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Cont Philos Rev (2010) 42:511553

DOI 10.1007/s11007-009-9119-8

Nishida on Heidegger

Curtis A. Rigsby

Published online: 29 January 2010


Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Abstract Heidegger and East-Asian thought have traditionally been strongly


correlated. However, although still largely unrecognized, significant differences
between the political and metaphysical stance of Heidegger and his perceived
counterparts in East-Asia most certainly exist. One of the most dramatic disconti-
nuities between East-Asian thought and Heidegger is revealed through an
investigation of Kitaro Nishidas own vigorous criticism of Heidegger. Ironically,
more than one study of Heidegger and East-Asian thought has submitted that
Nishida is that representative of East-Asian thought whose philosophy most closely
resembles Heideggerian thought. In words that then and now resound discordantly
within the enshrined, established view of Heideggers relationship to East-Asian

* Note the superscript system I have devised to aid in translation. The precision of Japanese
philosophical vocabulary does not always translate easily into English. One English term with multiple
meanings, is often expressible by two or more Japanese terms with exactly one meaning each. I have
added superscripts to clarify the original Japanese term where appropriate, as follows: [EXPERIENCE]
experience (generic) []; experiencet (intensified with possible bodily manifestation) [].
[HISTORY] historyg (as in the theological history of faith, cf Bultmannian theology) (Geschichte);
historyh (as in the factual history discernible by science) (Historie). [IDEALISM] idealismr (versus
realism) []; idealismb (versus materialism/realism) []; idealismm (versus materialism)
[]; idealismp or optimism (versus pessimism) []. [MATTER] materialismm [];
matterh (as opposed to form) []. [OBJECT] objecte (epistemological) []; objectx (existential)
[]; object (determinate, standing against) []. [REAL] real (generic) []; realj (especially,
philosophically, as a substance) []. [SPIRIT] spiritg (as in German Geist) []; spiritr (as
animating force) []. [SUBJECT] subjecte (epistemological) []; subjectx (existential, active) [
]; subjectg (grammatical-logical) []; subject matter []; all translations, unless otherwise
indicated, are the authors.

C. A. Rigsby (&)
Philosophy Department of Saint Lawrence University, Canton, NY, USA
e-mail: curtisrigsby@yahoo.com

C. A. Rigsby
Japan Committee of the Society of Christian Philosophers (International)
URL: http://www.societyofchristianphilosophers.com/

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512 C. A. Rigsby

thought, Nishida stated uninhibitedly his own view of Heidegger in the noteworthy
statement: Heidegger is not worth your time Hedoes not recognize that which
is indispensible and decisive, namely, God. This present study lays out for the first
time in English, the significant differences between the metaphysical and political
stances of Nishida and Heidegger, Nishidas own critique of Heidegger, and
Heideggers own rather dismal assessment of non-Western philosophy, all of which
demonstrate a remarkable, hitherto unrecognized discontinuity between Heidegger
and East-Asian thought.

Keywords Heidegger Nishida Kyoto School Nothingness God


Karl Barth Ethnocentrism Nazism East-Asian philosophy
Comparative philosophy

1 Introduction

In the still emerging encounter between Heideggerian philosophy, Japanese


thinkers, and Western comparative thought, the general consensus has traditionally
been that a strong continuity exists between Heidegger and East-Asian thought.
Even in the wake of the critical shock waves generated by Victor Faras 1987 book
Heidegger and Nazism, and in the consequent scrutiny focused on the political
thought of the Kyoto School of Modern Japanese philosophy in studies such as the
1994 anthology Rude Awakenings, the perceived continuity between Heidegger and
East-Asian thought continues to persist. However, although still largely unrecog-
nized, significant differences between the political and metaphysical stance of
Heidegger and his perceived counterparts in East-Asia, most certainly exist. One of
the most dramatic discontinuities between East-Asian thought and Heidegger is
revealed through an investigation of Kitaro Nishidas own vigorous criticism of
Heidegger. Ironically, more than one study of Heidegger and East-Asian thought
has submitted that Nishida is that representative of East-Asian thought whose
philosophy most closely resembles Heideggerian thought. In words that then and
now resound discordantly within the enshrined, established view of Heideggers
relationship to East-Asian thought, Nishida stated uninhibitedly his own view of
Heidegger in the noteworthy statement: Heidegger is not worth your time.1 This
statement was a strong impetus for Nishidas student, Katsumi Takizawa, to first
reevaluate Heideggerian philosophy, and then the Nishida Philosophy itself, from

1
Takizawa recorded this statement three times, in TKC 1:441, TKC 2:5212, and Inquiring of Religion
(1976), p. 87, (the last source being reprinted in Sakaguchis Katsumi Takizawa Timline p. 164). Cf
endnote in [3], just before [3.1], for full statement.
*TKC = The Collected Works of Katsumi Takizawa [] (abbreviated TKC). (1971
1975) Kyoto: Hozokan [] (all except the first printing of vol. 1, by Sogensha): vol. 1 (by Sogensha,
1971), vol. 4, 5, 7 (1973), vol. 3, 6, 8, 9, 10 (1974), vol. 1 (originally publ. 1971 by Sogensha but
republished by Hozo in 1975), 2 (1975).
*Inquiring of Religion [] (first ed, 1976). Tokyo: Sanichi Shobo [].
*Sakaguchi, Hiroshi [], ed. (1989) Katsumi Takizawa: Timeline of Selected Works [:
]. Fukuoka: Sogensha [].

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Nishida on Heidegger 513

the standpoint that Nishida claimed Heidegger fatally lacked, namelythe


standpoint which recognizes the indispensable and decisive reality of God.2

2 Asian thought & enthusiasm for Heidegger

From the beginning of Heideggers career up until the present, the Japanese have
shown an enthusiasm for his thought, matched by a corresponding enthusiasm in
Western comparative studies of Heidegger and East-Asian thought, and modern
Japanese Philosophy in particular. Heidegger himself appears to have exhibited a
marked appreciation of East-Asian thought and culture.

2.1 Heideggers enthusiasm for Asia

In a letter to the organizers of the 1969 conference in Hawaii, Heidegger encouraged


hopes that his philosophy may stimulate a deeper understanding and fruitful
encounter between East and West, when he wrote:
Again and again it has seemed urgent to me that a dialogue take place with the
thinkers of what is to us the Eastern world.3
Heidegger himself had already dialogued at length with various Japanese thinkers,
including Nishidas student, Takizawa, in 1965.4 In 1954, Heidegger issued the
essay A Dialogue on Language between a Japanese and an Inquirer, which is a
fictional reconstruction of a real discussion he had in the same year with Tomio
Tezuka, a Japanese scholar of German literature from Tokyo University. In this
1954 essay, Heidegger references Nishida, Hajime Tanabe, and especially Shuzo
Kuki,5 and recalls fondly various stimulating encounters Heidegger had with
Japanese thinkers. In this essay, which is written in the form of a dialogue between
Heidegger and a Japanese interlocutor, Heidegger exhibits an interest in Japanese
culture, and ponderously considers the prospects for intercultural dialogue. He
undertakes philosophically motivated definitions of the Japanese words for chic
(iki []) and word/language (kotoba []).6 He claims that his essay What is
Metaphysics? and its leitmotif of Nothing (das Nichts) was understood
immediately by the Japanese because of their sensitivity to East-Asian Emptiness,7

2
ibid.
3
Philosophy East and West, vol. 20, No. 3, July, 1970, p. 221; Parkes, Heidegger and Asian Thought, p. 7.
*Heidegger, (1970) 1969 letter printed in Introduction to the Symposium and Reading of a Letter from
Martin Heidegger, by Winfield E. Nagley, in Philosophy East and West, vol. 20, no. 3, July
*Parkes, Graham, ed. (1987) Heidegger and Asian Thought. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
4
Sakaguchi, Timeline, p. 148.
5
Heidegger, in On the Way to Language, references Nishida (p. 1), Tanabe (p. 5, 37), and Kuki
(throughout A Dialogue on Language).
*Heidegger (1971b). On the Way to Language. [Grn: Unterwegs zur Sprache (1959)] as translated by
Peter D. Hertz. New York: Harper & Row.
6
Heidegger, ibid, p. 43ff.
7
Heidegger, ibid, p. 19. Cf also Parkes in May, p. 98.

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514 C. A. Rigsby

and further claims that the Japanese have an innate understanding regarding the
reserve which respects the mystery of language, and which is necessary to
prevent unwarranted conceptualization.8 Heidegger praises his Japanese dialogue
companion, stating: you are nearer to the reality of language than all our
[European] concepts.9 Heidegger even said of D. T. Suzukis work:
If I understand this man correctly, this is what I have been trying to say in all
my writings.10
Noting Heideggers considerable interest in Asian thought,11 Graham Parkes
claims that the extent of his knowledge of Asian philosophy is not yet widely
appreciated.12 Parkes goes so far as to suggest that Heideggers notions of
Nothing and death correspond closely to the philosophy of modern Japanese
thought, even warranting the possibility that Heidegger himself was influenced by
the so-called Kyoto School which formed around Nishidas thought.13 Indeed,
Heidegger did maintain a correspondence with Nishidas colleague D. T. Suzuki,
and Nishidas student Keiji Nishitani, a correspondence wherein Heidegger
pursued an inquiry into East Asian thought.14 Nishitani was convinced that
Heidegger pursued this inquiry for the purpose of uncovering what the history of
metaphysics has concealed, as Nishitani stated in 1976 on the occasion of
Heideggers death:
With respect to metaphysics Heidegger wanted to go a step further and inquire
into what lies beneath it. It became clear that this attempt made direct contact

Footnote 7 continued
*Parkes, Graham (1996) Rising Sun over Black Forest, in Reinhard May (ed.), Heideggers Hidden
Sources: Some East Asian Influences on His Work. London: Routledge (Mays work was first published in
1989 in German. The 1996 publication was translated with a complementary essay, by Graham Parkes).
Routledge, USA: Canada.
8
Heidegger, ibid, p. 50.
9
Heidegger, ibid, p. 27.
10
William Barrett, p. xi in Zen for the West, the Introduction to Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings, by
Daisetz T. Suzuki. Barretts entire statement is as follows:
A German friend of Heidegger told me that one day when he visited Heidegger he found him reading
one of Suzukis books; If I understand this man correctly, Heidegger remarked, this is what I have
been trying to say in all my writings. This remark may be the slightly exaggerated enthusiasm of a man
under the impact of a book in which he recognizes some of his own thoughts; certainly Heideggers
philosophy in its tone and temper and sources is Western to its core, and there is much in him that is not in
Zen, but also very much more in Zen that is not in Heidegger; and yet the points of correspondence
between the two, despite their disparate sources, are startling enough. For what, after all, is Heideggers
final message but that Western philosophy is a great error, the result of the dichotomizing intellect that
has cut man off from unity with Being itself and from his own Being.
*Barrett, William (1956) Zen for the West in the Introduction (pp. iiixx) of Zen Buddhism: Selected
Writings, by Daisetz T. Suzuki. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books.
11
Parkes, p. 6.
12
Parkes, p. 5.
13
Parkes in May, Heideggers Hidden Sources, p. 81.
14
Parkes in May, pp. 99102.

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Nishida on Heidegger 515

with Eastern insights, such as those of Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Zen Buddhism.
For this reason Heidegger used to question me about Zen Buddhism.15
In regards to Heideggers more general interests in East-Asian thought, it should be
noted that in 1946 he began a translation of Laozis Daodejing with the Chinese
Christian thinker Paul Shih-yi Hsiao. Parkes claims that such encounters by
Heidegger with Laozi and Zhuangzi influenced both the style and content of
Heideggers post Being and Time thought, so as to move toward a greater
appreciation of the poetic.16

2.2 Japanese enthusiasm for Heidegger

Parkes has also noted that:


Heideggers interest in Asian thought has generated considerable reciprocal
interest in his work on the part of the Oriental philosophical world.17
Indeed, Japanese enthusiasm for Heideggers thought has roots as early as the
1920s. Kyoto School associates Hajime Tanabewho was personally tutored by
Heideggerand Kiyoshi Miki, had interacted with the young Heidegger in
Germany in 1923, and soon after began to comment about his thought in their own
writings. Because the last page or two of Heideggers summer lecture, Ontology:
Hermeneutics of Facticity, were lost, for 65 years, the sole source for Heideggers
first words on the topic of death were Tanabes lecture notes.18 Indeed, Tanabes
October 1924 A New Turn in Phenomenology19 is the first substantial
commentary on Heideggers thought in any language. Kitaro Nishida himself
immediately commented on Tanabes article, stating in an October 2, 1924
letter to Tanabe that Heidegger will contribute to cultural studies from the
phenomenological standpoint.20 The first translation of Heideggers work in
Japanese, What is Metpaphysics?, appeared in 1930, just one year after its
publication in Germany.21 Miki Kiyoshi published essays on Heidegger in 1930 and

15
Nishitani, Keiji. The Deep Sense of Crisis in Contemporary Culture [],
Yomiuri Shinbun 27 May 1976; trnsl. By Elmar Weinbayr as Ein tiefes Gefuhl fur die Krise der
modernen Zivilisation, in Buchners Japan und Heidegger, pp. 1934. Translated into English and
quoted by Parkes, in May, p. 101.
*Buchner, Hartmut, ed (1989) Japan und Heidegger. Messkirch: Jan Thorbecke Verlag Sigmaringen.
16
Parkes in May, p. 98.
17
Parkes, p. 6.
18
Parkes in May, p. 82.
19
[] in Shiso [] 36 Oct 1924; THZ 4:1724.
20
NKZ 19:582, letter #2470, October 2, 1927. As quoted in Yusa, p. 198, footnote 38. Nishida received
from his student Risaku Mutai, a copy of Heideggers Being and Time in 1927, the same year as its
publication in Germany (NKZ 18:327, letter #447 to Risaku Mutai (in Freiburg), June 17, 1927; cf also
NKZ 19:600, letter #2516 to Hajime Tanabe, June 20, 1927).
*NKZ = Nishida, Kitaro (1965) The Complete Works of Kitaro Nishida []
(abbreviated NKZ). Iwanami Shotenkan [].
21
Seinosuke Yuasa, who studied with Heidegger in 1929, translated Heideggers What is Metaphys-
ics? for publication in Japan in 1930.

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516 C. A. Rigsby

1933.22 Shuzo Kuki, who had interacted with Heidegger in 1926 and 1927, and who
was the first to introduce Jean-Paul SartreKukis French tutor at the time23to
Heideggers thought, released the 1933 work, Heideggers Philosophy, which was
the first book length work on Heideggers philosophy in any language. In the same
year, Tanabe summed up the thoughts of many in the Japanese intellectual
community when he stated:
Among contemporary German philosophers, no one has recently attracted
greater attention in Japan than Martin Heidegger. In what can only be
described as the German equivalent of the Japanese descent from heaven,
this comparatively young scholarHeidegger at 44 has just entered his prime
was given a post normally reserved for the most senior of academic
veterans. Obviously, in these exceptional times, the man is the object of
enormous expectations not only at Freiburg but also throughout the German
academic community.24
Tetsuro Watsujis Climate, which was soon to be published in 1935, although
largely a critique of Heideggers thought, still exhibited its indebtedness to
Heideggers brand of phenomenology and etymological speculation. Japanese
enthusiasm for Heidegger continued after WWII as well, as was illustrated by the
work Is Heidegger a Nihilist?,25 by Kyoto School associate Masaaki Kosaka. More
secondary literature on Heidegger has appeared in Japanese than in any other
language, including German and French. Between 1939 and 1960, no less than six
different translations of Heideggers Being and Time appeared in Japanese.26
Heideggers association with the Kyoto School is especially worthy of note, as he
was not only studied carefully by several of its associates, but also developed close
relationships with Nishidas close friend D. T. Suzuki, and with Keiji Nishitani, who
was the successor to Nishida and Tanabe as the generally accepted head of the
Kyoto School.27
Given the deep interest that Heideggers philosophy was causing among Japanese
intellectuals, it is not surprising that Heideggers philosophy played a major role in
Takizawas own graduation thesis in 1931. Takizawa also wrote a critical essay
about Heidegger in 1933, shortly before meeting Nishida in person for the first time.

