Japanese Philosophy Reconsidered: A Study of Nishi Amane, Nakae Chōmin and Nishida Kitarō

Wing Keung Kevin LAM

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

This paper attempts to reconsider the term “Japanese Philosophy” in line with Nishi Amane, Nakae Chōmin and Nishida Kitarō. Believing “philosophy” entails universality, whereas “Japanese” is an adjective that stresses particularity, is the term “Japanese Philosophy” committed to a fallacy of contradiction? Given an ideographic translation, tetsugaku 哲学, toward “philosophy” in 1874, Nishi sought to differentiate “philosophy” with European technical terms and Neo-Confucius technical terms, and concluded that it is the study of all studies (Jp. shogaku no gaku 諸学の学) . In 1901, however, Nakae overtly criticized that there is no philosophy in Japan, condemning that the scholarships established on Confucianism and Buddhism in Edo period, and western philosophy in early Meiji were merely repetitions of scholarships in ancient times and western learning respectively, in which they do not entail “uniqueness”. Not until Nishida Kitarō, whose idea of Basho 場所 publicized in 1926 was recognized by Sayūda Kiichirō as “Nishida Philosophy”, claiming that it embraces an “unique system”, Nakae’s criticism seems to be valid. Our concerns are: why and how Nishida would come up his own “unique” philosophy fifty years after Nishi’s introduction of philosophy to Japan? Should the logic of Basho be considered as the birth of “Japanese Philosophy”? Can “Nishida Philosophy” avoid falling into the fallacy of contradiction as the term “Japanese Philosophy” seemingly committed?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007

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Japanese philosophy
Philosophy
Nishida
Fallacies
Japan
Technical Terms
Western philosophy
Uniqueness
Logic
Confucius
Edo
Criticism
Adjective
Meiji
Buddhism
Confucianism
Particularity
Universality

Citation

Lam, W. K. (2007, January). Japanese Philosophy Reconsidered: A Study of Nishi Amane, Nakae Chōmin and Nishida Kitarō. Paper presented at the 2nd Annual Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Hong Kong (ASAHK): Frontiers of Asian Studies in the Twenty-First Century, The University of Hong Kong, China.