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Reviewed by:
  • Overcoming Modernity: Synchronicity and Image-Thinking
  • Gereon Kopf
Overcoming Modernity: Synchronicity and Image-Thinking. By Yasuo Yuasa. Translated by Shigenori Nagatomo and John W. M. Krummel, with an introduction by Shigenori Nagatomo. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008. Pp. vii + 247. Hardcover $75.00. Paper $24.95.

Overcoming Modernity: Synchronicity and Image-Thinking constitutes the third book-length translation into the English language of a work by Yasuo Yuasa (Yuasa Yasuo 湯浅泰雄) (1925-2005), one of the most prolific philosophers of Japan in the [End Page 300] second half of the twentieth century. Having written about "50 volumes and 300 articles . . . collected by Hakua Shobō in his complete works"1 and being known in academic circles in Japan and abroad as well as by a wider audience in Japan, he is probably the most prolific student of the famous philosopher Tetsurō Watsuji (Watsuji Tetsurō 和辻哲郎) (1889-1960). Yuasa's works explore topics ranging from comparative philosophy to a philosophy of self-cultivation (shugyō 修行) and potential affinities and intersections between the epistemological foundation of science and select mind-body theories developed in the context of Daoism, Buddhism, and depth psychology. While many aspects of Yuasa's work were already represented in the English language by Shigenori Nagatomo's translations of The Body (Shintairon 身体 論) and The Body, Self-Cultivation, and Ki Energy (Ki, shugyō, shintai 気, 修行, 身体) as well as a collection of original essays co-authored by Yuasa, Nagatomo, and David E. Shaner called Science and Comparative Philosophy: Introducing Yuasa Yasuo, there still has not been any translation of Yuasa's work on depth psychology in the English language. The present volume fills this lacuna.

I would like to commence my review of this exciting work by this seminal thinker with a reflection on the choice of essays that were selected for translation and publication in Overcoming Modernity. Since Yuasa's work is rather extensive, the question of selection is highly important. Why did the translators choose among Yuasa's essays on Jung those that some consider cutting-edge while others think of them as "over the edge," instead of going with Yuasa's more traditional and conventional approach to Jung in works such as Yungu to tōyō ユングと東洋 (Jung and the East)? By the same token, it is important to ask why the authors selected independently published essays and presented them as if they made up one coherent work. I think the answer to these questions can be found in the questions themselves. Nagatomo, John Krummel, and their co-translators wanted to introduce Yuasa's work at its best, namely when he transgresses and transcends the boundaries between different traditions, discourses, and disciplines in order to challenge existing epistemic paradigms and advance our understanding of what it means to be human. In the service of this project, Yuasa never shied away from controversies but strove to find a language to describe what he considers the "supernormal" as opposed to "subnormal" phenomena of human existence even when it meant to break taboos. At the same time, it is possible to say that Yuasa's vision of an academic discipline combining the epistemic modalities of science and religion echoes in some sense the move toward interdisciplinary learning and research embraced by many universities today.

This project as well as the refusal to avoid controversy is reflected in the title that was chosen by the translators for this collection of essays. While "Overcoming Modernity" does express Yuasa's desire to "overcome" the modern worldview as well as the vision of scholarship that was built on it, it is not without its set of problems. Specifically, this title may be considered misleading or even unfortunate, partly since the term "overcoming modernity" evokes the ghost of the simultaneously famous and infamous roundtable discussion held by a group of Japanese intellectuals in Shōwa Japan (1942 to be exact), published under the title Overcoming Modernity (Kindai no chōkoku 近代の超克), whose goal was to distinguish clearly between Japanese [End Page 301] thought and "Western thought." In addition, the majority of philosophy in America and Europe, without a doubt postmodernism but also certain trends and movements within phenomenology and analytical philosophy, has already "overcome modernity" and especially the...