The Japanese Philosophy Blog

News and discussion of ancient and modern Japanese philosophy

November Roundup

The leaves are turning here in Washington DC. Did you know the East Coast of America has four seasons? Here is some recent activity in the world of Japanese philosophy:


The Art of Betweenness

13th November, 2013

Royal Holloway, University of London

“Betweenness (aidagara 間柄)consists in the fact that self and other are divided from each other … and at the same time that what is thus divided becomes unified” (Watsuji, 1996, p. 35). A boundary that separates any two things is also the meeting place that unites them. This “in-betweenness” (aidagara) or lived social space, as the space of action, thus has an intrinsic qualitative character and interactive dynamic that differentiates it from geometrical space. In this concept mind and body are not separate but form mind-body.

The idea is to discuss with artists the possibility of developing an art work, music, drama, literature, etc. and combinations of, through the concept of betweenness. The artists should ‘own’ the art. The work must acknowledge that it is both created and creating. It should aim to convey ideas of individuality, relationality, alienation and self-alienation. It should be social in form, practice and content. Lastly, it should convey ideas diegetically and non-diegetically not only to the viewer but through the performer-the work should be owned.

If you wish to attend, be informed of further events, or wish to contribute by Skype please contact

Call for Papers

2014 Uehiro Philosophy Conference: Cross Currents: Aesthetic Distributions

March 14-16, 2014 at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Keynote Speakers: Joseph Tanke and Peng Feng

Deadline: Wednesday, January 1, 2014


The Uehiro Cross Currents Philosophy Conference showcases exceptional work by graduate and advanced undergraduate students in comparative philosophy (though not limited to East-West comparisons). Given this year’s speakers, we invite high-quality papers dealing with topics in Aesthetics, broadly construed. What might the reemergence of interest in the field of aesthetics mean for comparative philosophy? What is the importance of art, literature, music, and film for philosophy more generally? What does the interdisciplinary analysis of art objects have to contribute to the theorization of art? How is ‘art’ understood, interpreted, and valued differently by different cultures? How does aesthetics relate to other areas of philosophical study, such as metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics? In what ways do ethical and political concerns affect the production and reception of works of art? Papers dealing with (though not limited to) such questions will be most welcome.

Email full papers or abstracts to Papers should be suitable for a 20-minute presentation. In the body of the email include: 1) Your name, 2) Title of the paper, 3) Institutional affiliation, 4) Contact information (email, phone number, mailing address), and 5) Whether you would like to be considered for a travel award. Send documents in word format with no identifying information for blind review. Notification of acceptance will be sent by January 20th, 2014.

The Uehiro Student Essay Award will be presented to the best student presentation. Competitive partial travel subsidies will be available this year for both international and domestic travel. All submissions will be considered for possible publication in the Uehiro Conference Proceedings, published in the past by Cambridge Scholars Press.


  • Asghari, Mohammad. The Place of God in Philosophy of Nishida Kitaro. Philosophy of Religion Research 1 (2013). [NB: This article is in Persian. Normally, I only link to English language articles, but I found the abstract interesting, so I am breaking that rule.]

    This article tries to show the place of God in philosophy of Nishida Kitaro. The religious aspect of philosophical thought of Nishida has been considered in four themes، namely, God as the ground of reality, absolute nothingness, divine love, and religion. Nishida interprets God in mystical vocabulary which it is similar to theory of pantheism. He explains relation between God and the creatures as manifestation of God. For him, God is the ground of reality and according this opinion، there is not any separation between God and world. He also believes that God is not being, but He is absolute nothingness—of course it is not the same nothingness in Islamic philosophy that we know—and consciousness of this nothingness is equal with love of God and love of self. We intuit God from within and divine love lies in us.

  • Inoue Katsuhito. Characteristics of Eastern Thought and the Philosophy of Kyoto School. Journal of Siberian Federal University: Humanities & Social Sciences 10 (2013 6) 1407–1422.