22
Heideggers Ontology (1930) & Heidegger and the Destiny of Philosophy (1933).
23
Yuasa in Parkes, p. 158. Cf also Williams, p. 81.
* Williams, David (2004) Defending Japans Pacific War. New York: Routledge.
24
Williams translation, p. 181, from THZ 8:39 A Philosophy of Crisis or a Crisis of Philosophy? [
]
*THZ = Tanabe, Hajime (19631964) The Complete Works of Hajime Tanabe ()
(abbreviated THZ). 15 vols. Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo ().
Tanabe, Hajime. 19631964. The Complete Works of Hajime Tanabe () (abbreviated THZ).
15 vols. Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo ().
25
Piovesana, p. 201, footnote 2.
*Piovesana, Gino K., S. J. (1997). Recent Japanese Philosophical Thought 18621996. Richmond:
Japan Library (Curzon Press Ltd).
26
Williams, p. 82.
27
Cf Yuasa in Parkes, and Parkes in May, for a good historical overview.

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Nishida on Heidegger 517

It is clear that during this meeting, Heidegger was an important part of the
conversation, and also evident that Takizawa himself expected to study with
Heidegger, as so many of Nishidas other colleagues and students had already done.

2.3 The Western expectation that Heidegger is a key to Japanese Philosophy

Interest in Heideggers thought has not been limited to Japan. Western students of
Heidegger and EastWest comparative studies have also looked to Heidegger with
great expectations as an auspicious case of a Westerner doing philosophy in a way
that is especially commensurate with East-Asian thought. This is attested to by
numerous publications,28 and particularly, by a symposium on Heidegger and
Eastern Thought that was held at the University of Hawaii in 1969 to celebrate his
eightieth birthday.29 The essays presented at this conference were anthologized in
1987, with an introduction which states that although the vocabulary of traditional
(Platonic/Christian) metaphysics and contemporary analytic philosophy threaten
to subject East-Asian texts to gross distortion, the language of Heideggerian
philosophy is especially suited to dealing with the Asian tradition, as Parkes states:
The realization has dawned recently, however, that the European Continental
traditionand existentialism and phenomenology in particularhas devel-
oped philosophical terminologies that are far more in harmony with many
strains of Asian thought than are those of Anglo-American philosophy.30
Regarding Heideggers significance for comparative philosophical studies and East
West dialogue, Elmar Weinmayr concurred in 1989, stating:
Heideggers thought isone of the few (philosophical) European advances to
the place in which East Asia and Europe can creatively encounter one
another.31

28
Examples of such publications setting up Heidegger as especially compatible with Eastern philosophy
include:
*Existential and Ontological Dimensions of Time in Heidegger and Dogen, by Steven Heine, 1985.
*Thinking in transition: Nishida Kitaro and Martin Heidegger, Weinmayr, Elmar; Krummel,
John W. M.; Berger, Douglas, in Philosophy East and West April, 2005.
*Heideggers Hidden Sources by Reinhard May.
*Heidegger and Asian Thought, a (1987) anthology ed. by Graham Parkes et al.
*Heidegger figures prominently in The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism and Religion and Nothingness by
Keiji Nishitani, and also in Zen and Western Thought by Abe Masao.
*Japan und Heidegger (in German), (1989) ed. by Buchner von Hartmut.
*Japanese publications include: ( )
2002, ( ;: ).
29
Parkes, Heidegger and Asian Thought, p. 7.
30
Parkes, p. 6.
31
Weinmayr, p. 248.
*Weinmayr, Elmar (2005). Thinking in Transition: Nishida Kitaro and Martin Heidegger. (translated
from the original essay in the anthology, Japan und Heidegger. Sigmaringen: Jan thorbecke Verlag,
1989). Philosophy East & West. Vol. 55, No. 2, April, pp. 232256.

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518 C. A. Rigsby

In investigating how Heideggers wartime thought and political life might clarify
the meaning and value of the wartime Kyoto School, David Williams even stated in
2004, that Martin Heidegger is the greatest philosopher of our time.32

2.4 The Heidegger studies crisis & Japanese Philosophy

The destinies of Heideggerian philosophy and modern Japanese Philosophy have


been closely intertwined, not only for the good, but also for the bad. When Victor
Faras 1987 book Heidegger and Nazism provoked a scandal throughout the world
of Heidegger scholarshipa scandal aggravated by a study of the same year which
exposed the anti-Semitic editorials of deconstructionist critic Paul de Man33the
resulting shock waves led to the 1994 anthology, Rude Awakenings, which
reevaluated the wartime political ideology and activity of the Kyoto School, of
which Nishida was a leading figure. Thus whereas since the 1960s, Western studies
of Kyoto School thought and Zen Buddhism had focused primarily on religious and
ontological themes, Faras work led to a new political vantage point in the 1990s,
whereby previously positive receptions transformed into highly critical assessments.
James Heisig and John Maraldo note:
If there is one factor we can point to as having brought the political aspect to
the fore, it is the case of Martin Heidegger. In the light of new revelations of
Heideggers associations with the German Nazi Party, affections for
Heideggerian thought underwent a sea of change, and in the process, the
consciousness of a generation was awakened as never before to the political
consequences of supposedly apolitical philosophers and scholars. It was only a
matter of time before this rude awakening was transmitted to those attracted to
the philosophy of the Kyoto School, not to mention Zen Buddhism.34
Williams concurs regarding this wave of Japan critique (Grn: Japanokritik),
stating:
The global debate that had erupted in the 1980s over Heideggers politicsthe
so-called Faras Affairdealt a severe blow to the reputation of Kyoto
School philosophy in the West.35
Indeed, Williams notes that The ricochet of the Faras Affair damaged the Western
commitmentmoral, aesthetic, religious, and metaphysicalto Kyoto thought.36
Somberly keeping in view the central question of FarasIs there anything in
32
Williams, p. 29.
33
Williams, p. 147.
34
Heisig and Maraldo, Rude Awakenings, pp. viiviii. Cf Williams p. 144. Cf also Maraldo, The
Problem of World Culture, 1995, pp. 183, 189.
*Heisig, James and John Maraldo (1995) Rude Awakenings: Zen, the Kyoto School, and the Question of
Nationalism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
*Maraldo, John C. (1995) The Problem of World Culture: Towards an Appropriation of Nishidas
Philosophy of Nation and Culture. The Eastern Buddhist. Volume 28, number 2, Autumn, pp. 183197.
35
Williams, p. 129.
36
Williams, p. 141.

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Nishida on Heidegger 519

Heideggers philosophy that would have made his involvement with the Nazis
impossible?Jan Van Bragt, concluded in 1994 that, in a very general sense,
Kyoto School philosophy is intrinsically nationalistic, and that further reflection
upon the ramifications of this hitherto unconsidered aspect of modern Japanese
thought are in order.37 Williams went onto argue in 2004 that the corresponding
post-Faras Affair question which has generated the current critical stance against
modern Japanese philosophy is: Is there anything in Nishidas philosophy that
would have kept him from becoming an ultra-nationalist?38
Indeed, there is a sense in which Heidegger and the members of the Kyoto School
were nationalists who, in the face of opposition and competition, supported the
standpoint of their respective politispheres and cultures. Although this has been
perceived as a deficit by many Western scholars who take a critical stance toward
Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Williams has defended the Kyoto School
precisely in terms of its political objectives, calling it an adventure in post-White
thinking which defined the future of Asian resurgence.39 The very title of
Williams work of 2004Defending Japans Pacific Warresoundingly proclaims
this provocative thesis. Williams not only thus portrays the Kyoto School as a
corrective to Western ethnocentrism, but also appeals to the commonly perceived
continuity between Heidegger and East-Asian thought in order to defend Heideg-
gerian philosophy from the aftershocks of the Faras Affair, as Williams states:
If a German problem (Heideggers politics) has provoked this Japanese
problem (the rediscovery of the true politics of the wartime Kyoto School), the
reverse may also be true: a Japanese solution may offer a cure for our German
problem.40
Thus, in summary, Williams argues on the assumption of a significant continuity
between Heidegger and the Kyoto School, that restoring the reputation of the Kyoto
School should correspondingly restore Heideggers reputation. The implication is that
if there is no such continuity between Heidegger and the Kyoto School, then the merits
of the Kyoto School cannot be appealed to in order to salvage Heideggers reputation.

3 The purported continuity between Heidegger & Nishida

Any claim that there is a general continuity of thought between Heidegger and the
East-Asian traditions quickly becomes suspect upon investigation of the vast
diversity representing East-Asian thought and culture. Even when purported
continuities with Heidegger are limited to the Kyoto School alone, the vast
differences between its members and associates militate against any purported
essential similarity. For example, Shinichi Hisamatsu was a Zen Buddhist, Seiichi
Hatano was a Christian, Hajime Tanabe and Masaaki Kosaka were nationalists,
37
Jan Van Bragt, in Heisig & Maraldo, Rude Awakenings, p. 243. Cf Williams, p. 141.
38
Williams, p. 141.
39
Williams, p. 91.
40
Williams, p. 130.

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520 C. A. Rigsby

Kiyoshi Miki and Jun Tosaka were Marxists and Keiji Nishitani was an
existentialist of sorts. Given the vast range of options in modern Japanese
philosophy, more than one study of Heidegger has narrowed the field by proposing
Nishidas life and thought as exhibiting the strongest parallels with Heidegger.
However, some such studies, such as Arthur R. Luthers (1982) comparison between
the two thinkers, argue for a parallel between them based partly on an insufficiently
clear account of Nishidas thought.41 Given a clearer picture, in terms of both
political and metaphysical stance, strong discontinuities between the two thinkers
can be discerned if the comparison focuses on the early, pre-turn Heidegger.

3.1 Discontinuity between Heidegger & Nishidas political stance

In terms of the political stance of the two thinkers, Williams argues that for Nishida,
The analogy with Heidegger is close,42 in that both thinkers were objectivists,
prioritizing a standpoint transcending the historical creation and political activism
of humanism and subjectivism. Thus Williams distances Nishida and Heidegger
from subjectivists like Hajime Tanabe and the Kyoto School gang of four
Masaaki Kosaka, Shigetaka Suzuki, Iwao Koyama, and Keiji Nishitaniwho
stressed the rational self-mastery and effective agency, which is to say,
subjectivityt (shutaisei []),43 of human beings acting as subjectst.44 Not
only did Tanabe criticize Nishida for characterizing reality as determined by a trans-
historical principle that did not do justice to the actual movements of history,45 but

41
Arthur R. Luthers stimulating comparison of Heidegger and Nishida in terms of an original coming
into appearanceimmediately and directly experienced (p. 345, my italics) may characterize Nishida
in more phenomenological terms than Nishida himself would have felt comfortable with. Luthers most
questionable characterizations of Nishida appear in terms of a conflation of Nishidas thought with
Buddhism. Luther concludes that for Nishida, all sentient existents are essentially empty or void of own-
being (p. 353), karma is integral to cosmic processes (p. 354), and as in Hua-yan (Kegon) Buddhism,
the dependent coorigination of all factors of existence is inclusive of infinite past as well as infinite
future (p. 354). To my knowledge, Nishida himself neither adopts the concepts nor utilizes the
corresponding Buddhist terms, void of own-being (nisvabhava) or karma as integral to his system.
However, as Luther correctly notes, self-negation (jiko hitei []) is indeed integral to the Nishida
Philosophy, although not necessarily in a Buddhist manner; indeed, Nishidas notion of negation often
reminds me more of Hegelian negation and Christian self-denial than Buddhist voidness of own being.
Further, although Hajime Tanabes disciple Yoshinori Takeuchi (in 1963) portrayed Nishidas philosophy
of time as basically a Hua-yan Buddhist past to future/future to past mutual penetration and Western
scholars such as Steve Odin (in 1982) have likewise followed this interpretation, Nishida himself in both
1932 (NKZ 6:183) and 1945 (NKZ 11:375), emphasized the irreversible structure of time.
*Luther, Arthur R. 1982. Original Emergence in Heidegger and Nishida. Philosophy Today. Volume
XXVI, Number 4/4, Winter.
42
Williams, p. 145.
43
Williams, p. 68.
44
Williams, p. 110. The French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre would define subjectivism as pointing to
the fact that man has a greater dignity than a stone, and as having two meanings, namely, that an
individual chooses and makes himself; andthat it is impossible for man to transcend human subjectivity.
The Humanism of Existentialism (1945), in the context of Sartres explanation of Atheistic
existentialism.
45
Maraldo, The Problem of World Culture: Towards an Appropriation of Nishidas Philosophy of
Nation and Culture, p. 185.

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Nishida on Heidegger 521

in early Autumn of 1933, Tanabe also similarly criticized Heideggers Freiburg


Rectoral address of May 3 of the same year. Thus in 1933, Tanabe claimed
critically, that for Heidegger:
knowing is a creature born out of powerlessness. This is why the Greeks
called it theora Armed only with the awareness of the powerlessness of
knowledge, is it possible to establish, positively, with this principle alone, the
foundations for a metaphysics of the nation-state?46
That is, Tanabe felt that Heideggers Aristotelean commitment to a philosophical
methodology of mere theoradisengaged and disinterested contemplation
which during the Middle Ages degenerated into the handmaiden of theology, is
incapable of the Platonic invocation to historical awareness and political action.
Thus by way of Tanabes critique, both Heidegger and Nishida are united as
adherents to political objectivism, which is to say, a standpoint whereby individual
human beings are objects grounded in a reality greater than the effective agency of
historical production, and are thereby maximally distanced from the political
engagement demanded by subjectivism. Tanabes critiques of the objectivism he
detected in Heidegger and Nishida thus lend considerable support to the thesis of a
continuity between the two thinkers.47
However, despite the continuity between the two thinkers as perceived by Tanabe
and Williams, there are also significant differences between Heidegger and Nishida.
The differences between them were greatest in 1933, which is the year that Nishida
sent off his student Takizawa to Germany, and the differences remained strong until
the year of Nishidas death in 1945, which is one year before the culmination of
Heideggers turn (Kehre) represented by the 1946 essay Letter on Humanism,
wherein he locates the error of Western philosophy in a metaphysics of presence
dominated by the will to power of active subjects seeking planetary domination
of technique. Although the later Heidegger clearly prioritized the letting go
(Gelassenheit) of self-assertion, the Heidegger of the 1927 work Being and Time
and the 1933 Rektoratsredewhich is to say, the Heidegger most familiar to
Nishidahad strong subjectivist tendencies. On the one hand, the later Heidegger
would warn of the inauthenticity of self-assertion aimed at future-oriented
progress and technology, and would correspondingly affirm the authenticity
of the subtle disclosure of truth (aletheia) as given in the past and cultivated by
Greek thought. However, on the other hand, the early Heidegger conversely warned
of the inauthenticity of the past-oriented thrownness (Geworfenheit) of the
They (das Man), who in making no attempt to face the future and its implications
of authenticity, constantly threaten to rob human beings (Dasein) of their self-
autonomy, responsibility, and choice. Heideggers early subjectivism reverberates

46
Williams, pp. 182183. Tanabes article on Heidegger, Philosophy of Crisis, or a Crisis of
Philosophy?, appeared in a three-part series printed in the Asahi Newspaper in early Autumn of 1933.
Tanabe had recently issued a similar critique of Nishidas philosophy in May, 1930, in the article,
Looking Up to Nishidas Teachings.
47
Williams characterizes Tanabes critique of Nishida as a criticism against objectivism (cf Williams,
p. 116), and indeed characterizes both Heidegger and Nishida as objectivists (pp. 130, 135, 146).

