledgeable of the phenomenological movement of Europe, having studied under Nishida’s student, Nishitani Keiji, who had studied under Heidegger and, himself, having studied in Germany. He incorporates the insights of Husserl, Heidegger, Bollnow, Jaspers, Merleau-Ponty, Eliade, and others, in developing his own understanding of place. What both Nishida and Ueda offer vis-à-vis a phenomenology of place is a sophisticated analysis of that other to being that place as defined and limited must assume: what Nishida calls the absolute nothing (zettai mu) and what Ueda calls the open expanse (kokū). I will then end by looking at the implications these ideas have for our current situation of globalization in the contemporary world. (shrink)
Two major twentieth century philosophers, of East and West, for whom the nothing is a significant concept are Nishida Kitarō and Martin Heidegger. Nishida’s basic concept is the absolute nothing upon which the being of all is predicated. Heidegger, on the other hand, thematizes the nothing as the ulterior aspect of being. Both are responding to Western metaphysics that tends to substantialize being and dichotomize the real. Ironically, however, while Nishida regarded Heidegger as still trapped within the confines of Western (...) metaphysics with its tendency to objectify, Heidegger’s impression of Nishida was that he is too Western, that is, metaphysical. Yet neither was too familiar with the other’s philosophical work as a whole. I thus compare and assess Nishida’s and Heidegger’s discussions of the nothing in their attempts to undermine traditional metaphysics while examining lingering assumptions about the Nishida–Heidegger relationship. Neither Nishida nor Heidegger means by “nothing” a literal nothing, but rather that which permits beings in their relative determinacy to be what they are and wherein or whereby we find ourselves always already in our comportment to beings. Nishida characterizes this as a place that negates itself to give rise to, or make room for, beings. For Heidegger, being as an event that clears room for beings, releasing each into its own, is not a being, hence nothing. We may also contrast them on the basis of the language they employ in discussing the nothing. Yet each seemed to have had an intuitive grasp of an un/ground, foundational to experience and being. And in fact their paths cross in their respective critiques of Western substantialism, where they offer as an alterantive to that substantialist ontology, in different ways, what I call anontology. (shrink)
This is an introduction to Miki Kiyoshi and his philosophy of the imagination and to the translation of the first chapter of his Logic of Imagination, "Myth," published in the same issue of the journal.
In this paper, I explore a possible a/theological response to what Nietzsche called the ‘death of God’—or Hölderlin’s and Heidegger’s ‘flight of the gods’—through a juxtaposition of the Christian-Pauline concept of kenōsis and the ancient Greek-Platonic notion of chōra, and by taking Nishida Kitarō’s appropriations of these concepts as a clue and starting point. Nishida refers to chōra in 1926 to initiate his philosophy of place and then makes reference to kenōsis in 1945 in his final work that culminates—without necessarily (...) completing—his oeuvre. What he had thereby accomplished is an inversion of Platonism resulting in the collapse of the transcendent/immanent—idea/genesis and by implication the Heaven/Earth—dichotomy. I then unpack the ethical implication of this kenotic chōra Nishida has left us with. It suggests from us a certain response to the desacralization or secularization of the world. I shall build upon this suggestion and unfold its implications by drawing from a variety of sources, starting with Nishida but including others, such as Meister Eckhart, Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, Gianni Vattimo, Reiner Schürmann, Mark Taylor, Jürgen Moltmann, and other philosophical and theological sources. (shrink)
This chapter explicates the philosophy of the body of sixth-century Buddhist thinker Kūkai. Kūkai brings together what initially seem to be opposing concepts: body and emptiness. He does this in the context of formulating a system of cosmology inseparable from religious practice. We interact with the rest of the cosmos through our body. Kūkai characterizes the cosmos in turn as the body of the Buddha, who personifies the embodiment of the dharma. This cosmic body is comprised of myriad bodies through (...) their interactivities, in which we ourselves partake. The interdependence obtains both horizontally (among microcosmic bodies) and vertically (between macrocosm and microcosm). But this interdependent nature of bodies also means emptiness. All bodies are empty of substantiality. Enlightenment is to realize this emptiness of all. An additional factor is language because Kūkai conceives the body as the linguistic medium for communicating that dharma of emptiness. (shrink)
