Tosaka Jun’s Critique of Hermeneutics
In Philosophers of Nothingness, An Essay on the Kyoto School (2000), James Heisig laments that recognition of the Kyoto School of Philosophy and its achievements has generally been retarded both in and outside Japan. The reason for this retardation is that the formative years of the Kyoto School (the decades leading up to the Second World War) coincided with a period of intense Japanese nationalism. As a result, the Japanese themselves did not consider the Kyoto School worthy of devoting much attention to after the Second World War; any mention of the Kyoto School had disappeared by the 1970s. Western philosophers eventually took an interest in the Kyoto School, initially by simply ignoring its troubling political record (Heisig, 2000, pp. 3-6). The Kyoto School of Philosophy formed itself around its main representative Nishida Kitarō1 in the years after the publication of his maiden work Zen no Kenkyū (translated as An Inquiry into the Good) in 1911. If one ignores his political writings, then from Nishida’s oeuvre can be distilled a religious philosophy of mind which draws on ideas formulated in Zen Buddhism to theorize a form of consciousness that transcends the dichotomy of subject and object (what Nishida’s friend D.T. Suzuki would identify as satori, or enlightenment). It comes as no surprise that Heisig, a leading scholar on the Kyoto School, chooses to depoliticize Nishida as much as possible. That behind Nishida’s seemingly innocent religious philosophy of mind possibly lurk fascist motivations is something any conceptually-oriented philosopher would rather leave to colleagues from the Area Studies to further unravel. To comparative philosophers such as Heisig, Nishida’s achievements in the field of metaphysics, and certainly not his political mishaps, deserve most of our scholarly attention. However, philosophers cannot completely ignore the role politics play in shaping philosophical thought. Tosaka Jun, a contemporary critic of the Kyoto School of Philosophy whose critique of hermeneutics forms the subject of this paper, poured a lot of effort into demonstrating this. He argued that much of the thought of the Japanese philosophers of his generation was informed by an ethnocentrism fueled by the ambitions of a nationalistic government. When it comes to showing how politics shape philosophy, his scathing attack on the Kyoto School is still relevant today. The lofty ideal of Zen enlightenment, to apply Tosaka’s analysis to the most prominent example, quickly loses its value and becomes wholly vacuous if its Japanese proponents are convinced that only they are sensible enough to experience it, and are thereby the only ones that have access to the world as it supposedly ‘really is’. The idea of Zen enlightenment may just have been redeveloped by Japanese intellectuals specifically in order to combat Western claims to universalism, and to thereby contest the global political hegemony of the Western powers at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. If this is true, then comparative philosophers can no longer unproblematically dispose of this concept’s ethnocentric kernel in order to universalize its application. Instead, philosophers in the West need to be cautious of the extent to which concepts formulated by thinkers of the Kyoto School have been informed by, to put it crudely, a political ideology that encouraged ethnocentric irrationalism.
|Series||Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy (ESJP)|
|Journal||Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy|
Prooi, D. (2016). Tosaka Jun’s Critique of Hermeneutics. Erasmus Student Journal of Philosophy, 10, 36–48. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/124768