    The character of modernized Western thought can be thought to consist in the observational view which keeps a distance from things. In contrast, the character of even recent East Asian thought consists in standing within the pure experience in which there is not yet a subject or an object. For example, the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitarō(西田幾多郎, 1870-1945) often uses the phrase “mono-to natte-mi, mono-to natte-hataraku, (物となって見、物となって働く)” which can be translated as, “Look/see by becoming the thing, work/do by becoming the thing.” This phrase means that one should see from within the thing by going within the thing. That is to say, in distinction from the West’s objectively logical thought, Nishida sought at the root of Eastern thought a thinking that becomes the ‘thing’ completely. In other words, to transcend the self, while standing in the existential world that envelops this self, and to stand on the realized plane wherein things come to appear to the extent that the self is made of nothing. In this sense, Nishida’s standpoint is related to what is called “ko-wu, chih-chie” (knowledge which reaches all things 「格物致知」)in the “Ta-hsüeh” (Great Study『大學). Hence, with regards to Nishida’s philosophy, we can see that it cannot be thought in terms of a self and world, subject and environment, and other such oppositionally constituted dualisms. Rather, both terms are taken to be none other than contradictory, dialectical, and relational (sōsoku-teki 相即的), and are determined ‘topologically’ (basho-teki 場所的). This means that, as opposed to the modern Western way of looking at the world from the side of the self, Nishida’s philosophy tries to look at the self from the side of the world, i.e. from the side of things.

    To give a much earlier example of Eastern verticality, Cheng Mingdao (程顥 1032–1085) advocated what he termed a ‘compassion of heaven and earth as one body (天地一体の仁).

    We must pay attention to the fact that humanity is a self-awareness based not on observation but on physiological sense. Before we see the objective world, we come into contact with everything physiologically. Usually we live in pure and direct experience. There is not yet a subject or an object, and knowing and its object are completely unified. This is the most refined type of experience. Zhaolun (僧肇374-414) says in his work Zhaolun 『肇論』, “ Heaven and Earth have a common root. All being and we are one body.” And also Chuang-tzu (荘子) says in Zhuangzi 『荘子』, “Heaven and Earth live with us, everything in the universe is united with us.”

  • Lee, Jerry Won. Legacies of Japanese colonialism in the rhetorical constitution of South Korean national identity. National Identities (Oct. 2013).

    Despite Korea’s independence from Japan in 1945, collective memories of Japanese colonialism continue to shape South Korean national identity today. This article extends Charland’s theory of constitutive rhetoric and reconsiders Billig’s theory of banal nationalism to analyse key discourses of national memory in South Korea, including presidential speeches delivered on the Liberation Day of Korea (Gwangbokjeol) and exhibits at the Independence Hall (Dongnip Ginyeomgwan). This article examines how South Korean nationalistic discourses today, by fostering a sustained antagonism towards the Japanese, constitute a national identity in an inextricable relationship to the Japanese Other.

  • Métraux, Daniel. Soka Gakkai International: The Global Expansion of a Japanese Buddhist Movement. Religion Compass 7.10 (October 2013) 423–432.

    Japan’s Soka Gakkai is the largest of Japan’s many New Religious Movements with a major presence not only in Japan, but also meaningful representation in nearly 200 foreign countries and territories. This Japan-based Buddhist organization which in 2013 claims ten million members at home has attracted over two million followers abroad through its ability to assimilate into local cultures and to offer doctrines and practices that are universal in their application. Japanese as well as foreign members find Soka Gakkai’s form of Buddhism appealing because it is said to give them a sense of confidence and self-empowerment, permitting them to manage their lives in a more creative and fulfilling manner.

  • Ozaki Makoto. Tanabe’s Philosophy in the Comparative Contexts. Biocosmology – Neo-Aristotelism 3.3 (Summer 2013): 464–481.

    As Hegel suggests, there is no philosophy apart from the history of philosophy. Each philosophy represents the spirit peculiar to its own period. Heidegger, too, holds that every philosophy is the sound of Being, and the history of philosophy is the history of Being. This is true for the Kyoto School philosophy of modern Japan represented by Kitaro Nishida, Hajime Tanabe, and Tetsuro Watsuji, who made to endeavor to construct a new synthesis of Western and Eastern philosophy in the critical, confrontational, and creative ways in the given historical contexts. In particular, Tanabe (1885-1962) attempts at the dialectical unification of Christianity and Buddhism in the last resort from the standpoint of Absolute Nothingness. As, in Whitehead’s conception of Process, actuality is composed of the past objective being as the given data and the present subjective act of becoming, so it might be highly significant to analyze the constitutive elements of Tanabe’s system of thought from the historical and comparative contexts.