In tackling the question of what is Japanese philosophy, the paper discusses: philosophy in general, the issue of Japanese philosophy, and the relevance of both philosophy and Japanese philosophy in our present age of globalization. Examining the definitions of philosophy provided by Kant, Hegel, and Heidegger, and looking at the philosophies of Nishida and Nishitani among others, I argue the source of philosophy—its originary and universal motivation—to be the question of meaning of existence. Japanese philosophy is no exception. I then (...) discuss whether there is something unique to Japanese philosophy in particular and look into the question of the essence of Japanese philosophy. Furthermore, I argue that in order to be true to the original motivation of philosophy, the study of Japanese philosophy, if it is itself to be considered philosophy, cannot be reduced to biography, history, or philology. It must be relevant to our life. I then conclude with a discussion of the relevance of Japanese philosophy and the philosophical study of Japanese philosophy to our life today. (shrink)
A chapter in the book, Philosophies of Place: An Intercultural Conversation, edited by Peter D. Hershock and Roger T. Ames, and published by University of Hawaii Press. In this chapter I present a phenomenological ontology of place vis-a-vis horizon and also alterity (otherness), discussing related themes in Heidegger, Kitaro Nishida, Shizuteru Ueda, Otto Bollnow, Karl Jaspers, Ed Casey, Günter Figal, Bernhard Waldenfels, and others. Wherever we are we are implaced, delimited in our being-in-the-world constituted by a horizon that implaces us, (...) not only literally but semantically and ontologically. Whether we take place in its semantic sense or as ontological, I underscore its duplicity—taking off from Ueda Shizuteru’s concept of two-fold being-in-the-world—as on the one hand demarcating a realm of determinacy, our ontological finitude or our social imaginary world, and on the other hand through its horizonal nature as pointing to an indeterminacy or exteriority that demarcates or delimits that realm, finitizing us. That latter may be characterized as an excess irreducible to semantic or ontological determination or as a nothing or a-meaning. Hence place with its horizon implies the interface of meaning and a-meaning, nomos and anomy, principles and anarché, in Nishidian terms being and the nothing (mu), in Heideggerian terms unconcealment and concealment or world and earth. Thus the horizon that constitutes place entails both finitude and openness, allowing for alterity and alteration, whereby the determinations within place are never fixed, secure, or guaranteed. In demarcating a place, the horizon always points to a yonder beyond the place, its other. In its very contact with the unassmilable or irreducible, the line of demarcation is itself thus unpredictable in its fluctuations. The place determined within the nothing or the clearing of unconcealment amidst the concealed will thus always be provisional despite any appearance or claims to the contrary. Its determination is indeterminate. (shrink)
In this article I discuss how the Greek concept of chōra inspired both Martin Heidegger and Nishida Kitarō. Not only was Plato’s concept an important source, but we can also draw connections to the pre-Platonic understanding of the term as well. I argue that chōra in general entails concretion-cum-indetermination, a space that implaces human existence into its environment and clears room for the presencing-absencing of beings. One aim is to convince Nishida scholars of the significance of chōra in Nishida’s thought (...) vis-a-vis the other Greek concept of place, topos. Another is to convince Heidegger scholars who accuse him of neglecting chōra that, to the contrary, there is evidence of Heidegger’s appropriation of this concept. The point is to show that chōra is significant to the thinking of both while correcting certain misreadings and to show its relevance to us today. (shrink)
“Myth” comprises the first chapter of the book, The Logic of the Imagination, by Miki Kiyoshi.In this chapter Miki analyzes the significance of myth as possessing a certain reality despite being “fictions.” He begins by broadening the meaning of the imagination to argue for a logic of the imagination that involves expressive action or poiesis in general, of which myth is one important product. The imagination gathers in myth material from the environing world lived by the social collectivity. Its formation (...) of images expresses the pathos of a people vis-a-vis their environment, but myth also contains elements of logos in the form of intellectual representations and figures. And their combination becomes expressed externally by stimulating and guiding action. In this way Miki argues that myths contain both emotive and kinetic elements, which by moving people to action, are capable of making history. Thus rooted in the symbiosis between individual and social and between society and environment, myth possesses a “historical creativity.” And he also argues that myths can be present with a sense of reality at any epoch in history, even today, wherever and whenever their primeval power is felt to function, “drawing out” a new reality, a new world, out of the natural world. (shrink)
In the paper/chapter, I examine Nishitani's appropriation of Buddhist thought as a response to nihilism and I regard his stance as an 'anontology' (neither ontology nor meontology), a neologism I've applied in my discussions of Nishida in other works as well.
