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Open Access Nishida and Plotinus

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Nishida and Plotinus

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Kitarō Nishida is the most important and representative philosopher in modern Japan, who now attracts increasing attention internationally. He endeavored to give a logical foundation to the Eastern way of thinking through his confrontation with Western philosophers. The aim of this paper is to recover the modern and intercultural significance of Plotinus’ philosophy in the light of Nishida’s philosophy. Nishida refers to Plotinus repeatedly, expressing his deep empathy, though his philosophy, which professes itself to be highly critical, is not mysticism. When we compare him with Plotinus, we can find a great affinity in their fundamental structure. ‘Absolute nothingness (zettai mu)’, the basis of all reality in Nishida’s philosophy, is prior to both subjectivity and objectivity, and corresponds to the Plotinian One, which transcends both thinking and being. The correspondence between their logical structures consists in regarding subjectivity and objectivity as developments of an indefinite principle that transcends and precedes the discrimination of the two, and determination as determination of what is indeterminate. However, differing from Plotinus, Nishida lays stress on corporality, ordinariness and individuality. Though Plotinus was never pessimistic about this world, the experience emphasized in the Enneads was not earthly, while Nishida’s ‘radical ordinariness’ was the standpoint to which we should attain in a mundane life. When we compare Plotinus with Nishida, we encounter the intersection of the West and the East, antiquity and modernity, and mysticity and ordinariness.

Affiliations: 1: Gakushuin UniversityTokyog.g.h.okano@w2.dion.ne.jp

Kitarō Nishida is the most important and representative philosopher in modern Japan, who now attracts increasing attention internationally. He endeavored to give a logical foundation to the Eastern way of thinking through his confrontation with Western philosophers. The aim of this paper is to recover the modern and intercultural significance of Plotinus’ philosophy in the light of Nishida’s philosophy. Nishida refers to Plotinus repeatedly, expressing his deep empathy, though his philosophy, which professes itself to be highly critical, is not mysticism. When we compare him with Plotinus, we can find a great affinity in their fundamental structure. ‘Absolute nothingness (zettai mu)’, the basis of all reality in Nishida’s philosophy, is prior to both subjectivity and objectivity, and corresponds to the Plotinian One, which transcends both thinking and being. The correspondence between their logical structures consists in regarding subjectivity and objectivity as developments of an indefinite principle that transcends and precedes the discrimination of the two, and determination as determination of what is indeterminate. However, differing from Plotinus, Nishida lays stress on corporality, ordinariness and individuality. Though Plotinus was never pessimistic about this world, the experience emphasized in the Enneads was not earthly, while Nishida’s ‘radical ordinariness’ was the standpoint to which we should attain in a mundane life. When we compare Plotinus with Nishida, we encounter the intersection of the West and the East, antiquity and modernity, and mysticity and ordinariness.

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2015-03-10
2017-09-20

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