123
522 C. A. Rigsby

clearly in a statement he made in 1933a statement which exhibits his choice-


oriented and future-oriented philosophical terminology of the period:
The German people must choose its future, and this future is bound to the
Fuhrer There is only one will to the full existence (Dasein) of the State. The
Fuhrer has awakened this will in the entire people48
Evidently, from Nishidas 1931 essay History onward, culminating in his notion
of active-intuition, Nishida himself became increasingly interested in the
concrete, socio-political creation of history. However, in both theory and practice,
Nishida never exhibited the same degree of subjectivist activism as Heidegger. Even
more significantly, from the beginning to the end of his career, Nishida maintained a
rather detached stance toward political matters which later commentators would call
resistive cooperation (hantaiseiteki kyoryoku []).49 Although this
stance worked indirectly to affirm the official policies of wartime Japan, it is not
comparable to Heideggers vigorous participation in political affairs and enthusi-
astic support for the Nazi party in 1933, the year of his Rectorship at Freiburg
University and the year of Takizawas study in Germany. Indeed, in private, Nishida
was highly critical of the political regime of wartime Japan.50
Although Williams argues for a strong continuity between Heidegger and
Nishida, he does not carefully note the difference between the early and the later
Heidegger. Further, Williams location of a continuity between the two thinkers
seems to assume the position of the later Heidegger. However, it is precisely the
philosophical subjectivism and political activity of the early Heidegger that led to
critical reassessment of his life and thought, and consequently, to a critical
reassessment of the Kyoto School. Indeed, it is precisely this subjectivist strain of
the early Heidegger that has led many to make a distinction between his political life
and his philosophy, thus affirming only the value of the latter in an attempt to
salvage it. Although Williams claims that distinguishing the man from the ideas,
the politics from the philosophy, does not work as philosophy,51 and that to make
this distinction is the hoariest cliche in the entire controversy over Heidegger,52
Williams himself nevertheless appears to resort to this cliche by claiming that the
ethicalpolitical critics of Heidegger often seem to have lost sight of the
metaphysical horizon and that This appears to be equally true of the political

48
Heidegger. German Men and Women!, Freiburger Studentenzeitung, 10 Nov (1933).
49
Cooperative resistance (hantaiseiteki kyoryoku []) is Ryosuke Ohashis term for the
wartime political stance taken by several members of the Kyoto School, including Nishida, a stance
characterized by negotiating a reorientation by means of immanent critique or cooperative correction.
I would like to acknowledge Bret Davis for making this information available online at
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kyoto-school/. Cf also Ohashi, Ryosuke. The Kyoto School and the
Japanese Navy [], Kyoto: PHP Shinsho, 2001, p. 20ff.
50
Cf Michiko Yusas biography of Nishida.
*Yusa, Michiko (2002) Zen & Philosophy: An Intellectual Biography of Nishida Kitaro. Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press.
51
Williams, p. 150.
52
Williams, p. 156.

123
Nishida on Heidegger 523

critics of the wartime Kyoto School.53 Indeed, Williams himself praises the ability
to draw a firm distinction between the philosophic discourse proper and the realm
of political opinion,54 and thus even Williams takes the stance of distinguishing
the man from the ideas, the politics from the philosophy. Whether or not Williams
is correct in his claim that metaphysics is not about moral backbone,55 he has not
provided a satisfactory account of the continuity between the wartime political
philosophies of Heidegger and Nishida. If the wartime political thought of
Heidegger and Nishida does not exhibit significant continuity, then perhaps a
stronger continuity can be located in their ontological explorations on the
metaphysical horizon.

3.2 Discontinuity between Heidegger & Nishidas metaphysical stance

In terms of the metaphysical stance of the two thinkers, Elmar Weinmayr noted in
1989:
Nishida and Heidegger bothpoint to the derivativeness of the subjecthood of
man as well as the objecthood of things from a prior openness of reality as a
whole, that is to say, the subject-object relation is embedded in a deep.
structure embracing them and initially making their relation possible.56
Thus, Nishidas all-encompassing Place or Topos (basho []) exhibits significant
similarities with Heideggers Being (Sein), which is manifest as an openness
(Offenheit) and acts as a clearing (Lichtung) for the beings within it, thus
providing light (Licht) for human beings (Dasein) to encounter the emerging truth
(aletheia) of Being. Nishidas account of the relationship between the infinite Topos
and the finite individuals situated within it (oite aru mono []), also
exhibits significant similarities with Heideggers account of the ontological
difference between Being (Sein) and beings (Seiendes), whereby on the one hand,
Being enables a genuine encounter between beings and elicits a sense of care
(Sorge) among them, and on the other hand, beings themselves derive their
significance from Being. Indeed, Nishidas account of the relationship between the
Absolute Topos of Nothingness and the individuals situated within it, as a
contradictory self-identity (mujunteki jikodoitsu []), and his
account of the manifestation of Nothingness as a transcendence and-yet
immanence (naizai soku choetsu []), exhibits significant similarities
with Heideggers characterization of the manifestation of Being as a simultaneous
absence and yet presence.
Heideggers preoccupation with the question of Being (das Seinsfrage), which
extended from the beginning to the end of his career, indicates that what the term
Being represents, was of paramount importance for him, and the same was true of
the notion of Topos or Nothingness for Nishida. Nishida often characterized his
53
Williams, p. 137.
54
Williams, p. 161.
55
Williams, p. 146.
56
Weinmayr, p. 234.

123
524 C. A. Rigsby

understanding of the referent of terms such as Topos, Nothingness, and the


Absolute, as God. Heidegger was less inclined to characterize Being as
God, and indeed rarely touched upon the issue of God. Just as with Nishidas
view of God, there is a lack of consensus and clarity regarding Heideggers own
view of God. Of course, it has been noted that Heideggers ontological difference
between Being and beings shares affinities with the theistic difference between God
and creatures, and also that Heideggers aim to rid philosophy of all metaphysical
theology does not necessitate the rejection of God, but may actually clear the way
for a genuine encounter with God.57 In the late 1950s, Heidegger implied this by
distinguishing the divine God (der gottlicher Gott) from the god of philosophy.58
However, although Heidegger himself references God and the holy in his own
work without rejecting such notions, his lack of clarity regarding the notion of God
has commonly led to the appellation of his position as agnostic. Indeed, in printed
translations of Heideggers notion of Sein or Being, some scholars do not use a
capital B in order to avoid making Sein sound like some absolute or
metaphysical principle that rules over other beings.59 Emphasizing the difference
between Heideggers b-eing and the theistic God, Weinmayr emphasizes that
Heidegger is not interested in some:
law standing above all beings, for example a highest conjoining
(Verfugung) of a universally destined transience to which beings are
subjugated.60
Weinmayr explains that to seek such an all-encompassing trans-historical law is a
symptom of the modern problem of the oblivion of Being (Seinsvergessenheit)
whereby The modern subject desires that which fits (fugt) the highest and most
universal being, because it is unconjoined (unverfugten) and not conjoinable
(unverfugbaren)61 Heideggers discontinuity with Nishida comes clearly into
view here, because Nishidas Topos is easily characterized as the highest and most
universal reality, fully absolute as the Topos of Absolute Nothingness or God.
Of course, Nishidas etymological appeal to relevant Sino-Japanese morphemes in
order to characterize the Absolute (zettai []) as that which has severed (zet-
[]) all opposition (-tai []),62 implies a radical immanence and continuity of the
Absolute with all finite things and thus contrasts with the radical transcendence
implied by the corresponding Indo-European morphemes (Ltn: ab-solvere),

57
Kovacs, pp. 2021, 24.
*Kovacs, George (1990) The Question of God in Heideggers Phenomenology. (Part of the
Northwestern University Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, ed. James M. Edie).
Illinois: Northwestern University Press.
58
Heidegger, Identitat und Differenz (Identity and Difference) (1957), p. 71, my translation.
*Heidegger (1971a) Identity and Difference. [translation by Joan Stambaugh from Identitat und
Differenz (19551957)]. New York: Harper & Row.
59
Krummel and Berger in Weinmayr, p. 251, footnote 6.
60
Weinmayr, p. 237. For ease of comprehension, I replaced the singular generic a being with the plural
beings.
61
Weinmayr, p. 238.
62
NKZ 11:396.

123
Nishida on Heidegger 525

which indicate a setting free (solvere) from (ab) or an unconjoinability


(Unverfugbarkeit) with all finite things. However, both Sino-Japanese and Indo-
European morphemes can generate the same end result in that maximal universality is
achieved in both cases, whether through the Sino-Japanese immanence in all finite
things or through the Indo-European transcendence from all finite things.
It is important to note that Heideggers account of Being, which is perhaps that
notion in his thought that most closely approximates the notion of God, changes
throughout the course of Heideggers career. Thus Heideggers later account of
Being more closely parallels the traditional notion of God than Heideggers early
account of Being, as Michael Inwood explains:
In [Heideggers 1927 work,] Being and Time, Being is only in the
understanding [of individual beings]. If there were no Dasein [i.e. human
beings], there would be no Being, but there would be beings Later [in the
development of Heideggers thought]Beinghas becomemore like
God[in that] what human beings do depends on Being itself Being does
not depend on human beings, as in Being and Time, but creates human beings
as its abode.63
Tokiyuki Nobuhara correspondingly noted in 1992, that for the post-turn Heidegger,
Daseins authentic existence began to be coterminous with Daseins devotion or
correspondence (Entsprechung) to the ultimate reality as the verifying truth (die
Wahrung der Wahrheit).64 Rolf von Eckartsberg and Ronald S. Valle, in 1981, in
the context of a comparison between Heideggerian philosophy and the major
Eastern spiritual traditions, have even identified Heideggers Being with a higher,
transpersonal God- or theo-dimension which is the source of legitimation and
validation of our activities.65 Thus whereas for the early Heidegger, human beings
are a precondition for Being, for the later Heidegger, the reverse is the case.
Therefore, it can be said that in the early Heideggerthe Heidegger of whom
Nishida was most familiarthe notion of God is maximally absent.

63
Inwood, A Heidegger Dictionary, pp. 7273. Man changed to human beings.
*Inwood, Michael (1999) The Blackwell Philosopher Dictionaries: A Heidegger Dictionary.
Massachusetts: Blackwell.
64
Nobuhara, Portraying Authentic Existence, part I, pp. 6162.
*Nobuhara, Tokiyuki (19921993) Portraying Authentic Existence by the Method of Analogy:
Toward the Creative Uses of the Analogy of Attribution Duorum Ad Tertium for Comparative Philosophy
of Religion. Bulletin of Keiwa College. Part I No. 1 Feb 28, 1992 (pp. 6182); Part II No. 2 February 28,
1993 (pp. 2750); Part III No. 3 Feb 28, 1994 (pp. 119).
65
Von Eckartsberg and Valle (1981) p. 289:
There has been emerging among consciousness-oriented psychologists an increasing recognition that
our personal and collective relationship to the world (man-world-relationships) has to be lived under the
inspiration and auspices of some higher, transpersonal power of divinity, of ultimate Being, as the source
of legitimation and validation of our activities. This higher, transpersonal God- or theo-dimension is
variously spoken of and conceptualized in different traditions. We want to select and compare
Heideggers work on the Western philosophical tradition of metaphysics and ontology with the major
Eastern spiritual traditions, because they bear some striking similarities in their emphasis on a
transcendent dimension, the theo-dimension, in human consciousness.
*Von Eckhartsberg, Rolf, & Ronald S. Valle. 1981. Heideggerian Thinking and the Eastern Mind.
(chapter 14, pp. 287311) Metaphors of Consciousness. New York & London: Plenum Press.

123
526 C. A. Rigsby

4 Nishidas negative assessment of Heidegger

Whatever positive evaluations of Heidegger might have been suggested by


Nishidas favorable 1924 remark to TanabeHeidegger will contribute to cultural
studies from the phenomenological standpoint66and by the strong interest that
Nishidas associates such as Miki, Tanabe, and Kuki had shown in the great German
philosopher, Nishidas overall assessment of Heidegger was not as Weinmayr
suggests, just an ambivalent posture expressed in a few places wherein
Appreciation and critical distance are mixed.67 To the contrary, Nishidas overall
assessment of Heidegger was overwhelmingly negative.68 Indeed, given a broader
picture of Nishidas view of Heidegger, it can be said that Nishidas overall
assessment of Heidegger can be summarized bluntly in the uninhibited statement
made by the father of the Kyoto School to the young Takizawa in October 1933:
Heidegger is not worth your time.69 In the same year of 1933, Nishida repeated
his negative assessment of Heideggeralthough in a much more restrained manner
in a December 19 letter to Goichi Miyake, who had studied with Heidegger at
Freiburg from 1929 to 1931. Politely assuring Miyake of the value of his study in
Germany, Nishida stated:
I respect Heideggers work, but it cannot answer the deep problems of
substance (jittai []) and life (jinsei []).70
In his statement to Takizawa, Nishida explained clearly what does provide the
solution to the problems of substance and lifea solution lacking in Heidegger, at
least in early Heideggerian philosophy. Thus Nishida expressed his solution and
also his reason for rejecting Heideggers thought, in the following words:
Heideggerfocuses only on such themes as Angst and death, and
although he often relies upon Pascal and Kierkegaard, he does not recognize
that which is indispensable and decisive, namely, God.71

66
NKZ 19:582, letter #2470, October 2, 1927. As quoted in Yusa, p. 198, footnote 38.
67
Weinmayr, p. 233. The full statement reads:
Nishida himself played hardly any role in the direct and immediate dissemination and reception of
Heideggerian philosophy in Japan. Indeed, only a few publications of Heideggers works are found in his
library, but nothing can be said of any reference to Heidegger. Appreciation and critical distance are
mixed in the few places where Nishida talks about Heidegger.
68
Even the statements by Nishida about Heidegger, which Weinmayr himself examines, are all negative,
pp. 233234.
69
Takizawa recorded this statement three times, in TKC 1:441, TKC 2:5212, and Inquiring of Religion
(1976), p. 87, (the last source being reprinted in Sakaguchis Katsumi Takizawa Timline p. 164).
70
NKZ 18:489, letter #824, December 19, 1933. (trns. Rigsby) Referenced by Yusa, p. 257. Nishidas
term substance (jittai []) can be understood in a colloquial sense or in a philosophically nuanced
sense. If Nishida has the philosophical sense in mindwhich is to say, substance as the unifier and
organizer of various propertiesthen this statement may be a criticism of Heideggers account of Being
and its insufficiencies in portraying the universal, all-encompassing Absolute which Nishida embraced.
Nishidas Absolutethe Topos of Absolute Nothingnessunifies and determines all concrete individuals
and the properties they exhibit.
71
Takizawa makes this statement three times, in TKC 1:441, TKC 2:5212, and Inquiring of Religion
(1976), p. 87, (the last source being reprinted in Sakaguchis Katsumi Takizawa Timeline p. 164).

