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The Originary Wherein: Heidegger and Nishida on “the Sacred” and “the Religious”

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image of Research in Phenomenology

In this paper, I explore a possible convergence between two great twentieth century thinkers, Nishida Kitarō of Japan and Martin Heidegger of Germany. The focus is on the quasi-religious language they employ in discussing the grounding of human existence in terms of an encompassing Wherein for our being. Heidegger speaks of “the sacred” and “the passing of the last god” that mark an empty clearing wherein all metaphysical absolutes or gods have withdrawn but are simultaneously indicative of an opening wherein beings are given. Nishida speaks of “the religious” dimension in the depths of one’s being, that he calls “place,” and that somehow envelops the world through its kenotic self-negation. In both we find reference to a kind of originary space—the open or place—associated with quasireligious themes. I also point to their distinct approaches to metaphysical language in their attempts to give voice to that abysmal thought.

Affiliations: 1: Hobart and William Smith Colleges


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