  • Schwemmer, Patrick. And The Angel Spake unto Harunobu: A Japanese Christian miracle story of 1591.

Books Reviews

  • Ives, Christopher. Review of Beyond the Mushroom Cloud: Commemoration, Religion, and Responsibility after Hiroshima by Yuki Miyamoto. Philosophy East and West 63:4 (October 2013): 689–691.

  • Yong, Amos. Review of Christianity and the Notion of Nothingness: Contributions to Buddhist-Christian Dialogue from the Kyoto School by Mutō Kazuo. Buddhist-Christian Studies 33 (2013): 209–213.


  • Buswell, Robert and Donald Lopez. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton University Press, November 4, 2013.

  • Haselstein, Ulla; Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit; Catrin Gersdorf; and Elena Giannoulis. The Cultural Career of Coolness: Discourses and Practices of Affect Control in European Antiquity, the United States, and Japan. Lexington Books, Oct 10, 2013.

    Cool is a word of American English that has been integrated into the vocabulary of numerous languages around the globe. Today it is a term most often used in advertising trendy commodities, or, more generally, in promoting urban lifestyles in our postmodern age. But what is the history of the term “cool?“ When has coolness come to be associated with certain modes of contemporary self-fashioning? On what grounds do certain nations claim a privilege to be recognized as “cool?” These are some of the questions that served as a starting-point for a comparative cultural inquiry which brought together specialists from American Studies and Japanese Studies, but also from Classics, Philosophy and Sociology.

  • Ingram, Paul and Sallie King. The Sound of Liberating Truth: Buddhist-Christian Dialogues in Honor of Frederick J. Streng. Routledge, Oct 23, 2013.

    Offers essays and dialogues by well-known Buddhist and Christian scholars on topics that were of primary interest to Frederick J. Streng, in whose honour the volume was created. Topics include interreligious dialogue, ultimate reality, nature and ecology, social and political issues of liberation, and ultimate transformation or liberation.

Also, here is an old book, newly available for legal online download:

Summer Roundup

Sorry for the long hiatus. It’s been a very busy summer for me—I took a new job and moved thousands of miles—but Japanese philosophy news continues apace.

Before we look at what’s happening, I would first like to extend my deepest condolences to the colleagues, friends, and family of Robert Bellah, who passed away on July 30, 2013. He was a pioneer in comparative thought when he wrote Tokugawa Religion: The Values of Pre-Industrial Japan back in 1957, and yet he was still breaking new ground with The Axial Age and Its Consequences in 2012! His impact on the field will be long remembered.

Blog posts


  • Agra, Kelly Louise Rexzy P. An Inquiry into the Historical Development of Philosophy in Japan. Buddhi 17.2 (2013).

    What is Japanese philosophy? This paper will address this question, not by giving a survey of the works of Japanese philosophers or a definition of the subject matter of Japanese philosophy, but by attempting to present how it emerged as a distinct philosophical tradition—by sketching the controversies that gave rise to its formation; the social, intellectual, and historical factors that paved the way to its development; and the revolution of thought which finally gave it the title “Japanese philosophy.” I will argue that Japanese philosophy was born not because Japanese thinkers desperately wanted a philosophy that they could call their own, but because, first and foremost, they were thinking of ways to articulate the ever changing and paradoxical nature of reality. Formed by their religion and informed by the Chinese and Japanese classics, they used the language learned from the West and tried to answer the most fundamental questions of existence. A unique way of philosophizing thus emerged and became a true locus of dialogue between Eastern and Western thought.