123
Nishida on Heidegger 527

Given that the later Heidegger would himself propose formulations of Being which
are closer to the traditional notion of God, and also given that the later Heidegger
would also adhere more solidly to socio-political objectivism in the manner of the
Nishida Philosophy, Nishidas 1933 assessment of Heidegger most likely applies
only to pre-turn Heideggerian thought. At the same time, just as the pre-turn
Heideggerian standpoint, which tended to be restricted to a political and
phenomenological subjectivism, worked toward breaking the continuity of his
thought with Nishida, Nishidas own negative assessment of Heidegger suggests a
significant discontinuity between the two thinkers. In Nishidas own words, the
decisive deficit in Heideggers thought is failure to recognize Godthe
ultimate Reality which Nishida interchangeably calls the Absolute, the absolute
Place or Topos, and Nothingness. Thus Nishidas criticism of Heidegger is
conversely constituted and motivated by Nishidas account of Gods essential
character, which can be summarized in the following six points: (1) first, Gods
transcendence which provides a ground for mathematics and a standpoint which is
not affected by the vicissitudes of contingent phenomena, (2) second, Gods
prevention of ethno-centrism, (3) third, Gods affirmation of individual and cultural
autonomy, (4) fourth, Gods immanence which affirms the significance of socio-
historical life, (5) fifth, Gods prevention of Nihilism, and (6) sixth, the clear
recognition of the reality of God provided by Christian thought.

4.1 Gods trans-historical, universal, & necessary character

From the beginning to the end of his career, Nishida attempted to attain a standpoint
locating that necessary ground upon which contingent, historical actuality is
dependent. According to Nishida, this ground is not only given in immediate
experience, but is the a priori basis for all the varied forms of experience.
Consequently, it was clear to him that certain formal and metaphysical truths do not
change, no matter the current historical time or cultural space. Nishida understood
these unchanging truths to be grounded in God and not in any one finite socio-
historical subject. For Nishida, phenomenology, whether Heideggerian or Husser-
lian, cannot provide an all-encompassing, stable standpoint, because it is restricted
to the contingent finitude of human subjects. Nishida stressed the trans-historical
character of his standpoint in a letter of September 22, 1940, to Takizawa, stating:

Footnote 71 continued
I propose the following harmony of Takizawas three accounts, avoiding repetition and yet providing all
of the information which he records of Nishidas statement:
Lately, Heidegger is famous in Japan. However, Heidegger is not worth your time (tsumaranu mono
da). He focuses only on such themes as Angst and death, and although he often relies upon Pascal
and Kierkegaard, he does not recognize that which is indispensable (kanjin no []) and decisive
(ketteiteki na nanika []), namely, God (goddo/kami []). There is no philosopher in
Germany now that I would recommend, as it appears that there is currently no philosopher of import
there. However, in Germany, recently, the theologians are vastly more interesting than the philosophers.
There are theologians such as Barth, Brunner, and Gogarten, but the most solid among them is Barth. It
would be good to study under him if you can. However, unfortunately, it appears as if he may have been
expelled by the Nazis and is no longer in Germany.

123
528 C. A. Rigsby

I argue from a more basic standpoint than so-called social science


(shakaikagaku []). I think there is a lot of truth in social science.
However, rather than believe this standpoint so easily as is done nowadays,
shouldnt we reflect and examine even more deeply?72
Nishida stressed in a letter of July 2, 1934, to the young Heideggerian Goichi
Miyake, that a properly philosophical standpoint must account for the trans-
historical character of mathematical truths, and thus stated:
It is interesting to apply a current Heideggerian view to mathematics and so
on, thus taking a historical viewpoint. However, can this method really
provide a philosophical rationale (Begrundung) for mathematics?73
Indeed, it would appear that if there is any field of inquiry not affected by historical
contingencies, and which is even manifest of necessity within historical contin-
gencies, mathematics would present a prime candidate for such a field of inquiry.
This is certainly a conviction held by many philosophers from Plato to Spinoza to
Russell. Nishidas own view is that Mathematics is extremely universal as the self-
determination of pure thought.74 Nishidas own conviction that mathematics
cannot be reduced to historical contingency remained strong to the end of his career,
as is exhibited in his 1945 essay The Philosophical Foundation of Mathematics
wherein he states: I propose that numbers exist by themselves and act by
themselves.75 It seems that the young Miyake took Nishidas stern rejection of the
historicization of mathematics seriously, as the mature Miyake went onto follow the
mathematical thought of Bertrand Russell.76
Nishida had more in mind than just mathematics in his appeal to the young
Miyake to locate a standpoint grounded upon what is universal and necessary. In
contrast to a standpoint grounded in the contingencies of the philosophy of history
then popular in the Kyoto School itself, Nishida strongly urged Miyake to consider
the standpoint of the all-encompassing Absolute Place or Topos that is the core of
Nishida Philosophy, as Nishida wrote to Miyake on March 20, 1942:
The philosophy of history has engulfed many people, but so few have
endeavored to consider my topological logic (toposuteki ronri [])
I truly hope you also will consider this endeavor. I think you also carry a
heavy responsibility.77

72
NKZ 19:128; letter#1488; September 22, 1940.
73
NKZ 18:497; letter #846, July 2, 1934. Yusa suggests that this letter should be dated 1933, p. 385,
footnote 53.
74
NKZ 7:400. Cf Dilworths translation on p. 218.
*Nishida, Kitaro. 1987. Last Writings: Nothingness and the Religious Worldview (trnsl. By David
A. Dilworth), Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.
75
NKZ 11:237; Nishida also states herein that All logic exists by itself and acts by itself Nishidas
essay: [], first appeared in [345,1945] (NKZ 11:237ff).
76
Piovesana, p. 221.
77
NKZ 19: 189190, letter #1648, March 20, 1942.

123
Nishida on Heidegger 529

In 1969, the mature Takizawa would himself write a critique of Miyakes


Heideggerian stance of historicist phenomenology. According to Takizawa, Miyake
claims that by pursuing a phenomenological reflection (genshogakuteki hansei [
]) of human beings, a viewpoint can be attained by which the self can
be rid of all inauthenticity (giman []).78 Claiming that Miyakes viewpoint
grounds itself in the historical contingent and fallible conditions of human existence
which themselves prevent authenticity, Takizawa argues that in order to improve
real society and its way of life, including the nation and its politicians, a viewpoint
which recognizes the necessary Base (dodai []) grounding the contingent
features of human existence must be attained.79 Indeed, in this critique of Miyake,
Takizawa notes the failure of the early Heideggerand even Nishidato clearly
locate this Base which transcends human subjectivity and historical existence, and
which by its transcendence provides a viewpoint that makes the critique of human
existence possible.80
Takizawas mature philosophy agreed with Nishida in locating a universal and
necessary Base upon which all contingent phenomena are dependent. Just as the
mature Takizawa would do, Nishida identified this all-encompassing Base or
Nothingness as God. As early as 1927, in a letter to Risaku Mutai who was
studying under Heidegger in Freiburg, Nishida opposed Heideggerian philosophy by
characterizing this ultimate reality in personalistic terms, stating:
I do not particularly object if you opt to consider Heideggers Being (On) as
being situated within the noetic dimension of my self-realization of
Nothingness. However, rather than characterizing [Nothingness] as what is
expressed (Ausdruck), it must be characterized as what expresses (ausdrucken)
the self. In other words, Being (On) should completely have the character of
an I (Ich).81
For Nishida, ultimate Realitywhether called Nothingness or Beingis not
primarily what is expressed within human subjects in the manner of early
Heideggerian phenomenology, but is rather the creative Power that expresses and
forms human beings in the first place. This trans-historical and trans-subjective
Power is what Nishida calls God. Following in this trajectory of the Nishida
Philosophy, the mature Takizawa also stressed the same unmanipulatability (Grn:
Unverfugbarkeit, Jpn: hishudansei []) of Absolute reality by claiming that
no matter how human beings may try, they are unable to alter the nature of
Gods relationship with contingent phenomena. Further, following in the trajectory
of Nishida Philosophy to characterize God in terms of mathematical truths,
Takizawa refers to the Divine-human relationship as the Archimedean Point

78
Takizawa, from Phenomenology and Dialectics: Regarding Goichi Miyakes book, Human
Existence, a 1969 essay later printed in (1987) The Decoding Coordinates, p. 136.
Takizawa, Katsumi (1987) The Decoding Coordinates: Philosophy, Literature, Education [:
]. Japan: Sogensha [].
79
Takizawa, ibid, p. 148.
80
Takizawa, ibid, p. 135.
81
NKZ 18:321, letter #432, January 30, 1927, to Risaku Mutai (in Freiburg).

123
530 C. A. Rigsby

(arukimedesuteki itten []), the Fulcrum (shiten []), and the


vanishing Point of all forms (issai no keizo no vanishingu pointo [
]).82 Evidently, in terms of Nishidas criticism of Heidegger, Gods
trans-historical, universal, and necessary character suggests the negative ramification
that all ethno-centrisms and ethno-exclusivisms must be rejected, and correspondingly
the positive ramification that the autonomy of all finite individuals and groups is
affirmed.

4.2 God prevents Ethno-centrism and Ethno-exclusivism

Nishidas characterization of God as a trans-historical Nothingness works to prevent


the absolutization of any finite individuals or special interest groups, which are inevitably
finite and distinctively formed beings clearly distinguishable from the all-encompass-
ing formless Nothingness of ultimate Reality. Thus Nishidas philosophy consists of a
stance which rejects the ethno-centric and ethno-exclusive undercurrents that represented
Heideggers political activism of 1933. This year was not only the year in which Nishida
shared his negative assessment of Heideggerian philosophy with the young Takizawa, but
was also the year in which Heideggger enthusiastically supported the Nazi Party in his
position as Rector of Freiburg University. Unfortunate highlights of this period of
Heideggers life include his refusal to protest the nation-wide burning of books with
un-German ideas, his silence in the face of the ill-treatment of his former mentor
Husserl due solely to Husserls Jewish ancestry, Heideggers furnishing of economic
support to ethnocentric military groups such as the SS and SA and corresponding
termination of all such support to Jewish students, and finally his premeditated success in
destroying the careers of the pacifist chemist Hermann Staundinger, the Catholic anti-
Nazi philosopher Max Muller, and the student of American philosophy, Eduard
Baumgarten. Although Heidegger did not hold to the official anti-Jewish Nazi policy
based on biological racism, he clearly held to an ethnocentrism and ethno-exclusivism
privileging German language, culture, and rootedness (Bodenstandigkeit) in the soil of
Middle-Europe (Mitteleuropa), thus condemning the Jews for their rootless (bodenlos)
self-identity based on diaspora and migration.83 Evidently sensing sufficient kinship with
Nazi ideology to make its general ethno-centric and ethno-exclusive focus his own,
Heidegger nearly absolutized the place of German culture by closely associating it with
his own version of absolute reality, stating: the Fatherland is Being [Seyn] itself.84

82
These semi-mathematical expressions can be found, respectively, in #1 Thelle, p. 73; Ulrich & Yagi,
p. 157; #2 TKC 7:322; #3 TKC 7:324.
*Luz, Ulrich and Yagi, Seiichi, ed. (1973) Gott in Japan: Anstosse zum Gesprach mit japanischen
Philosophen, Theologen, Schriftstellern. Munchen: Chr. Kaiser Verlag.
* Thelle, Notto R (1975) A Barthian Thinker Between Buddhism And Christianity: Takizawa
Katsumi. Japanese Religions. Vol. 8, October, pp. 5486.
83
Bambach, p. 53.
*Bambach, Charles (2003) Heideggers Roots: Nietzsche, National Socialism, and the Greeks. Ithaca
and London: Cornell University Press.
84
Heidegger. Holderlins Hymnen Germanien und Der Rhein. Winter Semester 1934/35; Ed. By
Susanne Ziegler. 1989. Cf Bambach, p. 55.

123
Nishida on Heidegger 531

This dimension of Heideggers life and thought did not go unnoticed by Nishida and
his Japanese associates.85 Indeed, Nishidas 1933 condemnation of Heidegger as
shared with the young Takizawa, makes it clear that Nishida was keenly aware of the
forceful measures taken by the Nazis in order to subdue all those who did not share
their vision. Nishidas knowledge about Karl Barths strong resistance to National
Socialism is apparent in Nishidas words: unfortunately, it appears as if Barth may
have been expelled by the Nazis and is no longer in Germany.86 Nishidas strong
affirmation of Barthian theology in the same train of thoughtBarth is vastly more
interesting that the current philosophers in Germanymay very well be intricately
related to Nishidas own opposition to the Nazis. Although Nishida was generally
aloof from political issues and controversya posture exemplified in what later
commentators called resistive cooperation (hantaiseiteki kyoryoku [
])87he did speak out against German National Socialism. In an interview printed
in the May 28 1933 issue of the Yomiuri Newspaper, Nishida spoke of the dangerous
worldwide phenomenon of totalitarian rule which threatened to crush high culture.
Nishida pointed out in this interview the irony of Nazi anti-Semitism, noting that the
two most influential ideological forces of the contemporary world had been developed
by Jews: capitalism by David Ricardo and communism by Karl Marx. In particular,
Nishida noted how impoverished the world would be without great Jewish scholars
such as Bergson and Einstein.88 Just four months after Heideggers inaugural address,
Nishidas successor Tanabe responded by writing an article dated September 5 and
published in the October 46, 1933 issues of the Asahi Newspaper. Noting
Heideggers recent entrance into the Nazi party and the dismissal of Jewish scholars
from teaching posts, Tanabes article, Is it a Philosophy of Crisis or a Crisis of
Philosophy?,89 mirrored Nishidas displeasure by hinting at Heideggers champi-
oning [of] the racial significance of German academia.90 The Kyoto School associate
Kiyoshi Miki in particular became sharply critical of Heidegger after Heideggers
rectoral address.91 Miki also joined leading Japanese journalists and intellectuals in
writing letters to the press in order to condemn the May 10, 1933 Nazi celebration of

85
Yuasa in Parkes, p. 254.
86
This quote is my own harmony of three statements made by Takizawa, found in TKC 1:441, TKC
2:5212, and Inquiring of Religion (1976), p. 87, (the last source being reprinted in Sakaguchis Katsumi
Takizawa Timline p. 164).
87
Cooperative resistance (hantaiseiteki kyoryoku []) is Ryosuke Ohashis term for the
wartime political stance taken by several members of the Kyoto School, including Nishida, a stance
characterized by negotiating a reorientation by means of immanent critique or cooperative correction.
I would like to acknowledge Bret Davis for making this information available online at
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kyoto-school/. Cf also Ohashi, Ryosuke. The Kyoto School and the
Japanese Navy [], Kyoto: PHP Shinsho, 2001, p. 20ff.
88
Yomiuri Newspaper [] May 28, 1933, reprinted in Asami Hiroshi, Fukkoku sanpen
pp. 13940. Referenced in Yusa, Biography, p. 255, footnote 34.
89
THZ 8:39 []. Cf Yusa p. 254. Cf Williams, p. 113.
90
Parkes in May, p. 109, footnote 13; German translation in Buchnors Japan und Heidegger pp.139
145 by Elmar Weinbayr. Cf also Williams translation pp. 181183.
91
Parkes in May, p. 81.

