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Browsing by Subject "Zen"

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  • Söderman, Niklas (2015)
    The subject of my thesis is the issue of nihilism and critique of modernity in the thought of Japanese philosopher Nishitani Keiji (1900-1990), a representative member of the Kyoto School. In seeking an answer to the question of what the problem of nihilism means in his philosophical thought, I trace the philosophical development of the idea of nihilism in relation to Nishitani’s thought and explore how he arrived to his solution for overcoming nihilism, what are its roots and what the solution entails. I investigate how Nishitani approaches the problem of nihilism through a critique of modernity and consider the critique’s controversiality in relation to his views on Japan’s role in World War II, with the aim of placing Nishitani’s work in its historical and socio-political context as well as analyzing how he sees the issues of nihilism and modernity as intertwined with each other. Sources I have used focus on Nishitani’s own writings, secondary literature on the Kyoto School, and the works of Western philosophers that most influenced Nishitani, especially Nietzsche and Heidegger. The analysis of the concept and problem of nihilism in relation to Nishitani’s thought and his criticism of modernity is divided in three chapters in this study. I first define the terms in a general manner, but with particular attention to how my reading qualifies and develops the terminology, before going further into detail on the history of nihilism in Western philosophy in the rest of the chapter. The second analytical chapter looks more closely to Nishitani’s view of nihilism as a concept and how he connects it to his solution to overcoming it—namely, to his view of Buddhist emptiness (śūnyatā). The third analytical chapter brings these considerations to the social world in the form of the problem of modernity and modern Western nihilism, as well as its associated issues, and considers Nishitani’s approaches to understanding and resolving the issue of nihilism in the society. The main attention is on the problem of modernity that Nishitani saw as a social extension of the existential problem of nihilism. Through my discussion of the various aspects of Nishitani’s critique of modernity, I seek to identify the main themes in his approach to the issue and the problems inherent in that approach. Pulling together the various strands that interweave through Nishitani’s treatment of modernity, nihilism and his views for overcoming them, I find that his themes of Heideggerian critique of technology and Nietzschean redemption of tradition combine with the Kyoto School’s overall reverse-Hegelian search for an originary ground that is grasped via existential realization revealed through religious praxis. I also explore what kind of problems are involved in Nishitani’s critique of modernity, arguing that while he does a great deal to detail his solutions for overcoming nihilism on the individual, existential level, his approach on the scale of the wider society suffers from clear oversights, limited conceptualization of the problem of modernity and problematic politics that undermine his efforts.