  • Baek, Jin. Fudo: An East Asian Notion of Climate and Sustainability. Buildings. 2013; 3(3):588-597

    My paper discusses an East Asian notion of climate and its significance for sustainability. A particular reference is the environmental philosophy of Tetsuro Watsuji (1889–1960), a Japanese philosopher who reflected upon the meaning of climate, or “fudo” in the Sino-Japanese linguistic tradition. Watsuji sees fudo not merely as a collection of natural features—climatic, scenic, and topographical—of a given land, but also as the metaphor of subjectivity, or “who I am”. Furthermore, this self-discovery through fudo is never private but collective. By referring to a phenomenological notion of “ek-sistere”, or “to be out among other ‘I’s”, Watsuji demonstrates the pervasiveness of a climatic phenomenon and the ensuing inter-personal joining of different individuals to shape a collective sustainable measure in response to the phenomenon. My paper lastly concretizes the significance of fudo and its inter-personal ethical basis for sustainability by dwelling upon cross-ventilation in Japanese vernacular residential architecture. Cross-ventilation emerges only through what Watsuji calls “selfless openness” between different rooms predicated upon the joining of different ‘I’s soaked in hotness and humidity. Watsuji’s fudo thus offers a lesson that without considering the collective humane characteristic of a natural climatic phenomenon, any sustainable act is flawed and inefficient.

  • Boyd, James. Undercover Acolytes: Honganji, the Japanese Army, and Intelligence-Gathering Operations. The Journal of Religious History 37:2 June, 2013.

    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, as the Japanese Army sought intelligence on the countries neighbouring Japan, the military made use of the Buddhist priesthood as a cover for intelligence gathering. In addition, elements of the Buddhist priesthood, in particular the Kyoto-based Honganji sect, were happy to cooperate with the military in its intelligence gathering operations, either by allowing military officers to disguise themselves as monks or by having Buddhist monks gather military intelligence for the Japanese Army. This article examines the relationship between the Japanese Army and the Honganji sect following the 1868 Meiji Restoration, the activities of military officers who disguised themselves as Buddhist monks and the intelligence gathering activities of Buddhist monks, hoping to shed more light on the part that Japanese Buddhism played in Japan’s imperial adventures.

  • Castel, Coralie. “Nihonjinron” in the Museums of Paris: design and Japanese identity. French Journal of Japanese Studies 1, 2012.

  • Chen, Chi-ying. Is the Video Game a Cultural Vehicle?. Games and Culture. Sept. 2013.

    Following the exportation of Japanese media products such as TV dramas, Japanese culture and products have swept across many Asian countries, especially Taiwan. Based on the historical background and unique characteristics of games, this study investigates the cultural effect of Japanese video games on players in Taiwan. This study also presents an analysis of the differences between TV and the video game as cultural vehicles. We used both quantitative and qualitative methods. Results indicate a relationship between game-playing behavior and the identification of Japanese culture. However, the relationship between video game playing and consumption was nonsignificant. This shows the power of video games in nation-building but not in nation-branding, in contrast with TV. This study presents a discussion of the findings to shed light on the cultural effects of video games.

  • Hastings, Thomas John. Practicing the Redemptive Love of Jesus: The Enduring Witness of Kagawa Toyohiko (1888–1960). Theology Today 70.2, pp. 160-180, July 2013.

    On Christmas Eve in 1909, 21-year-old Kagawa Toyohiko (1888–1960) rented a room in Kobe’s worst slum and, aside from two years of study in the United States, remained there with his wife and co-worker Haru more than ten years. In the slum, they engaged in pastoral work, evangelism, social reform movements, and literary activities. After publishing a best-selling novel in 1920 and donating all of the royalties to their many projects, Toyohiko began to draw the attention of people from around Japan and the world. He was often compared with his contemporaries Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Schweitzer. Arguing that spiritual reform must accompany genuine social reform, he proposed the “third way” of cooperative economics as an alternative to the materialism he perceived in capitalism and Marxism. The Kagawas founded Kobe Co-op in 1920, which today has 1.2 million members. To support the spiritual life and social commitment of young Christians, they started the “Friends of Jesus” in 1921, a lay Protestant order linking Franciscan and Jesuit traditions. They helped lead relief efforts in Tokyo after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and Toyohiko led the Kingdom of God Movement from 1926–34, a massive ecumenical effort that fused evangelism with social activism. Toyohiko was a lifelong reader of natural science and saw no conflict between science and faith. His lifelong passivism was sorely tested as Japan headed into world war. By 1940, he had responsibility for 4 settlement houses, 6 cooperatives, 6 slum kitchens, 3 hospitals, 17 kindergartens, 3 tuberculosis sanitaria, 3 gospel schools, 1 domestic science school, 2 magazines, a farm, and 19 churches. Publishing over 300 books in his lifetime, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature twice, and the Nobel Peace Prize three times. This piece considers why Kagawa and his enduring legacy have been forgotten.