123
532 C. A. Rigsby

the burning of un-German books.92 Thus Miki also criticized the ethno-centric and
ethno-exclusive undercurrents in Heidegger by writing:
Heidegger seems to be seeking a principle for the nationalistic unity of
Germany in blood, earth and destinyin the realm of pathos, in which there is
no discernable objective principle.93
What Miki refers to in this statement as objective principle and elsewhere as
Logos,94 Nishida seems to equate with God. Nishidas own characterization of
God as the formless all-encompassing Place or Topos correspondingly works
against its conflation with any particular blood and soil. Of course, as wartime
pressures began to mount in Japan, Nishida himself closely associated the ultimate
reality of Nothingness with Japanese or Eastern cultureeven to the point of
conveying a chauvinististic outlook95but Nishidas broader socio-historical
metaphysics of global-world formationism (sekaiteki sekai keiseishugi [
]) also suggests that he was able to avoid the degree of ethno-centrism
and ethno-exclusivism conveyed by Heidegger.

4.3 Gods affirmation of philosophical and cultural autonomy

Nishida apparently held that if the all-encompassing God which grounds all life and
unifies all phenomena does notby way of its transcendence and formlessness
impose any specific form upon those finite, personal individuals situated within it,
then they consequently should enjoy a freedom from regulation and a marked
autonomy. In the same letter of December 19, 1933 to the young Heideggerian
Goichi Miyake, in which Nishida had disparaged Heideggers philosophy with the
wordsHeideggers workcannot answer the deep problems of substance and
lifeNishida also stressed the need for the Japanese to think for themselves, as he
stated:
Japanese scholars devour books by German thinkers, borrow their methods,
and use them skillfully, without, however, being truly sustained by their
serious philosophical reflections. If this continues to be the practice, the
Japanese will forever remain emulators. How could we expect to see a
philosophical system that is born out of the depth of our own lives? Japanese
thinkers need to engage in the mutual exchange of their views, read what their
colleagues write, and establish a Publikum, a public forum. A philosophical
tradition is not something that is established by the work of one single
individual, but it takes a community of thinkers.96
92
Yusa, Biography, p. 254.
93
Quoted by Yuasa in Parkes, pp. 161162.
94
Yuasa in Parkes, p. 163.
95
Cf Dilworths discussion, Nishidas Logic of the East in Last Writings, p. 129.
96
NKZ 18:489, letter #824, December 19, 1933. As translated by Yusa, pp. 2578. Days later, on New
Years Day 1934, Nishida drove this same point home by composing a famous waka poem: People are
people; I am I; Unperturbed; I go on the path; which I take (NKZ 17:496: Hito wa hito, ware wa ware
nari, tonikaku ni, ware yuku michi wo, ware wa yuku nari).

123
Nishida on Heidegger 533

The fact that Nishidas demand for the autonomy of Japanese thinkers and a
warning against a philosophy that is established by the work of one single
individual, occurred in the same context as his rejection of Heideggerian
philosophy, warrants careful consideration. Indeed, Heidegger, in his inaugural
address at Freiburg Universityalso in 1933enthusiastically proclaimed the end
of the much celebrated academic freedom amidst the flames of state-sanctioned
book burnings. Nishida once again wrote to Miyake on July 2, 1934 stressing the
importance that Japanese people think for themselves.97 Nishida also commiserated
with Takizawa in letters of 1940, regarding the importance of philosophical
autonomy and how rare its successful exercise seemed to be in Japan.98
Heideggers own account of the history of philosophy as a progressive oblivion
of Being (Seinsvergessenheit) suggests prima facie that because Western thinkers
have lost touch with the rootedness (Bodenstandigkeit) of human existence (Dasein)
in its home (Heimat) of Being (Sein), perhaps non-Western thinkers can aid in
revealing the truth (Grk: aletheia) that has been forgotten in the West. In 1955,
Heidegger himself suggested as much, in what Elmar Weinmayr has called one of
the few passages wherein Heidegger expresses himself explicitly in the direction of
an intercultural conversation.99 Thus Heidegger notes that the greatness of the
challenge facing the modern age suggests that the West is not able on its own to
achieve the planetary thinking necessary for building according to a more
originary calling which overcomes nihilism, as Heidegger states:
[P]lanetary building will encounter issues to which those involved are today
nowhere equal. This is equally true for both the language of Europe and that of
East Asia, and it is true above all for the realm of possible dialogue between
them. Neither is able on its own to open or to found this realm.100
Indeed, in 1954, Heidegger branded the successes of [European] rationality[a]
delusion,101 and wondered whether it is necessary and rightful for Eastasians to
chase after the European conceptual systems.102 Heidegger was puzzled as to why
East Asian thinkers did not call back to mind the venerable beginnings of their
own thinking, instead of chasing ever more greedily after the latest novelties in
European philosophy.103 Statements such as these, together with Heideggers
statements that Japanese readers immediately understood his thought, would seem
to indicate that Heidegger considered Japanese thinkers to be fully qualified for the
purpose forming what Nishida had called a community of thinkers in full and
97
NKZ 18:, letter #846, July 2, 1934. Yusa suggests that this letter should be dated 1933, p. 385, footnote
53.
98
NKZ 19:160; letter #1570; April 23, 1941. NKZ 19:161; letter #1572; May 3, 1941.
99
Weinmayr, p. 248.
100
Heidegger, On the Question of Being (1955), from the English language anthology, Pathmarks,
p. 321. Heidegger wrote this essay in honor of, and addressed to, his friend Ernst Junger.
*Heidegger (1998) Pathmarks. [translation of Wegmarken. Frankfurt/M.: V. Klostermann, 1976].
New York: Cambridge University Press.
101
Heidegger, On the Way to Language, p. 16.
102
Heidegger, On the Way to Language, p. 3. (Cf the original Unterwegs zur Sprache, p. 87).
103
Heidegger, On the Way to Language, p. 37. (Cf the original Unterwegs zur Sprache, p. 131).

123
534 C. A. Rigsby

equal cooperation with the West, with the aim of jointly overcoming the oblivion of
Being in philosophy.
However, Heidegger made it clear in a September 23, 1966 interviewpublished
in 1976 in Der Spiegel, posthumously at his request104that the problem facing the
West and purportedly portrayed so vividly by Nietzsche105 would not be
ameliorated by the aid of Zen Buddhism or other Eastern experiences of the
world. As Heidegger states:
Theconflict between the dionysian and the apollonian, the holy passion and
the sober account [as described by Nietzsche], is a concealed stylistic law of
the historical destiny of the Germans With this conflictNietzsche [has] set
a question mark before the Germans task to find their essence historically
I am convinced that a [solution] can only be prepared from the same place in the
world where the modern technological world originated. It cannot come about by
the adoption of Zen Buddhism or other Eastern experiences of the world.106
In fact, Heidegger not only thus claims negatively that East Asian thought is
incapable of addressing the problem of the modern technological world, but
claims positively that the only tradition fully capable of addressing this problem is
the German tradition. Noting that the modern technological world must be
transcended (aufgehoben), Heidegger claims that the Germans have a special
qualification for this change by way of the special inner relationship between the
German language and the thinking of the Greeks. Heidegger goes onto state
confidently:
This has been confirmed to me again and again today by the French. When
they begin to think they speak German. They insist that they could not get
through with their own language [even with] all of their rationality when they
are attempting to understand it in the origin of its essence It would be good
if thiswould be taken seriously on a large scale and if it would finally be

104
Sheehan, Heidegger and the Nazis, p. 42.
*Sheehan, Thomas (1998) Heidegger and the Nazis. The New York Review of Books, vol. 35, no. 10,
June 16, pp. 3847.
105
It is ironic that Heidegger invokes Nietzsche here to support the threefold thesis that only the
Germans are specially qualified for philosophy, that this qualification is due to the special relationship
between the Germans and the Greeks, and that the special philosophical mission of the Graeco-German
trajectory was fatally violated by Latin influence. Nietzsche was adamant that the Greeks were not a
single race, nor the first originary culture, nor the only truly earth-bound humans. For him, this
interpretive approach is based on an utterly castrated and mendacious study of the classical world
(Arrowsmith, p. 329/Nietzsche 8:19; Cf Bambach, p. 218). Rather, according to Nietzsche, Greek culture
was the product of synthesis between various Asian, Near Eastern, and Hellenic influences, as Nietzsche
states:
Earliest inhabiting of Greek soil: people of Mongolian origin, worshippers of trees and snakes. A fringe
of Semites along the coast. Thracians here and there. The Greeks took all of these elements into their own
bloodstream, along with gods and myths (several of the Odysseus stories are Mongolian) What are
racially pure Greeks? Cant we simply suppose that Italic peoples, mixed with Thracian and Semitic
elements, became Greek? (Arrowsmith, p. 387/Nietzsche 8:96; Cf Bambach, p. 218).
106
Neske & Kettering, Martin Heidegger and National Socialism (1990), pp. 6263.
*Neske, Gunther & Kettering, Emil (eds). 1990. Martin Heidegger and National Socialism.
(Translated from the original German by Lisa Harries). New York: Paragon House.

123
Nishida on Heidegger 535

considered what a momentous transformation Greek thinking suffered when it


was translated into Roman Latin, an event that still bars our way today to
sufficient reflection on the fundamental words of Greek thinking.107
If the problem of the modern technological world is indeed a global problem, and
if as Heidegger suggests, this problem can only be addressed by a Graeco-German
primal language (die Ursprache)108 and the philosophical tradition embodied by it,
then what room is left for non-Western developments to contribute to a global
philosophical discussion? If those within philosophical traditions embodied in
Romance languagesthe French tradition given here by Heidegger being just one
exampleare unable with all of their rationality to address the problem of the
modern technological world, and if they must even speak German themselves as
Heidegger claims, in order to begin to think, then it comes as no surprise that
Heidegger excluded Eastern experiences of the world from the project of
transcending the problema project which for him is the specific destiny of the
Germans. Heidegger thus carried on the trajectory of his nationalistic predecessor,
Johann G. Fichte, who stated: other races [which is to say, non-German races,]
speak a language which has movement only on the surface but is dead at the
root.109
Premonitions of this ethnocentric conclusion of 1966 may even be seen in
Heideggers 1954 A Dialogue on Language between a Japanese and an Inquirer,
wherein Heidegger, conspicuously noting the affinity of the Greek and German
languages, states to his fictional Japanese interlocutor: Our thinking today is
charged with the task to think what the Greeks have thought in an even more Greek
manner.110 In this same context, Heideggers statement that the nature of
language remains something altogether different for the East Asian and for the
European peoples,111 appears prima facie to warn of the danger of too easily
107
Neske and Kettering, Martin Heidegger and National Socialism (1990), p. 63.
108
As early as 1955, in a lecture on November 18, Heidegger proposed that the precondition of the
inevitable dialogue with the East Asian world can be nothing other than a dialogue with the Greek
thinkers and their language (Science and Reflection in The Question Concerning Technology and
Other Essays, p. 158; cf p x for lecture date). Nishida was also intensely sensitive to the significance of
the German and Greek cultures. He wrote large sections of his diary in German. In his 1934 Sequel to the
Basic Problems of Philosophy, Nishida even stated: I believe that our Japanese culture has features
which especially resemble the Greek cultural form (NKZ 7:443). Nishida associates the Japanese and
Greek cultures because they both have an immanent worldview and both prioritize the aesthetic.
However, Nishida qualifies the correspondence between the Japanese and Greek cultures by noting that
Buddhism, which constitutes an important part of Japanese culture, adheres to a transcendent
worldview as does Christianity (NKZ 7:442; Dilworths translation p. 247).
*Heidegger (1977) The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. New York: Harper &
Row.
109
Johann G. Fichte, Reden an die deutsche Nation (Addresses to the German Nation) [1808] (Hamburg:
Meiner, 1978), p. 72; Quoted and explained in Bambach p. 55.
110
Heidegger, On the Way to Language, p. 39. Heideggers identification of Greek and German language
occurs on p. 46, where he suggests etymological affinities between Greek charis (grace) on the one
hand, and Greek tiktousa and German dichten (versify, but meaning bring forward according to
Heidegger) on the other hand.
111
Heidegger, ibid, p. 23; cf also p. 5, where Heidegger claims that Europeans and Eastasians dwell in
different houses of Being.

123
536 C. A. Rigsby

conflating Japanese and Western experiences and interpretations of the world.


However, Heideggers strict distinction between East Asian and European
reflections of reality, and especially his identification of German language with
the philosophical language of the Greeks, more likely threatens to prevent full
recognition of the capability of non-Western thinkers to autonomously participate in
a genuine project of philosophy. Thus, what on the surface may look like respect for
non-Western traditions may actually have the converse effect of ethnic exclusion, as
is suggested by Heideggers statement:
The name aesthetics and what it names grow out of European thinking, out
of philosophy. Consequently, aesthetic consideration must ultimately remain
alien to East-Asian thinking.112
In 1973, just three years before his death, Heidegger claimed even more clearly that
the only philosophy is European philosophy, stating that there is no other, neither a
Chinese nor an Indian philosophy.113
Heideggers equation of European thinking and philosophy is often repeated
performatively even today in Japan, where on the one hand, it is common to apply
the term tetsugaku [], or philosophy, only to European philosophy and
occasionally to modern Japanese philosophy, and on the other hand, the term
shiso [], or thought, to pre-modern Japanese intellectual history, which is
to say, Japanese thought before Western contact. In this context of contrastive use,
the term tetsugaku tends to suggest greater rigor and seriousness than shiso.
Nishida always referred to his own project as tetsugaku, and stressed that
Japanese thinkers must develop tetsugaku autonomously. It is worthy of note that
Nishida himself had written the article for the heading Philosophy (tetsugaku) in
the voluminous 1912 edition of the Iwanami Dictionary of Philosophy (iwanami
tetsugaku jiten []). Although Nishida in this article explicitly
examines by name the philosophical ideas of Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Epicurus,
Spinoza, Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Locke, Wilhelm Windelband, Bergson, and other
Western thinkers, Nishida nevertheless proposes a definition of philosophy in terms
of the unification of the sciences and the unifying power of the True, the Good, and
the Beautiful, in the language of his own 1911 masterwork, An Inquiry Into the
Good.114 Nishida challenged the Heideggerian Miyake in a letter of July 2, 1934,
stating, if we do not attempt to alter conventional thinking at its base, then we
cannot develop a new philosophy (tetsugaku).115 Even while noting the differences
in rhetoric and trajectory between Western philosophy and Japanese philosophy,
Nishida still stressed a solid base uniting all philosophical projects, as he stated in
1940:

112
Heidegger, ibid, p. 2. My italics.
113
Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?, p. 224. (Cf the original Was heisst Denken?, p. 136).
*(1968) What is Called Thinking? [Grn: Was heisst Denken? (1973)]. New York: Harper and Row.
114
Kitaro Nishida: article under the heading Philosophy in the 1912 Iwanami Dictionary of Philosophy
[], pp. 667668.
115
NKZ 18:497498, letter #846, July 2, 1934. Yusa suggests that this letter should be dated 1933,
p. 385, footnote 53,but I have followed the NKZ format.

