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1. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Mayuko Uehara Introduction
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2. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Masakatsu Fujita, Bret W. Davis The Significance of Japanese Philosophy
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When I deliver an introductory lecture on Japanese Philosophy, I always raise the following question: Is it appropriate to modify the word philosophy with an adjective such as Japanese? Philosophy is, after all, a discipline that addresses universal problems, and so transcends the restrictions implied in geographical descriptors. However, as Kuki Shūzō argues in his essay “Tokyo and Kyoto,” I think that this is only part, and not the whole truth of the matter.One’s thinking takes place within the framework of one’s cultural heritage, and the different nuances of each of the words one uses can influence how one thinks. It is for this reason that every philoso­phy has its own unique character. As Otto Pöggeler suggests, there is something about the thought of Japanese philosophers such as Nishida Kitarō and Nishitani Keiji that does not fit easily into the framework of “philosophy” in the Western tradition. This is a conse­quence of the fact that they did not simply passively adopt, but rather attempted to critically challenge Western philosophy. I suppose that their grounding in Japanese and other Eastern traditions contributed to their critical challenge of Western philosophy. And I submit that there is a strong tendency in traditional East Asian thought to not simply grasp things within a presupposed framework of “knowledge,” but rather, since “knowledge” itself is understood to be a certain kind of restriction, to return to its roots.Needless to say, neither Nishida’s nor Nishitani’s thought is merely a philosophical reiteration of such traditional East Asian teachings. Nevertheless, we can say that the East Asian idea that knowledge is at root something restrictive lives on in their thinking. The radical­ity of Nishida’s and Nishitani’s thought can be understood to lie in the manner in which they cast light on the limits of the “knowledge” pursued by Western philosophy, problematizing the basis on which this knowledge is established as well as the framework it sets up.I think that the “character” of this or that philosophy arises from such different ways of seeing things and different attitudes toward “knowledge.” It is crucial to point out, however, that the gaps resulting from these differences need not become hindrances for philosophical thinking. Indeed, I think that the existence of such gaps, rather than hindering “dialogues” between different philosophies, is precisely what enables them to be meaningful. This is also what I have in mind when I stress the importance of dialogue in my lectures on Japanese philoso­phy. It is, after all, the creative dialogue engendered in this manner that enables philosophy to progress along its path of radical inquiry.
3. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
John C. Maraldo Japanese Philosophy as a Lens on Greco-European Thought
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To answer the question of whether there is such a thing as Japanese philosophy, and what its characteristics might be, scholars have typi­cally used Western philosophy as a measure to examine Japanese texts. This article turns the tables and asks what Western thought looks like from the perspective of Japanese philosophy. It uses Japanese philo­sophical sources as a lens to bring into sharper focus the qualities and biases of Greek-derived Western philosophy. It first examines ques­tions related to the reputed sole origin and the nature of philosophy in ancient Greece. Using the analyses of Robert Bernasconi, it con­cludes that this reputation is a bias instilled by philosophers such as Hegel in the modern era. It then uses the scholarship of Pierre Hadot to show that Greek philosophy was not argumentative discourse for its own sake, but a way of life where reason was in the service of spir­itual progress. This suggests a definition broad enough to accommo­date Asian and other non-Western philosophies. Under the lens of Japanese philosophy, however, Greek-based Western philosophy often displays a double detachment, from everyday life and from embod­ied existence. In contrast, Japanese Buddhist and Confucian philoso­phies evince an appreciation of embodied existence in the ordinary world. The article raises several questions for further investigation in the prospect that the lens of Japanese philosophy can refocus the task of philosophizing today.
4. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Bret W. Davis Opening Up the West: Toward Dialogue with Japanese Philosophy
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This essay aims to help prepare the way for those trained in Western philosophy to enter into dialogue with non-Western traditions of phi­losophy such as that of Japan. This will be done mainly by means of critical examination of some key instances of the ambivalence—the tension between the openings and closures—toward dialogue with non-Western traditions found throughout the history of Western phi­losophy. After tracing this ambivalence back to the Greeks, and to the figure of Socrates in particular, the essay focuses in particular on a selection of modern continental philosophers: Hegel, Gadamer, Heidegger, and Derrida. While ambivalences can be found in all four, the order in which they are presented corresponds roughly to the degrees to which they contribute to opening up the West to cross-cultural philosophical dialogue. The positive lesson we glean from an examination of their thought is that hermeneutical and deconstruc­tive reflection on one’s own tradition should accompany any venture into discourse with other ways of thinking and being. The critical point to be made, however, is that the latter venture into dialogue with others should at the same time accompany the former self-reflection. Even Heidegger and Derrida, after all, declined to fully engage in the kind of radical cross-cultural dialogue toward which they occasionally gestured. To begin with, in the opening section of this essay, a contrast will be drawn between the lingering Ameri-Eurocentrism of Western philosophy and the inherently cross-cultural nature of Japanese phi­losophy. The philosophers associated with the Kyoto School in par­ticular have endeavored to open up philosophical discourse between Eastern and Western traditions. In the second section of this essay, a critical reflection on Karl Löwith’s critique of modern Japanese intel­lectuals will serve as a pivot, turning our attention back on the ambiva­lence toward cross-cultural dialogue found in the history of Western philosophy. As will be discussed in the third section, this ambivalence can also be discerned in the recent “hermeneutical turn.” Together with the examinations of Hegel, Gadamer, Heidegger, and Derrida undertaken in the remaining sections of the essay, the purpose of these reflections is to assist in ushering those trained in Western phi­losophy toward an engagement in cross-cultural philosophical dia­logue with traditions such as that of Japan.
5. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Graham Parkes Kūkai and Dōgen as Exemplars of Ecological Engagement
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Although the planet is currently facing an unprecedented array of environmental crises, those who are in a position to do something about them seem to be paralyzed and the general public apathetic. This pathological situation derives in part from a particular concep­tion of the human relationship to nature which is central to anthro­pocentric traditions of thought in the West, and which understands the human being as separate from, and superior to, all other beings in the natural world. Traditional East Asian understandings of this relationship are quite different and remarkably un-anthropocentric, especially as exemplified in the ideas of Chinese Daoism and Japanese Buddhism—even though Western conceptions now predominate in both China and Japan. Nevertheless, these ideas and understandings are experientially accessible to any contemporary person who has full contact with the natural world, regardless of which tradition that per­son stands in.This essay examines the understanding of the human-nature rela­tion that we find in the philosophies of Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi, 774–835) and Dōgen (1200–1253), from whom we can learn much that is ben­eficial in the context of our current environmental predicament. The ideas of both thinkers are firmly rooted in practice, and especially bodily or somatic practice, designed to bring about a transformation of experience. The argument is not that we should appropriate their conceptions of nature in order to solve our environmental problems; rather, since they both practice “philosophy as a way of life,” the sug­gestion is that we can learn from the practices they advocate in the light of what they say about natural phenomena and would benefit from emulating their ways of engaging the world ecologically.
6. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Shaoyang Lin Japanese Postmodern Philosophy’s Turn to Historicity
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In this paper, I will outline and categorize the history of postmodern­ism in the Japanese context. I will also critically analyze its changes from the perspective of postwar Japanese intellectual history as well as the postwar history of Japanese political philosophy. I will position this new intellectual and philosophical tendency, which has been around for nearly forty years since the late 1970s, in a global context, and I will especially position it within an East Asian perspective, which from my point of view, has been neglected. It also means that I will not only see Japanese postmodernism as the outcome of imported theory, rather, I will attempt to see it in its own historical context. And by outlining the shift of Japanese postmodernism over these forty years, I will also attempt to see the differences and continuities between Japanese modernism and postmodernism, thus attempting to over­come the opposing dichotomy of “modernism versus postmodernism” in the postwar Japanese intellectual context. As my conclusion, I regard the shifts in the history of postmodern philosophy over the past forty years, as a process of its turn to achieve historicity, and I also see it as a kind of localization of new Western thoughts in a modern Japanese context.
7. Journal of Japanese Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Leah Kalmanson Ethics Embodied: Rethinking Selfhood through Continental, Japanese, and Feminist Philosophies
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