Nishida And Western Philosophy (book review) Robert Wilkinson

021217: this is a challenging text. this work focuses on nishida's way of interrogating an entire range of 'western' philosophers, how he deliberately tries to 'do' philosophy from his original, effective, embedded background and cultural history of Zen Buddhism. ns is here concerned with trying to make zen understood as philosophy and not religion or 'way', and this involves an entire metaphysics that is inherent in 'eastern' thought...


again a short book that may require a lot of previous reading, study, thought, and is very definitely a favourite. while ns does work on many philosophers i am originally most interested in how he sees bergson and william james, how he agrees, how he differs, and as with much of his thought, kant for example, main judgement seems to be these western thinkers simply do not go far enough. ns sees their entire metaphysical structure as based too much on absolute, certain, ‘identity’, rather than absolute, contradictory, ‘emptiness’. this is because western philosophy is viewed as a rational project and does not include the contradiction and rejects the eastern view of contradiction. this attitude is claimed to be part of western thought's aristotlean heritage, most simply in a=a, rather than recognizing syllogisms are too abstract and are human mental imposition on original real...


what ns is most concerned with is 'pure experience', and this, like any absolute, has no qualifications, not even kantian categories of time, space, causality, but must be appreciated as the original way we are in the world. cutting up the real is necessary to act on the real, but as with br and jms true sense of the world is known through 'intuition' and not cognitive structures added after the the real. however, this intuitive sense should not be viewed as final real but as a step toward the real, that is essentially considered emptiness, understood not as a=a but a=a and not a, and such awareness can only come with acceptance of knowledge that is 'transrational' rather than just rational...


there is the discussion of the familiar opposition of 'the many' and 'the one' and here is the refusal to agree with one or the other. simply, it is all how the real is known: obviously thoughts are many and continuous and multiple- but also they are one thought, as in one mind. this concept is applicable to many 'antinomies' that bother kant such that he will throw up his hands in helplessness and create these unknowable 'things in themselves' rather than accept contradiction as real. this is the result of refusing what ns maintains as essential historical and cultural insights from eastern cultures...


ns is deeply learned in western philosophy of his day, that is early 20th century, and who was popular in Japan, many of whom were German idealists, but has little inspiration from Anglo-scot empiricist thinkers. ns insists that values are not imposed after the fact, as in the fact-value distinction, but that for anything to be a fact it must be a value. ns in his later work seems unhappily convinced there is simply too great a cultural gap between west and east for any philosophy to bridge, but is this reason not to try...


there is a zen story where an eager student offers his cup for tea, the master pours and fills it up then pours more and the student tells him that is too much- the master asks the student how can he teach him anything if he is already so full! this makes me think of ns's contention that western philosophy, in culture, in history, has already such investment in aristotlean thought, useful in science for example, that must be addressed at a very originary level to be overcome to understand zen and eastern philosophy in general... i do not think i am so committed to such ways of seeing and acting in the world that way, but then i am less scientist than artist and more comfortable with contradiction and transrational experience... there are so many books to read and so little time...

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

if you like this review, i now have website: www.michaelkamakana.com 220611: this is probably the most academically accurate of the translations I have read of this book, but still prefer commentary o