123
Nishida on Heidegger 537

I am not saying that there are two kinds (nishu []) of logic (ronri []),
Western and Eastern. There must be only one logic.116
European leanings toward ethnocentrism and ethno-exclusivism as exemplified by
Heidegger, did not go unnoticed by Nishida and his associates. Nishida,117 his
successor Tanabe, and Nishidas close associate Kiyoshi Miki, would all make
public statements in 1933 and onward condemning German ethnocentrism.118 For
example, Nishida himself stated in 1937:
The Europeans are inclined to regard their own present culture as the only
highly developed one and the best. They tend to believe that other peoples, if
they are to make progress in their development, must become just like
themselves. I regard this as petty conceit. The primordial form of historical
culture is, in my view, richer.119
It appears that Paul Shih-yi Hsiao, the Chinese scholar who in 1946 began a
collaborative translation with Heidegger of Laozis Daodejing, may have felt a
similar apprehension about Heideggers privileging of the Western tradition to the
effect that Heideggerian themes would be read into the text in an unwarranted
manner. In 1987, Hsiao reflected upon the translation effort as follows:
I have to admit thisI could not during our work together get free from a
slight anxiety that Heideggers notes might perhaps go beyond what is called
for in a translation. As an interpreter and mediator this tendency unsettled
me.120

116
NKZ 12:289; from The Problem of Japanese Culture [] (1940).
117
Yomiuri Newspaper [] May 28, 1933, reprinted in Asami Hiroshi, Fukkoku sanpen
pp. 13940. Referenced in Yusa, Biography, p. 255, footnote 34.
118
THZ 8:39 []; Cf Yusa p. 254. Parkes in May, p. 109, footnote 13;
German translation in Buchnors Japan und Heidegger pp. 139145 by Elmar Weinbayr. Parkes in May,
p. 81. Yuasa in Parkes, p. 254.
119
NKZ 12:390391. Translation as given by Weinmayr, p. 232. Nishida repeats this conclusion in his
1940 work, The Problem of Japanese Culture, wherein he states:
Is logic (ronri []) nothing but the way of things are seen within contemporary Western culture? Is
the way of seeing things in Eastern culture merely an undeveloped form of the way of seeing things
within contemporary Western culture? I feel no reluctance in recognizing contemporary Western logic
as the systematic development of a great logic. However, must I learn this first of all as world logic? Is it
possible to separate even Western logicfrom a special manifestation (tokushuso []) of historical
life? It would appear that formal abstract logic is the same everywhere. However, it would appear that
concrete logic (gutaiteki ronri []), as a form of concrete thought (chishiki []), cannot be
separated from its special manifestation as historical life. Is the trajectory (yukue []) of Western
culture the one and only trajectory (NKZ 12:287, my translation).
120
Hsiao in Parkes, p. 98. Heideggers response to the calling off of the collaborative Laozi translation
can be seen in his August 6, 1949 letter to Jaspers. Jaspers had suggested in a previous letter that
Heideggers philosophy may have been inspired by Asian ideas. Heidegger responded in his own letter as
follows:
What you [Jaspers] say about Asian ideas seizes my attention (ist aufregend): Where I am unfamiliar
with the language I remain skeptical; and I become all the more so when the Chinese [scholar Paul
Hsiao], who is himself a Christian theologian and philosopher, translated a few verses of Laozi with me.
Through questioning I learned how completely alien that kind of language is; we then abandoned the
attempt The resonances presumably have a quite different root

123
538 C. A. Rigsby

Heideggers ponderous definition in 1954 of the Japanese word iki [] as


grace, and his consequent portrayal of Honens faith as being directed toward
meditation on iki, may provide a clue as to what Hsiao meant by going beyond
what is called for in a translation. Indeed, iki is commonly translated in English
as chic and was historically connected to artistic and stylistic sensibilities of the
Edo period (16031608) and culture, a far cry from Honens (11331212) religious
admonition to have faith in the mercy of Amida Buddha.
Of course, it is likely that Heideggers aim in 1954 was merely to use the names
of significant Japanese thinkers and ideas in a completely fictitious mannerand
thus with no intention of representing them accuratelyin order to set up a
methodological framework for considering the nature of language in general. It
should be noted that however inaccurate Heideggers 1954 account of iki may be,
it still comes close to matching his account of relevant Graeco-German meditations
on grace, thus suggesting that Japanese thinkers can approximate in their own
projects what Europeans have endeavored in the project of philosophy.
Heideggers fictional Japanese interlocutor seems hopeful in this direction, stating
to Heidegger most propitiously that, when I ask you about hermeneutics, and when
you ask me what our word is for what you call language, we ask each other the
Same.121 Still hopeful, but less propitiously, the Japanese interlocutor also states to
Heidegger: From a great distanceI sense a deeply concealed kinship with our
thinking, but adds inconclusively because your path of thinking and its language
are so wholly other.122 Heidegger himself seems less hopeful, stating:
I do not yet see whetherEuropean-Western saying and Eastasian saying will
enter into dialogue such that in it there sings something that wells up from a
single source.123
Heideggers aim in 1954 appears to be the recognition of the uniqueness of non-
Western experience, and correspondingly the avoidance of premature Westernizing
interpretations of non-Western experience. Indeed, prima facie, such Westernization
appears to be the danger that Heidegger warns of, in his admonition not to touch
what defines the dialogue between East and West.124
However, when Heidegger himself attempts to touch, however gingerly, the
meaning of Japanese culture by defining iki, his definition is sufficiently
inaccurate so as to lessen the credibility of his methodological framework for
considering the nature of language and dialogue in general. The sort of disciplined

Footnote 120 continued


(Parkes in May, pp. 1012. I altered Parkes translation by substituting seizes my attention for is
exciting, because the original German aufregend can mean either exciting or annoying.).
121
Heidegger, A Dialogue on Language (1954) (in On the Way to Language) p. 30.
122
Heidegger, ibid, p. 24, pp. 4041.
123
Heidegger, A Dialogue on Language (1954) (in On the Way to Language), p. 8; quoted also by
Parkes in Heidegger and Asian Thought, p. 1.
124
Heidegger, A Dialogue on Language (in On the Way to Language), p. 3ff (regarding the danger
of prematurely concluding that one understands the other), p. 22 (we must not touch [what is defining
our dialogue]).

123
Nishida on Heidegger 539

reflection on non-Western thought that Heidegger appears to have in mind for such a
lofty project would seem to demand a more rigorous examination and accurate
explanation of the few explicitly Japanese ideas that Heidegger actually brings into
print.
Heidegger often stressed the difference between Western and non-Western views
of the world, in statements such as we Europeans presumably dwell in an entirely
different house than East Asians.125 EastWest difference was particularly
manifest to Heidegger in the area of language, which for him, is significantly
the house of Being. At least from the 1950s, he often lamented that he knew
nothing of Asian languagesa knowledge of which would presumably work toward
establishing his suggestion of a radical difference between East and West. However,
despite the nearly 20 years in which he referenced the lack of Euro-American
scholarship in non-Western languages, and despite his own obvious interest in
etymology and original texts, Heidegger himself did not extend any effort to learn a
non-Western language.126 Perhaps Heideggers own lack of effort to engage East-
Asian thought more seriously on its own terms is related to his theory of language.
In contrast to a view of language as a vehicle for dialogue or communication across
cultures, Heidegger, in 1959, proposed the definition, language is monologue127
such that language speaks solely with itself alone.128 The fact that Heidegger
declined both to be present and also to write an opening statement for the 1969
Heidegger and Eastern Thought symposium in Hawaiieven though he complied
with a number of similar requests for symposia celebrating his original thought in
1969, 1974, and 1976suggests that Heidegger himself was not particularly
interested in the sort of dialogue that would provide East-Asians an equal voice with
his own.129
Further, the fact that Heidegger only rarely references the non-Western world
with the possible exception of Indiawould seem to indicate a general lack of
interest in the world outside of Europe and America. Heideggers numerous

125
Heidegger, A Dialogue on Language (1954), p. 5. Cf Ma & van Brakel, p. 555, footnote 63.
Heidegger reinforced his suggestion of EastWest difference when he devaluated Karl Jaspers
suggestion of 1949 that Heideggerian philosophy demonstrates remarkable resonsnaces with Asian
thought. Heideggers own conclusion was: the resonances presumably have an entirely different root.
Cf Ma & van Brakel, p. 533, quoting Four Seminars (2003).
*Ma, Lin and Jaap van Brakel (2006) Heideggers Comportment Toward EastWest Dialogue.
Philosophy East and West. Volume 56, number 4, October, pp. 519566.
126
Ma & van Brakel, on pages 5367, examine various statements by Heidegger between 1955 and
1969, by which he lamented his ignorance of non-Western languages.
127
Heidegger, The Way to Language (1959), p. 134.
128
Heidegger, The Way to Language (1959), p. 111.
129
Ma & van Brakel, p. 546, quoting Reden und andere Zeugnisse eines Lebensweges (19101976),
pp. 721722. Heidegger wrote in a letter of July 4, 1969, to the Hawaii symposium organizer, Winfield
E. Nagley: Now in regard to the words of welcome and introduction for which you ask, I have to appeal
to your kindness to excuse me for not honoring your request. Nagley did not publish this section of the
letter in Philosophy East and West, vol. 20, no. 3, July 1970, which covered the conference. A section of
the letter which Nagley did include from Heideggers letter reads as follows: Again and again, it has
seemed urgent to me that a dialogue take place with the thinkers of what is to us the Eastern world. The
greatest difficulty in this enterprise always lies, as far as I can see, in the fact that with few exceptions,
there is no command of the Eastern languages either in Europe or in the United States, p. 221.

123
540 C. A. Rigsby

references to Asia (das Asien) never refer to East-Asia, and may not refer to any
entity beyond the fringes of Europe. When in the 1930s and 1940s, he describes the
confrontation (die Auseinandersetzung) with Asia, Asiaas a collective
bound by the mythical and condemned to fate (Ltn: fatum)is an entity to be
overcome by the Greeks and presumably also by the Germans.130 In 1936, he
even portrayed the historical Dasein of the Germans as facing a stark Either-Or
salvation for Europe, which in order to overcome its own rootlessness, entails
shielding European people from the Asiatic.131 When in the 1940s he expounds
upon Friedrich Holderlins theme of the homecoming (die Heimkehr), it is the
Greeks in the East or Morning land (das Morgenland) who represent Asia, from
which Germans return to their own country in the West or Evening land (das
Abendland).132 Even in a rare exception of 1943, Asia refers to where the Indies
are,133 thus clearly negating the inclusion of China or Japan, which represent those
traditions for which most interest has been shown in anticipation of a dialogue
between Heidegger and the non-Western world. It is in Heideggers few references
to the East-Asian (ostasiatisch) world from the 1950s onward that intentions for a
genuine dialogue between his thought and the traditions of China and Japan may
possibly be found.134
However, Heideggers insistence that philosophy is European thinking and
thereby alien to East-Asian thinking135 appears to constitute a general trajectory
in his thought leading to his 1966 conclusion that the solution to the global problem
posed by the modern technological worldcannot come about byEastern
experiences of the world, but rather must be addressed as the historical destiny of
the Germans.136 In 1953, Heidegger stated to Nishidas close friend D. T. Suzuki
that Nishida is Western.137 Ironically, given Heideggers privileging of the
Graeco-German primal language, this statement may have been the highest possible
compliment he could have paid to Nishida. For Nishida, such an assessment of
genuine philosophy as Western would deny non-Westerners the opportunity of
doing genuine philosophy autonomously and cooperatively on equal terms with
Europeans. Most likely, such concerns were partly behind Nishidas negative
assessment of Heidegger in October 1933, and would thus place Nishida in
agreement with Karl Jaspers 1945 assessment of the Heideggerian philosophy as

130
Ma and van Brakel, p. 528.
131
Ma and van Brakel, p. 530, quoting Heideggers April 8, 1936 lecture on Europe and German
Philosophy (Europa und die Deutsche Philosophie) in Gander, Hans-Helmuth, Europa und die
Philosophie (1993), p. 31. In 1952, Heidegger also portrayed post-WWI Europe as a playthingfor the
immense native strength of the Eastern peoples (Ma & Brakel, p. 531, quoting What is Called Thinking?
(1968), p. 67/71).
132
Ma and van Brakel, p. 526.
133
Ma and; van Brakel, p. 529, quoting Die Einzigkeit des Dichters (1943) in Zu Holderlin
Griechenlandreisen (2000), pp. 3544.
134
Ma and van Brakel, p. 530.
135
Heidegger, ibid, p. 2. My italics.
136
Neske and Kettering, Martin Heidegger and National Socialism (1990), pp. 6263.
137
Parkes in May, pp. 99100, quoting D. T. Suzuki, Erinnerung an einen Besuch bei Martin
Heidegger, in Buchner, ed., Japan und Heidegger, 16972.

123
Nishida on Heidegger 541

unfree, dictatorial, and incapable of communication.138 For Nishida, the negation


of special privilege to any specific individual such as Heidegger or cultural group
such as a purported Graeco-German primal culture, would appear to be enabled by
the formlessness of God and Gods ultimate transcendence from any particular this-
worldly form.139

4.4 Gods immanence in history

The trans-historical character of Nishidas philosophy was well known in Japan, but
it is precisely this character which came most vigorously under attack, by both
Marxists and Nationalists. Partly in response to such criticisms, and evidently from
his 1931 essay History onwards, Nishida increasingly demonstrated sensitivity to
the socio-historical standpoint,140 and correspondingly emphasized the immanence
of God in history. Indeed, Takizawas first essay of 1933, which was highly
acclaimed by Nishida himself,141 begins with the sentence: Nishida Philosophy is
from beginning to end consistently a philosophy of the active self (koiteki jiko [
]).142 Just as Nishida himself was constantly criticized for a perceived lack
of sensitivity to the socio-historical dimension,143 Nishidas stance toward
Heidegger resembled the stances of Tanabe, Tetsuro Watsuji, and Kiyoshi Miki,
that Heideggerian philosophy fails to sufficiently deal with concrete history. Indeed,
the vast majority of Nishidas explicit criticisms of Heidegger take this form, as is
clear especially in Nishidas works of 1932, 1933, and 1944. Nishidas criticisms of
this sort can be summarized in the following claims.

