- Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and European Buddhism:Reflections on Nietzsche and Other Buddhas by Jason M. Wirth
I. After Comparative Philosophy
Jason M. Wirth's Nietzsche and Other Buddhas is a thought-provoking work that lucidly engages elements of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche in relation to Buddhist (Dōgen, Hakuin, and Shinran), Kyōto School (Nishida, Nishitani, and Tanabe), and other philosophical (Schopenhauer, James, and Deleuze) sources.
This book offers innovative and suggestive strategies for addressing questions of inter- and cross-cultural philosophy in a situation "after comparative philosophy" without an underlying fixed grounding to engage in comparison. Wirth describes in the introduction an interpretive strategy of "co-illuminating confrontation." It does not primarily rely on a comparison between concepts, and does not remain within the borders of established definitions of philosophy, conceived as an autonomous and self-enclosed conceptual field. It concerns philosophical articulations of non-philosophical encounters and experiences, delineating how moments of philosophy's dependence on non-philosophy are central to "the creativity and genesis at the heart of the philosophical enterprise."1 Zen and Shin Buddhist teachings, which are concerned more with practices than concepts, have their own distinctive orientations and stakes that are defined as exterior to proper philosophy in standard accounts of what counts as philosophy. Still, they can—as Kyōto School philosophers illustrate—contribute to the genesis, formation, contestation, and renewal of philosophical life and reflection.2
Philosophy's resourcefulness is traced in this work in the (highly mediated through translation) interpretations of primarily South Asian Buddhist teachings in Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and James as well as East Asian teachings in Nishida, Nishitani, and Tanabe. The former thinkers encountered themes of sickness, recovery, and health, of well-being and philosophy as a way of life, in South Asian texts. The latter philosophers articulated the uniqueness of their own traditions, and the possibility of a contemporary Japanese philosophy, while interpreting them through complex entanglements and negotiations with modern Western philosophical and psychological discourses. Argumentation from Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and James concerning Buddhism, religion, and psychology [End Page 1082] informed East Asian reimaginings of Buddhist teachings as philosophy and religion.3 Wirth's book illuminates how co-illuminating encounters and confrontations are indicative of philosophy's reliance on non-philosophy and the intercultural formation of modern philosophy.4
Wirth's nuanced ways of approaching intercultural hermeneutics could be extended to other encounters and entanglements: nineteenth-century German receptions of Indian philosophy (which will be discussed in the present article) or the complex role that Schopenhauer and Nietzsche played in early-twentieth-century Chinese reinterpretations of Buddhism in figures such as Liang Qichao 梁啟超, Wang Guowei 王國維, and Liang Shuming 梁漱溟.5
II. Schopenhauer's Suffering and Nietzsche's European Buddhism
Wirth's work is in multiple ways a meditation on health, convalescence, and healing.6 It repeatedly returns to this thematic, which is at the center of Nietzsche's confrontations and disagreements with Schopenhauer and what he understands to be the Buddhist dharma. Nietzsche described him as his great teacher whom he had to overcome on the question of the "value of morality" in the preface of On the Genealogy of Morals.7 He recognized the suffering and illness that motivated Schopenhauer's philosophy while contesting its appropriateness as an art of recuperation and healing.
Schopenhauer identified himself with the Buddha in the midst of a pandemic. During the cholera epidemic of 1831, Schopenhauer was compelled to flee Berlin for Frankfurt. He described in his 1831–1832 notebook titled "Cholera Book" how in his seventeenth year, without learned school education, he was stricken by the misery of life (Jammer des Lebens) just as the Buddha Gautama was in his youth by life's sickness, aging, suffering, and death.8 His identification with the narrative of the Buddha's conversion through the recognition of suffering (dukkha, the being ill at ease of the first noble truth) was dated in the year of his father's suspected suicide well before his encounter with Indian sources.9 Schopenhauer is thought to have begun his studies of the Oupnekhat (Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron's 1801 translation of a Persian edition of the Upanishads) and Brahmanic philosophy in 1813/14 and...