This paper considers the controversy surrounding the Buddhist doctrine of “no-self”, and especially the question of whether the Buddha himself meant by it unequivocally the ontological denial of the self. The emergence of this doctrine is connected with the Buddha’s attempt to forge a “middle way” that avoids the extreme views of “eternalism” in regards to the soul and “annihilationism” of the soul at bodily death. By looking at the earliest works of the Pāli canon, three of the five Nikāyas (...) along with later Abhidharmist developments, my discussion shows that its original intent was not explicitly ontological. The intent was more practical than theoretical, with the aim of bringing about a freedom from attachment to such theories as eternalism and annihilationism. The Buddha’s “middle” position was, hence, a praxis towards freedom rather than a theoria about the existence or non-existence of the self. (shrink)
This chapter discusses the comparative philosophies of two premier comparativists of postwar Japan, Nakamura Hajime and Izutsu Toshihiko. Both were known as accomplished scholars within their respective fields—Buddhist studies and Indology for Nakamura, and Islamic studies for Izutsu—when they initiated their comparative projects. Each had a distinct vision of what comparison entails and the sort of philosophy it would produce. Nakamura’s project was a world history of ideas that uncovers basic patterns in the unfolding of human thought. Izutsu aims to (...) reconstruct Oriental philosophy on the basis of certain key concepts common to the traditions. The chapter covers the aims, methods, and philosophical achievements of their comparative projects. In their juxtaposition, it makes evident significant differences in their projects, methods, and results. (shrink)
Two Japanese philosophers not often read together but both with valuable insights concerning body and place are Kūkai 空海, the founder of Shingon 真言 Buddhism, and Nishida Kitarō 西田幾多郎, the founder of Kyoto School philosophy. This essay will examine the importance of embodied implacement in correlativity with the environment in the philosophies of these two preeminent intellects of Japan. One was a medieval religionist and the other a modern philosopher, and yet similarities inherited from Mahāyāna Buddhism are to be found (...) in the way each conceives of the interrelationship between self and environment via the body. Both figures emerged in Japan when the nation was undergoing radical.. (shrink)
This paper considers the controversy surrounding the Buddhist doctrine of “no-self” (anattā, anātman), and especially the question of whether the Buddha himself meant by it unequivocally the ontological denial of the self. The emergence of this doctrine is connected with the Buddha’s attempt to forge a “middle way” that avoids the extreme views of “eternalism” in regards to the soul and “annihilationism” of the soul at bodily death. By looking at the earliest works of the Pāli canon, three of the (...) five Nikāyas (Dīgha, Majjhima, and Sayutta) along with later Abhidharmist developments, my discussion shows that its original intent was not explicitly ontological. The intent was more practical than theoretical, with the aim of bringing about a freedom from attachment to such theories as eternalism and annihilationism. The Buddha’s “middle” position was, hence, a praxis towards freedom rather than a theoria about the existence or non-existence of the self. (shrink)
The essay is a written version of a talk Nakamura Yūjirō gave at the College international de philosophie in Paris in 1983. In the talk Nakamura connects the issue of common sense in his own work to that of place in Nishida Kitarō and the creative imagination in Miki Kiyoshi. He presents this connection between the notions of common sense, imagination, and place as constituting one important thread in contemporary Japanese philosophy. He begins by discussing the significance of place that (...) is being rediscovered today in response to the shortcomings of the modern Western paradigm, and discusses it in its various senses, such as ontological ground or substratum, the body, symbolic space, and linguistic or discursive topos in ancient rhetoric. He then relates this issue to the philosophy of place Nishida developed in the late 1920s, and after providing an explication of Nishida’s theory, discusses it further in light of some linguistic and psychological theories. Nakamura goes on to discuss his own interest in the notion of common sense traceable to Aristotle and its connection to the rhetorical concept of topos, and Miki’s development of the notion of the imagination in the 1930s in response to Nishida’s theory. And in doing so he ties all three—common sense, place, and imagination—together as suggestive of an alternative to the modern Cartesian standpoint of the rational subject that has constituted the traditional paradigm of the modern West. (shrink)
This is a book review of the book Frontiers of Japanese Philosophy 2: Neglected Themes and Hidden Variations edited by Victor Sōgen Hori and Melissa Anne-Marie Curley, published in 2008 by the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Nagoya, Japan.
This interdisciplinary collection of essays highlights the relevance of Buddhist doctrine and practice to issues of globalization. From philosophical, religious, historical, and political perspectives, the authors show that Buddhism—arguably the world’s first transnational religion—is a rich resource for navigating todays interconnected world.
In this presentation I discuss the concept of “place” in the Japanese twentieth century philosopher and founder of the Kyoto School of philosophy, Nishida Kitarō, in light of the ancient Greek concept of chōra, and compare it with the German thinker Martin Heidegger’s notion of “region” that was also inspired by chōra. We can point to Plato’s concept of chōra in his Timaeus as an important source for both twentieth century philosophers of the East and the West. But we can (...) also draw connections to the pre-Platonic everyday understanding of chōra as well. I argue that chōra in general entails concretion-cum-indetermination, a space that implaces human existence into its environment and clears room for the presencing-absencing of beings. (shrink)
This is an English translation of a book authored by Fujita Masakatsu. The main purpose of this book is to offer to philosophers and students abroad who show a great interest in Japanese philosophy and the philosophy of the Kyoto school major texts of the leading philosophers. This interest has surely developed out of a desire to obtain from the thought of these philosophers, who stood within the interstice between East and West, a clue to reassessing the issues of philosophy (...) from the ground up or to drawing new creative possibilities.The present condition seems to be, however, that the material made available to further realize this kind of intellectual dialogue is far too scarce. This book is intended to be of some help in this regard.The book presents selected texts of representative philosophers of the Kyoto school such as Nishida Kitaro, Tanabe Hajime, Miki Kiyoshi, Nishitani Keiji, and others who best illustrate the characteristics of this school, and works that together portray its image as a whole. Those who are interested in Japanese philosophy or specifically the philosophy of the Kyoto School can survey a comprehensive representation from this book.These texts are, of course, quite difficult and cannot be well understood without sufficient preliminary knowledge. Expository essays have therefore been included after each text to provide guidance. In each of these commentaries a scholar of our time with deep understanding of the philosopher in question has provided an account of his life, intellectual journey, and the significance of the text included here.From this book will emerge a new dialogue of ideas that in turn will engender new developments in philosophy, thereby further expanding the network of philosophical thought worldwide. (shrink)