138
Karl Jaspers, from a letter he wrote in December 1945 to the de-Nazification committee at Freiburg
University, reviewing Heideggers case after the war. Quoted in The Heidegger Controversy, ed. Richard
Wolin (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993), pp. 144151. Also quoted in Hiroshi Nara, p. 149 (Mikkelsens
article), cf note 7 on p. 149.
*Nara, Hiroshi (2004) The Structure of Detachment: The Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Shuzo (with a
translation of Iki no kozo ). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
139
This conclusionthat Nishidas recommendation of autonomy to Japanese scholars is derived from
his idea of Godis not explicit in Nishidas own words. However, I suggest that this conclusion is well
warranted because for him, clearly, (1) Gods character, which is to say, the character of Absolute
Nothingness, is formless, in contrast to the formed determinations of finite human beings, and (2) self-
realized human beings attain continuity with God and thus can be said to attain a formlessness, freedom,
or transcendence from worldly determinations which is analogous to the Divine formlessness. For
Nishida, God is the foundational concept of religion (NKZ 11:372) and the pinnacle of learning and
morality can in fact be reached only by entering the realm of religion (NKZ 1:172173).
140
Huh, p. 368, cf also p. 343 etc. My italics.
*Huh, Woo-Sung. The philosophy of history in the later Nishida: A philosophic turn, pp. 343374.
Philosophy East and West. Ed. Roger T. Ames. Vol. XL, No. 3, July (1990)
141
NKZ 18:473, letter #782, August 22, 1933.
142
TKC 1:197.
143
Kopf, pp. 7374, 84, 95ff. Heisig, Philosophers of Nothingness (2001), p. 4.
*Kopf, Gereon (2004) Between Identity and Difference: Three Ways of Reading Nishidas Non-
dualism. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture) 31/1:73103.
*Heisig, James (2001) Philosophers of Nothingness. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

123
542 C. A. Rigsby

*Heideggers standpoint is merely predicative and expressive, lacking genuine


subjectiveg and practical interest.144
*Heideggers Being provides no opportunity for the self to know itself through
action,145 because Heideggers Being is fatally separated from the self.146
*Heideggerian phenomenology can only see the historical activity of self-
realization from the outside.147
*Heidegger as a phenomenologist fatally prioritizes epistemology over meta-
physics, and fatally posits a trans-temporal Logos of Being grounded in a motionless
Greek metaphysics.148
*Heidegger, by following Dilthey, reduces the historical world to an object of
cognition and consequently fails to recognize concrete, dialectical action.149
*Heideggers philosophy only focuses on the subjectivee and temporal, and
consequently lacks an objective and spatial dimension.150

144
NKZ 6:165, from The Self-realizational Determination of Nothingness (1932):
Heideggers understanding (ryokai []) can comprehend a sort of active determination (koiteki
gentei []), but it is an action that that has lost self-realization. His world of understanding is
merely a world of possibility and cannot generate the present. It is a world of the mere predicative aspect
of self-determination.
145
NKZ 6:168, from The Self-realizational Determination of Nothingness (1932):
Heideggers Being may be similar to that which precedes the opposition of subject and object (shukaku
tairitsu izen no mono []), but Heideggers Being does not see the self itself factually.
His understanding (ryokai []) is an imperfect self-realization, and is merely action wherein, so to
speak, expression has lost the self (jiko []). The true self is not merely what understands itself, but
must know itself factually through action.
146
NKZ 6:172173, from The Self-realizational Determination of Nothingness (1932):
[T]he basis (kontei []) of knowledge [must be found] in cogito ergo sum [which means] the self-
determination of the expressive self [and correspondingly] the self-realization of Absolute Nothingness. It
is not like Heideggers Being, which merely expresses and understands (ryokai []) the self itself,
[but fails to] see (miru []) the self itself through action. I am not what is situated there (soko ni), but
I am what resides here (koko ni).
147
NKZ 6:179, from The Self-realizational Determination of Nothingness (1932):
Hermeneutical phenomenology, which sees the self from Being, may be scientific, but it is not
philosophical. It cannot discard the phenomenological standpointwhichsees (miru []) the
standpoint of the self-realization of the active self from the outside. Heideggers standpoint, which sees
the self-determinative fact of understanding [has this problem].
148
NKZ 7:79; Dilworths translation, p. 40, from Basic Problems of Philosophy: The Active World
(1933).
149
NKZ 7:179180, Dilworths translation, pp. 9495, from Basic Problems of Philosophy: The Active
World (1933):
[M]etaphysical problems are prior to epistemological questions. The opposition between subject and
object (shukaku no tairitsu []) already implies a standpoint which transcends that opposition.
Thusit is necessary to return again to the standpoint of Logos and to clarify the logical structure of true
Being. This in turn requires a return to Greek philosophy. Heideggers Existenz-philosophie has such a
purpose. But needless to say, the reality of modern physical science cannot be grounded in terms of Greek
metaphysics. That which moves and acts in time cannot be included within reality taken as trans-temporal
Logos. Even though Heideggers idea of existence is historical, it is without movement or action and
consequently his concept of time does not avoid being one of potential time.
150
NKZ 11:173, from Regarding the Philosophy of Descartes [] (1944):
[Following recent Western philosophical trends,] our country [of Japan] became completely
epistemological. Phenomenologyis unable to avoid intellectualism (chishikironteki [
]). Even Heideggers ontology cannot transcend the standpoint of the subjectivee self. [Inquiry must

123
Nishida on Heidegger 543

Thus Nishida joined several Japanese voices151 in criticizing Heideggers failure


to demonstrate sufficient sensitivity to the socio-historical dimension. Nishida was
in agreement with Tanabes 1933 claim that Heideggers emphasis on theora
resulted in a powerlessness to genuinely establishthe foundations for a
metaphysics of the nation-state.152 Nishida was in agreement with Tetsuro
Watsujis 1935 claim that Heideggers emphasis on time prevented a recognition of
the spatio-social dimension that is etymologically revealed in the East-Asian
tradition as a betweenness (aidagara/GEN-hei [])153 constituting human
beings (nin-GEN []), who not only live in the temporal (son []) but also the
spatial (zai []) dimension of existence (son-zai []).154 Nishida was in
agreement with Kiyoshi Miki, who after becoming disillusioned with Heidegger due
to Heideggers close affiliation with National Socialism, felt that Heideggerian
philosophy cannot be contemporary because its notion of Dasein remains in the
standpoint of individual subjective life without any social aspect, and that this
tendency was maximally manifest in an escapism into the philosophy of art after
Heideggers unsuccessful attempts to act as the philosophical spokesperson for the
Nazi party.155 For Nishida, it could be said that all of the ways Heidegger fails to
deal with the concreteness of socio-historical activity, are due to an insufficient
recognition of Gods immanence in the world.

Footnote 150 continued


proceed] from subjectivee to objectivee I have come to a dead end within recent subjectiviste philos-
ophy, and I believe we face a time wherein we must rethink [philosophy] at its basis (kontei []). The
historical world must not only be thoroughly temporal, but also thoroughly spatial.
151
In addition to the voices of Tanabe, Watsuji, and Miki, Takizawas colleague Toru Suzuki, himself
deeply influenced by phenomenology, criticized even the later Heideggers account of Being and beings
for not being logical, objectivee, or factual (sachlich) []. Rather, for Suzuki,
Heidegger is one-sided by being merely intuitive [], and thereby does not even provide an
opportunity for the irreversibility [] whereby finite and individual subjective intuition
is irreversibly dependent upon the logical, objective, and factual. Shibata, The World of Katsumi
Takizawa: Immanuel, p. 82.
* Shibata, Shu [] (2001) The World of Katsumi Takizawa: Immanuel [:
]. Tokyo: Shunjunsha [].
152
Williams, pp. 182183. Tanabes article on Heidegger, Philosophy of Crisis, or a Crisis of
Philosophy?, appeared in a three-part series printed in the Asahi Newspaper in early Autumn of 1933.
Tanabe had recently issued a similar critique of Nishidas philosophy in May, 1930, in the article,
Looking Up to Nishidas Teachings..
153
Note that the standard reading for [] is aidagara. I have included the unconventional reading
gen-hei set off by quotes, with the gen underlined and capitalized, in order to highlight its connection
to ningen [].
154
In his 1935 work Climate, Watsuji himself follows a Heideggerian approach by etymologically
explaining the philosophical roots of Japanese culture, excavating not only a temporal continuation (son
[]) but also a spatial locatedness (zai []) in East-Asian existence (sonzai []). The very title of
Watsujis book, Climate (fudo [])literally, a compound constituted by the elemental words wind
(kaze, fu- []) and earth (tsuchi, -do [])implies in its original Chinese-Japanese meaning, both the
natural physical environment and the human social environment as conditioned by the surrounding
natural physical environment.
155
Yuasa in Parkes, pp. 160, 162.

123
544 C. A. Rigsby

4.5 God prevents Nihilism

Evidently, for Nishida, a recognition of God prevents Nihilism. Indeed, in his


private 1933 criticism of Heideggers failure to recognize what is indispensable
and decisive, namely, God, Nishida explained: Heideggerfocuses only on such
themes as Angst and death.156 In the same year, Nishida repeated this criticism
indirectly in print, stating:
In this worldwhich both nourishes and kills us, we can both be conceived
of as thrown as Heidegger says, and can also be conceived of as projected
(kikakuteki []). In this world, our bodies (shintai []) can be
conceived of as individuals (kobutsu []) which both determine themselves
and which stand in a relationship of mutual determination with the outside
world (gaikai []).157
It appears that Nishida considered Heideggers view to be one-sided, focusing only
on Angst, death, and thrownness, without acknowledging the well-ordered
(kikakuteki []) side of human existence wherein the solidifying process of
determination (gentei []) takes place.
Nishidas view parallels the view of his protege Tanabe, who, in his 1948 edition
copy of What is Metaphysics?, wrote extensive marginalia claiming that
Heideggers conception of Nothing (das Nichts) is a mere negation of being and
a nihilistic Nothing (nihilistisches Nichts). Parkes notes that Tanabes assessment is
ironic given that Heidegger himself had protested the nihilistic misinterpretation
of his work which was prevalent in Europe at the time.158 Indeed, despite the fact
that Kyoto School leaders Tanabe and Nishida themselves considered Heideggers
thought nihilistic, a further irony is that Heidegger himself represents modern
Japanese thinkers as eschewing the nihilistic misinterpretation of Heideggerian
philosophy. The Japanese interlocutor in Heideggers A Dialogue on Language
equates the Heideggerian Nothing (das Nichts) with East-Asian Emptiness, stating:
For this reason we in Japan understood at once your lecture What is
Metaphysics?We marvel to this day how the Europeans could lapse into
interpreting as nihilistic the Nothing of which you speak in the lecture. To us,
emptiness is the loftiest name for what you mean to say with the word
Being159
On the other hand, Karl Barth, who became Takizawas teacher as Nishida had
requested, and who was himself a critic of Heidegger, was sensitive enough to

156
Takizawa repeats this statement three times, in TKC 1:441, TKC 2:5212, and Inquiring of Religion
(1976), p. 87, (the last source being reprinted in Sakaguchis Katsumi Takizawa Timline p. 164).
157
NKZ 7:118; Dilworth, p. 60. Basic Problems of Philosophy: The Active World (1933). Nishida here
refers, respectively, to Heidegggers original German Geworfenheit and Entwurf.
158
Parkes in May, p. 115, footnote 83.
159
Heidegger, On the Way to Language, p. 19. The original translation nothingness has been replaced
in order to harmonize with the term Nothingness, selected in this study to represent Heideggers
account of das Nichts.

123
Nishida on Heidegger 545

Heideggers real intentions in order to avoid this nihilistic misinterpretation, as


Barth states:
Heidegger is not and never was a Nihilist. His statement that man is the
locum tenens [place holder] for Nothing can be interpreted positively160
[F]or him Nothing is not a dreadful, horrible, dark abyss but something fruitful
and salutary and radiant.161
In Barths own examination of the motif of Nothingwhich he himself termed
Nihility (das Nichtige)Barth wrote an extensive commentary on Heideggers
thought in comparison with several other relevant philosophers, especially Jean-
Paul Sartre. The gist of Barths conclusion is that Heidegger, on the one hand,
rightly increases awareness of the Angst and despair constituting Nihility, but on the
other hand, due to an inability to discern clearly the reality of God, comes fatally
close to conflating this Nihility with the good which might provide hope and a
solution to the problem.162 The criticisms of Barth and Nishida are evidently in
agreement by explaining the reality of God as the solution to Angst and despair.
Ironically, although Nishida practically levels the charge of Nihilism against
Heidegger, Nishida himself framed his own thought in radically negativistic terms
such as Nothingness, self-negation, and the dialectics of death. Indeed,
Nishida stated that the beginning of philosophy is not Aristotles wonder, but rather
the deep sorrow (hiai []) of life.163 Nevertheless, Nishidas criticism of
Heidegger and his corresponding promotion of Barthian theology, which stresses
the power of joy and humor, suggest that Nishida was seeking after a more positive
formulation. The stress on radiant life and overflowing joy which is to be found in
Takizawas mature thought, can be seen as directly addressing this quest of Nishida,
as Tamotsu Maeda writes:
In his photographs, Nishida forms his lips into a straight line as he looks
seriously into the camera. What is striking about Takizawas photographs is
his smile. At the base of Nishidas philosophy is sorrow. For Takizawa,
doing philosophy is to feel a blessing in the existence of things.164
On the other hand, even if Nishida never fully explored the themes of joy and life-
transformation in the midst of worldly frustrations, it is nevertheless possible to
discern the trajectory of a more robust response to Nihilism in his thought.
Evidently, for Nishida, on the one hand, the trans-historical and necessary character
of God suggests that God is not overcome by the Angst and despair constituting the
vicissitudes of worldly life, and on the other hand, Gods immanence suggests
that human beings can find solace from these causes of Nihilism and renewed

160
CD III 3, p. 339.
*CD = Barth, Karl (1963) Church Dogmatics. English ed. of Kirchliche Dogmatik, Ed. G. W.
Bromiley & T. F. Torrance. T. & T. Clark: Edinburgh.
161
CD III 3, p. 347.
162
CD III 3, pp. 340, 345, 347.
163
NKZ 6:26, from [].
164
From the Katsumi Takizawa Association webpage: www.takizawakatsumi.com.

123
546 C. A. Rigsby

life-direction even within this world, by recognizing the reality of God as unshifting
and dependable.

4.6 The reality of God is well-attested to by Christian thinkers

Nishidas colleague Kiyoshi Miki characterized Heidegger as originally Christian


and considered Heideggers eschatological account of human beings as Dasein to
be following the trajectory set by the Christian thinkers Augustine, Pascal, and
Kierkegaard.165 Reflecting back on early Christian inspirations of his work,
Heidegger himself called the Bible the Book of books, and credited his discovery
of hermeneutics to his theological studies, stating that Without this theological
background, I should never have come upon the path of thinking.166 Nishida
himself noted Heideggers debt to Christian thought, and appears to have been
deeply interested in this connection. As early as 1921, in a letter to the
phenomenologist Tokuryu Yamauchi, who himself would become a Heidegger
scholar, Nishida appears to indicate such an interest when he wrote of Heideggers
connection to the Christian thinker, Duns Scotus, stating:
About Heidegger, I know that he wrote his dissertation on Duns Scotus, but I
havent read it. I did take note of it because I felt that we may still learn from
Duns Scotus.167
By 1933, Nishida was clearly disappointed in Heidegger for not paying proper
attention to the Divinity constituting the apex of Christian thought. Nishidas
disappointment is clear in his statement of the same year, that although
Heideggerfocuses on such themes as Angst and deathand often relies
upon Pascal and Kierkegaard, he nevertheless does not recognize what is
indispensable and decisive, namely, God.168 Thus for Nishida, Heideggers failure
to recognize the reality of God, was tantamount to a failure to discern the greatest
contribution of Christian thought. Heidegger claimed that Our dialogue speaks
out of a thinking respect of the past,169 and that the openness required for inquiry
and dialogue could avoid mere noncommittal disinterest by paying heed to the
doctrines of past thinkers, and always let them, too, take part in our dialogue.170 In
decisive points of this dialogue with the past, much to Nishidas chagrin, it appears
that Heidegger had primarily Greek and not Christian thinkers, in mind.
In contrast, Nishida, even in his first major work of 1911, explicitly engaged and
affirmed Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Dionysius the Areopagite, Duns

165
Yuasa in Parkes, p. 160.
166
Heidegger, On the Way to Language (1959), pp. 910.
167
NKZ 18:23940; letter #302; November 28, 1921. Quoted in Yusa p. 178, footnote 26. Heideggers
dissertation: Duns Scotus Doctrine of Categories and the Theory of Meaning (cf Heideggers On the
Way to Language, p. 6).
168
This From three statements made by Takizawa, found in TKC 1:441, TKC 2:5212, and Inquiring of
Religion (1976), p. 87, (the last source being reprinted in Sakaguchis Katsumi Takizawa Timline p. 164).
169
Heidegger, ibid, p. 34.
170
Heidegger, ibid, p. 30.

