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Reviewed by:
  • Heidegger und das Ostasiatische Denken ed. by Alfred Denker etal.
  • Steven Burik
Heidegger und das Ostasiatische Denken. (Heidegger and East Asian thought). Edited by Alfred Denker, Shunsuke Kadowaki, Ryôsuke Ôhashi, Georg Stenger, Holger Zaborowski. Heidegger-Jahrbuch 7. Freiburg and Munich: Verlag Karl Alber, 2013. Pp. 475. €48, isbn 978-3-495-45707-8.

The Heidegger Jahrbuch series professes that it “delivers ground-breaking contributions to discussion with Heidegger’s thought, makes new sources accessible and [End Page 341] accompanies the actual research in a critical way.”1 Each new volume in the series focuses on a specific theme, and consists of a documentation part that seeks to give readers access to a variety of new and previously published material on that theme, and an interpretation part where a number of scholars engage critically with the theme. As such, the Jahrbuch has previously focused on Heidegger’s relation to other thinkers (Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Husserl), and two of its volumes have dealt with the thorny topic of ‘Heidegger and National Socialism.’

Now, the seventh volume of the Heidegger Jahrbuch has set itself the goal of exploring the theme ‘Heidegger and East Asian Thought.’ Heidegger und das Ostasiatische Denken, edited by Alfred Denker, Shunsuke Kadowaki, Ryōsuke Ōhashi, Georg Stenger, and Holger Zaborowski, starts off with an introduction by Ryōsuke Ōhashi, who takes his cue from the ‘and’ in the title of the book. He proposes to see this ‘and’ in three different ways: first as the ‘between’ of the conversation between Heidegger and East Asian thought, second as the synthesizing force of globalization where the ‘and’ would signal a narrowing or even an end to the distance between different ways of thought, and lastly as the ‘and’ of the problematic of language and translation. Ōhashi suggests that we can find these three topics back in the contributions of the various authors.

Next is the Documentation section, containing letters that Heidegger’s East Asian students and colleagues directed to him, letters that Heidegger sent to his East Asian students and colleagues, and various other writings including a transcript of a colloquium Heidegger held with a Japanese colleague (Shinichi Hisamatsu) on art, and Tomio Tezuka’s two writings concerning his dialogue with Heidegger, which at least partly occasioned the publication of “A Dialogue on Language” in On the Way to Language. In this part the current volume repeats a lot of the material already available to readers of German through Hartmut Buchner’s 1989 book, Japan und Heidegger.2

Four sections with articles follow. The first section is on Heidegger and East Asian thought, the second on Heidegger and Japanese philosophy in modernity, the third on current Heidegger scholarship “from an East Asian perspective,” and the last a documenting of the Heidegger reception in Japan and Korea. A number of the articles have previously appeared in other languages, and as such this is a good way to introduce German speakers to scholarship around the world.

Individually the contributions of the various scholars are generally of high quality throughout, but overall the book leaves some things to be wished for. The section themes are confusing. If section 2 is about Heidegger and Japan, then one would not expect articles on Heidegger and Japan in section 1 or 3, but there are such. If section 3 is about scholarship from East Asia, why are there only Japanese contributors to this section? We touch here on the major weakness of this volume: it is largely focused on Japan; Heidegger’s critical engagement with China is very much subordinated to Japan. The volume presents fourteen Japanese scholars, six Western, one Chinese, and one Korean. Thus, the theme ‘Heidegger and East Asia’ seems largely truncated to ‘Heidegger and Japan.’ But even then, one has to wonder about the fit into the [End Page 342] theme ‘Heidegger and East Asia’ of articles (by Tetsuya Sakakibara, Shunsuke Kadowaki, and Takashi Nakahara) that have nothing to do with East Asia except for the fact that they were written by Japanese scholars. This only shows that there are Japanese (and other East Asian) scholars who study Heidegger, but not much more. Do these contributions in fact show an...