  • Kawamura, Satofumi. Introduction to the “Nishida Problem”: Nishida Kitar’s Political Philosophy and Governmentality. Studies on Multicultural Societies 15.

  • ———. The National Polity and the formation of the modern national subject in Japan. Japan Forum. July, 2013.

    This article analyses how the concept of Kokutai, or the National Polity, emerged and developed in the course of Japanese modernisation. The National Polity was the central principle that underpinned the mystic and divine authority and sovereignty of the Japanese Emperor (Tennō), and played an ideological role during the Asia Pacific War. Nevertheless, the definition of the National Polity was highly ambiguous and there was no dominant interpretation of the National Polity even in the wartime period from the 1930s to 1940s. In this article, I shall put forward the view that the 1930s and 1940s discourse of the National Polity involved logical or rational ideas that have commonly been thought to be antagonistic to the National Polity; therefore the discourse became complex, ambiguous and paradoxical. This article will elucidate how the discourse of Taishō Democracy, which has been perceived as a major critique of the National Polity, also contributed to the mass-based ideology of the National Polity. In order to examine this problem comprehensively, I will explore various strands of the National Polity debates from the early Meiji period to the 1940s, such as the thought of Itō Hirobumi, Inoue Tetsujirō, Hozumi Yatsuka, Uesugi Shinkichi, Minobe Tatsukichi, Yoshino Sakuzō and Miki Kiyoshi.

  • Janz, Bruce. Watsuji Tetsurō, Fūdo, and climate change. In Global Ethics on Climate Change, 2013.

  • Lo, Kwai-Cheung. Rethinking Asianism and method. European Journal of Cultural Studies. Sept. 2013.

    While contemporary Asian scholars are debating how they can avoid locking up themselves in an obsession with the West, and discovering new categories and new methodologies by inter-referencing and multiplying their frames of reference through grasping Asian shared realities that have moulded their histories and cultures, this article looks back and closely examines the postwar Japanese thinker Yoshimi Takeuchi’s tantalising idea of ‘Asia as method’. It discusses why and how Takeuchi calls for a ‘rollback’ of western values instead of forming a distinctive Asian paradigm, in order to effect universal freedom and global equality. For Takeuchi, ‘Asia as method’ may mean that Asia courageously embraces the negativity brought by Europe as the path to a higher stage of freedom and equality.

  • Marquet, Christophe. Yanagi Sōetsu and the invention of “folk crafts”: a new contextualisation. French Journal of Japanese Studies 1, 2012.

  • Masong, Kenneth. Becoming-Religion:Re-/thinking Religion with A. N. Whitehead and Keiji Nishitani

    For Whitehead and Nishitani, a rethinking of religion necessitates a rethinking of the metaphysics that underlie one’s concept of religion. The dynamism of religion is unveiled only within the metaphysical grounding of an ontology that accommodates the philosophical preference of “becoming” as an ultimate category of reality. The novelty of Whitehead’s theory of religion lies in the process metaphysics that it presupposes. For him, religion, like the whole of reality, is inherently developing and evolving. What Nishitani offers is a rethinking of Western understanding of religion by way of an Asian speculative approach grounded in Zen Buddhism. He argues that Western religion, particularly Christianity and Judaism, has succumbed to the modern predicament of nihilism, or relative nothingness. He radicalizes this same nihility towards absolute nothingness (śūnyatā). For both Whitehead and Nishitani, despite the distortion of religion by religious fundamentalists, genuine religion consolidates and points a society towards its real destiny. However, the realization of religion’s role necessitates reflexivity on its own inherent dynamism.

  • Ōkubo Takeharu. Ono Azusa and the Meiji Constitution: The Codification and Study of Roman Law at the Dawn of Modern Japan. Transcultural Studies 1, 2013.

  • Shiraishi, Gen. Christianity in Japan: A History Defined by Great Influence and Sudden Decline. The Concord Review.

  • Specker Sullivan, Laura. Dōgen and Wittgenstein: Transcending Language through Ethical Practice. Asian Philosophy 23:3, 2013.

