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Philosophers of Nothingness

An Essay on the Kyoto School

James W. Heisig

Publication Year: 2001

The past twenty years have seen the publication of numerous translations and commentaries on the principal philosophers of the Kyoto School, but so far no general overview and evaluation of their thought has been available, either in Japanese or in Western languages. James Heisig, a longstanding participant in these efforts, has filled that gap with Philosophers of Nothingness. In this extensive study, the ideas of Nishida Kitaro, Tanabe Hajime, and Nishitani Keiji are presented both as a consistent school of thought in its own right and as a challenge to the Western philosophical tradition to open itself to the original contribution of Japan.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vii

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Preface to the English Edition

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pp. ix-xi

... a book about the leading figures of the Kyoto school has been in the back of my mind longer than I care to remember. What kept it from moving forward, more than anything else, was the expectation that someone qualified would soon be taking the project up and perhaps even asking for assistance. As expectations go, it was not unreasonable. There are any number of people well suited to the task, and there were many others ...

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pp. 1-26

The emergence of the Kyoto school marks a watershed in intellectual history. Not only does this group of philosophers represent Japan’s first sustained and original contribution to western philosophical thought, they do so from a distinctively eastern perspective. Far from simply reupholstering traditional philosophical questions in an oriental décor, theirs is a disciplined and well-informed challenge to ...

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Nishida Kitarō (1870–1945)

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pp. 27-104

Nishida Kitarō was born on 19 May 1870 in Ishikawa Prefecture, central Japan. After dropping out of high school over a disagreement with the authorities on educational reforms, he studied independently for and passed the entrance exams to Tokyo’s Imperial University as a special student. He graduated in 1894 with a degree in philosophy, having written an optional thesis on Hume’s idea of causality ...

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Tanabe Hajime (1885–1962)

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pp. 105-180

Tanabe Hajime was born in Tokyo on 3 February 1885. He entered the department of natural sciences at Imperial University of Tokyo in 1904, specializing in mathematics. The following year he switched to philosophy, recalling in later years that he did not think he had it in him to be a mathematician. After graduating in 1908 he took up a post as a teacher of English at a middle school, later transferring ...

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Nishitani Keiji (1900–1990)

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pp. 181-256

Nishitani Keiji was born on 27 February 1900 in a small town in Ishikawa Prefecture on the Japan Sea. He did most of his pre-university schooling in Tokyo, where he lived alone with his mother after the death of his father when he was fourteen. Ill from the same tuberculosis that had killed his father, he failed the physical examination on his first attempt to enter the prestigious Daiichi ...

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pp. 257-272

As I write, the study of Kyoto-school philosophy both inside Japan and abroad is alive and well. As major currents of thought around the world go, it is a small stream, but one that continues to course swiftly and deep across the wasteland that has long separated philosophy east and west. The number of younger scholars attracted to its ideas, the new translations in preparation, the confrontations with ...


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pp. 273-344


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pp. 345-368


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pp. 369-380

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863944
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824824808

Publication Year: 2001