123
Nishida on Heidegger 547

Scotus, Pascal, Eckhart, and Cusanus.171 Nishida was not alone among his Japanese
associates in his fascination with Christian thought. Takizawa and Kiyoshi Miki172
were both positively stimulated by Blaise Pascal, thus following Nishida, who was
particularly fascinated with Pascals account of each human being as a thinking
reed (kangaeru ashi [])173 which stands in a dynamic relationship of
continuity and discontinuity with God. The enthusiasm of Japanese thinkers for
Kierkegaard was even greater, evidenced in studies by Miki,174 Hajime Tanabe,175
Tetsuro Watsuji,176 and even Keiji Nishitani,177 thus following Nishida, who
confessed that he was being moved by Kierkegaard.178 Even Karl Barth in his
early theology exhibited a deep debt to Kierkegaardian thought. For Christian
thinkers such as Duns Scotus, Pascal, or Kierkegaard, the reality of Godwhich
Nishida called indispensable and decisivewas at the apex of their thought, but
the same could not be said for Heidegger.

5 Takizawas own criticism of Heidegger

Although Nishidas negative assessment of Heidegger discouraged Nishidas


student Katsumi Takizawa from considering Heideggerian philosophy in great
depth, Takizawa continually revisited Heideggerian thought throughout his
career.179 In particular, Takizawas debate throughout the decade of the 1960s
171
All of these theologians appear explicitly in Nishidas first major publication in 1911, An Inquiry into
the Good.
172
Yuasa in Parkes, p. 159. From Mikis 1926 [].
173
NKZ 1:117. From An Inquiry into the Good, 1911.
174
Miki in MKZ 10:220228 [].
*Miki, Kiyoshi (1968) The Complete Works of Kiyoshi Miki [] (abbreviated MKZ). Tokyo:
Iwanami Shoten [].
175
Tanabe in THZ 11:607617 [], note that Tanabe pays special attention to
Kierkegaard also in his book Philosophy as Metanoetics [] (THZ 9).
176
Piovesana, pp. 132, 205.
177
NKC 8.
*NKC = Nishitani, Keiji (1995) The Collected Works of Keiji Nishitani []
(abbreviated NKC). Tokyo: Sobunsha [].
178
These letters of February 1940 appear in NKZ 19:100101: February 7 to Mutai, letter #1410;
February 9 to Hisamatsu, letter #1411; February 12 to Yanagida, letter #1414.
179
Even before his first meeting with Nishida in October 1933, the young Takizawa was already very
familiar with Heideggerian thought. Heidegger featured prominently in Takizawas 1931 graduation
thesis, and Takizawa completed an essay on Heidegger in September 1933, just before meeting with
Nishida. In his first critique of Barth in 1935 and also in his first critique of Nishida in 1936, Takizawa
engaged Heideggers philosophy. Takizawa also touched on the problem of technology, which was of
great interest to the later Heidegger. In his 1974 The Tannisho and the Contemporary World, Takizawa
writes that, according to modern socialism (shiminshugi []): From the beginning, human
beings construct themselves as subjectsx, relating themselves together for the purpose of using other
natural entities (shizen no mono []). In the end, Takizawa credits Marx as having seen most
clearly the social implications of technology (p. 174; cf also Forum of Ideas [] (2002) vol.
14, Heidegger, Shinran, Katsumi Takizawa, by Tetsunari Fukui, pp. 2028).
* Fukui, Tetsunari (2002) Heidegger, Shinran, Katsumi Takizawa, Shiso no Hiroba (Forum of Ideas)
[], vol. 14, pp. 2028.

123
548 C. A. Rigsby

with Seiichi Yagi, the student of the Heideggerian Rudolf Bultmann, brought
Takizawa into vigorous interaction with Heideggers philosophy. In 1965, Takizawa
even dialogued with Heidegger in person, in Germany.180
Takizawa defended Heidegger against the criticismas leveled by Tanabe, Miki,
Watsuji, and Nishidathat Heideggerian philosophy is a mere individualism with
no appreciation of social concerns. As early as 1933, Takizawa argued that
Heideggers world of tools is inherently connected to society. Takizawa argued
further that although the Heideggerian advocation to cast off the control of the
world (sekai no shihai wo dassuru []) may appear to promote
individualism, Heidegger intends that even the world of economics and politics
should become a problem for which we have care (Grn: Besorgen, Jpn: koryo
[]) and concern (Grn: Fursorge, Jpn: hairyo []).181
On the other hand, Takizawa claimed that the origin and basis (kontei []) of
the death by which we attain absolute responsibility, is not clear in Heidegger. It
is this lack of clarity that easily leads to the misinterpretation that Heideggers
casting off the control of the world entails individualism. Takizawa noted that
Heideggers failure to give an account of the origin and basis of things may be due
to Heideggers commitment to phenomenology, according to which the task of
philosophy is to clarify appearances rather than to explain the origin and basis of
appearances. Following Nishida, Takizawa stressed an all-encompassing standpoint,
enabled by the spatial dimension of time which Heidegger did not clearly recognize,
as Takizawa stated:
[T]here must be a spatial determination at the basis of time which
encompasses all things. To borrow Heideggers terminology, there must be
a World of worlds.182
The deficit in Heidegger is appropriately amended, according to Takizawa, through
a full recognition of the Absolute Nothingness which is the origin and basis of all
things, as Takizawa states:
The absolute Fact (jijitsu []) itself, of the true Moment of absolute death
and-yet life is formed for the first time as a self-realizational determination of
what Professor Nishida calls Absolute Nothingness, which means seeing the
Absolute Other in the self, and seeing the self in the Absolute Other. Nishida
claims that philosophy begins from the self-reflection (jisei []) of
prescriptive183 (toiteki []) consciousness itself.184
Although Takizawas characterization of the ultimate origin and basis of all things
in Kierkegaardian terms as the true Moment evidences a Kierkegaardian
inspiration shared with both Heidegger and Nishida, for Takizawa, Heidegger had

180
Sakaguchi, p. 148.
181
TKC 1:324325, from Dasein and the Mission and Limitations of Philosophy in Heidegger (1933).
182
TKC 1:328.
183
I translate Takizawas term here, toiteki ishiki [], as prescriptive consciousness. The
term toi [] is commonly used to translate German Sollen or ought.
184
TKC 1:328.

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Nishida on Heidegger 549

failed where Nishida had succeeded, to recognize this Moment as the ultimate
reality of God.
Takizawas critique of Heidegger was sharpened after studying in 1934 with
Barth, who himself leveled an extensive critique against Heidegger. Just as
Takizawa in 1933 criticized Heideggers lack of clarity regarding the origin and
basis of death and time, Barth criticized Heideggers lack of clarity regarding
Nihility, noting that Heidegger as early as 1929 accepted the Hegelian identification
of nothing with being.185 Heidegger correspondingly altered the conventional notion
of Nothing according to which ex nihilo nihil fit [from nothing, nothing emerges],
and introduced as substitute, a new notion of Nothing as ex nihilo ens qua ens fit
[from Nothing, Being emerges as Being].186 Barth claimed that the resulting
ambiguity of Heideggers Nothing makes Nothing play the roles of both God and
evil.
In particular, according to Barth, Heideggers Nothing is a mythological
fabrication introduced to stand in, rather poorly, for the functions that only God can
successfully perform, as Barth states:
In Heidegger Nothing is actually the pseudonym which conceals the
Godhead We have seen that it is the whence and whither of transcendence,
the basis and pure content of human science. We have seen that pure Being
and pure Nothing are one and the same, and that ex nihilo omne ens qua ens
fit. God is not dead, buta substitute is provided and therefore He is
suppressed In Heideggers thought, Nothing seems lacking in none of the
essential features of the conventional figure of God (aseity, uniqueness,
omnipotence, infinity etc.)187
On the other hand, the fact that Heideggers Nothing also assumes the role of the
dark side of human existence obfuscates the terrible sting of genuine Nihility, which
is to say, the corruption and ruin of evil. Barth states:
The Nothing of Heideggeris not real Nihility, but is comparatively
innocuous as compared with it. The concept of real Nihility is in no sense
ambivalent. The sickness unto death in which man is confronted by real
Nihility [manifests itself rather in]relativity, inferiority, subjugation and
vitiation, andin spite of its nature, it can be subordinated to the service of
Being [by way of the redirective Providence of God] [If Heidegger
recognized this about Nihility, he] could not have conceived of its
identification with Being He would have realized that to [equate Nihility
with Being] is to proclaim the demonic to be the principle of all being and
existence.188
Barth concludes that despite Heideggers efforts to address from a fresh perspective
the errors of the previous generation, which is to say, the errors of Modernism,
185
CD III, 3, p. 347.
186
CD III, 3, p. 335.
187
CD III, 3, pp. 343344.
188
CD III, 3, p. 348.

123
550 C. A. Rigsby

Heidegger nevertheless falls prey to these very errors by making the word of finite,
fallible human beings central and by obscuring the Word of the infinite, infallible
God, who graciously shares light to those who are humble enough to discern it.
Classifying Heidegger with Sartre and other secularist existentialists as representing
a stance which absolutizes the finite human subject, Barth thus concludes:
The one thing that has not been affected, let alone broken, by the upheaval of
the ageand it cannot be effected by purely secular upheavalsis the self-
reliant assurance of the ego cogito [i.e. the I think] as the presupposition of
their whole systems. From the standpoint of the ego cogito true Nihility cannot
be discerned189
Just after studying with Barth, Takizawa himself wrote a brief criticism of
Heidegger in 1936, claiming similarly, in language reminiscent of Kiyoshi Mikis
philosophy:
In the case of the incarnation of the [divine] Logosthe Word of Godan
[improper] emphasis on [human] ethos is most especially impermissible.
[Such an improper emphasis] will lead to Heideggerian existentialism and a
religious-human reduction of eschatology (Grn: religios-menschliche Verkur-
zung der Eschatologie, Jpn: shukyoteki ningenteki waishoka [
]) in the manner of Rudolf Bultmann (18841976). There is nothing
more dangerous in the world than a mistaken epistemological or vague
reduction.190
In 1972, Takizawa reaffirmed his early criticisms of Heidegger, but noted that
Heideggers so-called turn (Grn: die Kehre, Jpn: tenkai []) exempted later
Heideggerian philosophy from some points of the early criticisms, particularly, the
charge that Heideggerian philosophy is a nave individualism.191 Barth, on the other
hand, saw a strong continuity between the early and the later Heidegger, and took
Heideggers post-turn path of older philosophy, gnosticism, and mysticism,
the dimension of the Holy, and purported affirmation of Being (das Lichten des
Seins), all to be mere a mere restatement of Heideggers ultimate conflation of God
and evil.192 Given Takizawas similar criticism of Nishida and Zenthat such
standpoints entail ambiguities resulting in a conflation of good with evil, as well as a
conflation of the Absolute with the relativeTakizawa would probably agree with
Barth regarding Heideggers treatment of God and evil.
Takizawa thought that the greatest contribution of Barthian theology was a
recognition that contingent phenomena are irreversibly dependent upon God for
existence, moral direction, and soteriological transformation. It was from this

189
CD III, 3, p. 346.
190
Takizawa, Basic Problems of Nishida Philosophy, p. 50.
*(2004) Basic Problems of Nishida Philosophy []. (ed. & commentary by
Takayoshi Kobayashi []). Tokyo: Kobayashi Bunko []. [First published by Tokoshoin
[] in 1936), published again in the Collected Works of Katsumi Takizawa, 1972.
191
TKC 1:333.
192
CD III, 3, p. 348.

123
Nishida on Heidegger 551

standpoint of the irreversibility of the Divine-creaturely relation that Takizawa


would level his own critique of Nishida in 1936. Japanese commentators of Nishida
such as Toru Suzuki and D. T. Suzukis student, the Zen Buddhist monk Ryomin
Akizuki, were convinced that Nishidas final formulation of the relationship
between the Absolute and contingent phenomena as an inverse-response
(gyakutaio []) in 1945 was Nishidas direct response to Takizawas
Barthian-inspired critique of 1936.193 Indeed, the notion of inverse-response
recognizes that there are ways in which contingent phenomena are irreversibly
dependent upon the Absolute. In Nishidas words after Takizawas critique, human
beings are the image of God and not vice versa.194 It can be said that Takizawas
affirmation of this irreversibility (fukagyakusei []) in the Divine-
creaturely relationship is the telos of the trajectory constituting Nishidas 1933
criticism that Heideggerian philosophy fatally lacks God. The post-turn Heidegger
himself can also be said to have sensed the impetus generating Takizawas
affirmation of irreversibility, in that the later Heidegger subordinated human
beings to Being, in contrast to the early Heideggers converse subordination of
Being to Dasein, which is to say, to finite human existence.195

193
Consider the conclusions of Ryomin Akizuki, Toru Suzuki, and Tamotsu Maeda:
~Ryomin Akizuki writes in:
When the Dharma Appears Clearly (1990) pp. 8889:
I have formerly stated that the logic of inverse correspondence of Professor Nishidas later years can
be seen as Nishidas response to Professor Takizawas critique of Nishidas monism.
Akizuki, 1990, pp. 8889
*(1990). When the Dharma Appears Clearly: The Religio-Philosophical Dialogue between Buddhism
and Christianity [:]. Tokyo: Seidosha [].
Absolute Nothingness and Topos: Suzuki Zen and Nishida Philosophy, 1996, p. 360:
Due to Mutais essay [about inverse-response], I arrived at the core of the logic of Nishida
Philosophy, [which is the notion of inverse-response]. I believe this [core] was the response of Nishida
himself to the simple and frank query of Takizawa as Nishidas disciple. Takizawas query, which I
touched upon beforehand, was whether it is accurate to express this kind of movement of dialectical
reality monistically, [as the self-determination of the dialectical universal]. (Akizuki is quoting from page
4647 of Takizawas Basic Problems of Nishida Philosophy.)
*(1996) Absolute Nothingness and Topos: Suzuki Zen and Nishida Philosophy [:
]. Tokyo: Seidosha [].
~Toru Suzuki writes in his commentary on Takizawa TKC 5 in the appendix, p. 7:
[T]he later Nishida Philosophy may be said to have provided an answer to Takizawas criticism.
Therefore, Takizawas elucidation and inquiry in Basic Problems of Nishida Philosophyrefers to the
early and middle Nishida and not the later.
~Tamotsu Maeda writes on the Takizawa Association Webpage (www.takizawakatsumi.com):
it can be said that Nishida responded to the criticisms of Takizawa through his religious work
Topological Logic and the Religious Worldview.
194
NKZ 19:46, letter #1281, September 21, 1938, to Katsumi Takizawa. Cf also NKZ 11:372, from
Topological Logic and the Religious Worldview (1945).
195
Inwood, pp. 7273.

123
552 C. A. Rigsby

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