    While there have been numerous claims of a resemblance between the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Zen Buddhism, few studies of the philosophy of Wittgenstein in detailed comparison with specific Zen thinkers have emerged. This article attempts to fill this gap by considering Wittgenstein’s philosophy in relation to that of Eihei Dōgen, founder of the Sōtō school of Zen. Points of particular confluence are found in both thinkers’ approaches to language, experience, and practice. Through an elucidation of these points, this article argues that both Dōgen and Wittgenstein can be understood as putting forth a philosophy of transcendent ethics.

  • Tadeusz, Adam Ożóg. The Zen Master Socrates. Idea 24, pp. 233–254.

  • Paraschivescu, Andrei Octavian. Japanese Quality Science and Culture. Economy Transdisciplinarity Cognition 16:1, Jan. 2013.

    The objective of this work was the research of the directions for acting of the characteristics of the Japanese concept of quality, of the methods used in Japanese management continuous improvement. By analyzing the contribution of the largest Japanese researchers and trainers in quality (K. Ishikawa, G. Taguchi, S. Shingo, M. Imai, N. Kano) demonstrated that Japanese school is a model of good practice and quality culture quality management.


  • The Journal of Japanese Studies. Summer 2013.

  • Philosophy East and West. July 2013. The issue is an extended debate on the applicability of dialetheism in Buddhist thought (especially Dogen).


  • Çubukçuoğlu, Safir. Investigating Subjectivity in ‘the Cyborg’: Posthumanism Offered in Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell. Utrecht University & The University of Hull, 2013.

    In an effort to expand the field of realization for the feminist potentials laden in understanding ‘identity’ and ‘subjectivity’ through Haraway‘s metaphoric construct of ‘the cyborg,’ this thesis offers cyberpunk imagination as another field of production of this figure. In order to do so, it offers new materialism as a way of reading and criticizing practice which helps recognize the elements in Japanese cyberpunk as that which helps form a posthumanist approach on notions of ‘identity,’ ‘subjectivity,’ and ‘agency.’ In this regard, the female cyborg figure of the movie Ghost in the Shell (1995) by Mamoru Oshii will be analyzed with a keen eye on her performances which subvert the static attributions on the notions of ‘human,’ ‘technology’ and ‘femininity.’

  • Mizuta, Jonathan Juichi. An Evaluation of the Conceptual Similarities and Differences Between the Strategic Logic of the Religiously Motivated Suicide Attacks of Tokkotai Kamikaze and Al-Qaeda Shahid. Baylor University, May 2013.

    What motivated members of al-Qaeda to hijack commercial airliners and crash them into the sides of buildings? Is it similar to what motivated Japanese fighter pilots to crash their jets into the sides of American aircraft carriers? If so, what can these two seemingly disparate phenomena tell us about the nature of the relationship between religion and violence? Finally, were the attacks of the two groups both responses to American actions abroad (which is often described as “American imperialism”)?

  • McGuire, Mark Patrick. From the City to the Mountain and Back Again: Situating Contemporary Shugendô in Japanese Social and Religious Life. Concordia University, 2013.

    This thesis examines mountain ascetic training practices in Japan known as Shugendô (The Way to Acquire Power) from the 1980s to the present. Focus is given to the dynamic interplay between two complementary movements: 1) the creative process whereby charismatic, media-savvy priests in the Kii Peninsula (south of Kyoto) have re-invented traditional practices and training spaces to attract and satisfy the needs of diverse urban lay practitioners, and 2) the myriad ways diverse urban ascetic householders integrate lessons learned from mountain austerities in their daily lives in Tokyo and Osaka. This thesis argues that the creation of condensed mountain entry rituals such as the overnight Lotus Ascent of Mount Ômine, a successful campaign to designate sacred training grounds in the Kii Peninsulaa UNESCO World Heritage cultural landscape and creation of an “eco-pilgrimage” in Kumano are best understood as creative strategies by Shugendô priests to maintain financial solvency, relevancy and market share while providing direct access to the transcendent in a competitive and uncertain time.


  • Ashby, Dominic and Luming Mao. Review of Zen Buddhist Rhetoric in China, Korea, and Japan, Christoph Anderl, ed.

  • Hoppens, Robert. Review of Asia for the Asians: China in the Lives of Five Meiji Japanese by Paula S. Harrell.

