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  • Phänomenologie der Zeit im Buddhismus: Methoden interkulturellen Philosophierens
  • Wing-cheuk Chan (bio)
Rolf Elberfeld . Phänomenologie der Zeit im Buddhismus: Methoden interkulturellen Philosophierens. Philosophie Interkulturell, Band 1. Stuttgart—Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 2004. 417 pp. Paperback, ISBN 3-7728-2227-4.

In this age of globalization, one can well expect that comparative philosophy will some day become a major trend. In doing comparative philosophy, however, one must have the capacity to master the different languages involved as well as to possess the scholarly understanding of the respective philosophical traditions. Rolf Elberfeld is not only well-trained in both Eastern and German philosophies, but also has a reading knowledge of Chinese, Japanese, and Sanskrit, in addition to the academic terminology of the Western languages. As is well known, the philosophy of the twentieth century is characterized mainly in terms of its focus on time and language. The topic of Elberfeld's text is a comparison of Buddhist and Western doctrines concerning time. On the Buddhist side are included Nāgārjuna, [End Page 76] Seng Zhao, Fazang, and Dōgen. In the Western camp one finds Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Hegel, Husserl, Bergson, Merleau-Ponty, and Heidegger. Nevertheless, in comparing the Buddhist and phenomenological concepts of time, Elberfeld starts with an analysis of the philosophical grammar of ancient Chinese and Japanese. This shows that Elberfeld has a clear perception of the Zeitsgeist of our age.

From the Eastern perspective, this volume mainly deals with the Zen Buddhist doctrine of time. In particular it concentrates on time as conceived by Dōgen, from whom this can be traced to the Huayan Buddhist theory of time. Elberfeld aims to work out the parallels between the theories of Dōgen and phenomenology. In recent decades, the comparative study of Dōgen and Heidegger has become a popular topic; in North America, Steven Heine's Existential Ontological Dimension of Time and Dōgen is a pioneer work in this field. While Heine's work relates Dōgen mainly to the early Heidegger, Elberfeld's text tries to uncover the affinity with the later Heidegger. The reader should in particular appreciate that he includes a German translation of the chapter on time in Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō.

In writing this book, Elberfeld has done a great service to the comparative study of Dōgen and Heidegger. First of all, he has produced an extensive work dealing with the problem of time, one of the most difficult topics in philosophy. His encyclopedic knowledge of both Eastern and Western philosophy also makes this text a good introduction to Buddhism and phenomenology. It is a pity that this German-language work may escape many non-German-speaking readers.

In brief, Elberfeld has shown that Dōgen, like Merleau-Ponty, is able to identify subjectivity with time. For Dōgen, "the I is time" or "I am myself time" (p. 370). Going beyond Husserl, Merleau-Ponty and Dōgen see that subjectivity is not in time, but rather it is time in itself. However, their identification of time with subjectivity does not imply any "subjectivization" of time. Rather, both aim at pinpointing the "openness" of time and subjectivity. Elberfeld argues that Dōgen's linking the "time of subjectivity" to the "time of world" can be clearly shown in his thesis that "The time of appearing is nothing other than the appearing of dharmas (Hervorgangszeit ist nichts anderes als dharma-Hervorgang) (起時唯法起) (pp. 371-372). However, from a linguistic standpoint one might challenge the accuracy of this interpretation of Dōgen's thesis. For grammatically the word 時 functions as an adjective rather than as a noun in the original context. So the correct translation should be: "Whenever there is appearing, it is nothing but the 'appearing of dharmas.''' Such a correction, however, does not affect Elberfeld's general position that time in Dōgen's sense is what makes the appearing of dharmas possible. Insofar as Elberfeld's hermeneutics of Dōgen is developed along the line of Huayan Buddhism, time in Dōgen's sense is identical with the "appearing of dharmas." On the other hand, it is well known that the early Heidegger's...


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