  • Isaka, Maki. Review of Kissing The Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater with Some Thoughts on Muses (especially Helga Testorf), Transgender Women, Kabuki Goddesses, Porn Queens, Poets, Housewives, Makeup Artists, Geishas, Valkyries and Venus Figurines by William Vollmann.

  • Kushner, Barak. Review of Pan-Asianism in Modern Japanese History: Colonialism, Regionalism and Borders, Sven Saaler and J. Victor Koschmann, eds.


  • Dickinson, Frederick. World War I and the Triumph of a New Japan, 1919-1930 .

    Frederick R. Dickinson illuminates a new, integrative history of interwar Japan that highlights the transformative effects of the Great War far from the Western Front. World War I and the Triumph of a New Japan, 1919-1930 reveals how Japan embarked upon a decade of national reconstruction following the Paris Peace Conference, rivalling the monumental rebuilding efforts in post-Versailles Europe. Taking World War I as his anchor, Dickinson examines the structural foundations of a new Japan, discussing the country’s wholehearted participation in new post-war projects of democracy, internationalism, disarmament and peace. Dickinson proposes that Japan’s renewed drive for military expansion in the 1930s marked less a failure of Japan’s interwar culture than the start of a tumultuous domestic debate over the most desirable shape of Japan’s twentieth-century world. This stimulating study will engage students and researchers alike, offering a unique, global perspective of interwar Japan.

  • Heine, Steve. Like Cats and Dogs: Contesting the Mu Koan in Zen Buddhism. Nov. 2013.

    Koans are dialogues that stand at the center of Zen Buddhist literature and are often used to provoke the “great doubt” in testing a trainee’s progress. The Mu Koan consists of a brief conversation in which a monk asks Master Zhaozhou whether or not a dog has Buddha-nature. According to the main version, the reply is “Mu”: literally, “No,” but implying the philosophical notion of nothingness. This case is widely considered to be the single best- known and most widely circulated koan record of the Zen school that offers existential release from anxiety to attain spiritual illumination.

    In a careful analysis of the historical and rhetorical basis of the literature, Steven Heine demonstrates that the Mu version of the case, preferred by advocates of the key-phrase approach, does not by any means constitute the final word concerning the meaning and significance of the Mu Koan. He shows that another canonical version, which gives both “Yes” and “No” responses, must be taken into account. Like Cats and Dogs offers critical insight and a new theoretical perspective on “the koan of koans.”

  • Kopf, Gereon. Dao Companion to Japanese Buddhist Philosophy. 2014.

  • Shibuya Hiroshi and Chiba Shin, eds. Living for Jesus and Japan: The Social and Theological Thought of Uchimura Kanzō. Oct. 2013.

    Uchimura Kanzo (1861–1930) was an independent, original, and thought-provoking pioneer of Christianity in modern Japan. His theological values were organically linked with his aspiration for living and practicing such evangelical ideas as prophetic existence, neighborly love, social justice, pacifism, patriotism, and internationalism in the sphere of public life. Uchimura’s commitment to the interaction between religious thought and social life is apparent in his well-known epitaph: “I for Japan; Japan for the World; the World for Christ; and All for God.”

    In this interdisciplinary, multi-angled approach to Uchimura Kanzo, the contributors shed light on the inner logic, meanings, and modes of interaction between the religious and social thought observable in Kanzo.

June Roundup

It’s almost officially summer, but philosophy never goes on vacation!


  • Environmental Philosophy 10.1 (Spring 2013).

    Several articles of interest to comparativists:

    • Parkes, Graham. “Zhuangzi and Nietzsche on the Human and Nature.”

      In the context of an unprecedented level of human harm to the natural world on a global scale, this essay aims to rehabilitate the category of the natural by drawing on the philosophies of the classical Daoist Zhuangzi and Friedrich Nietzsche. It considers the benefits of their undermining of anthropocentrism, their appreciation of natural limitations, their checking of human projections onto nature, and their recommendations concerning following the ways of nature while at the same time promoting human culture. The essay concludes with a few examples of how these ideas apply to some current environmental issues.

    • Chinn, Meilin. “Sensing the Wind: The Timely Music of Nature’s Memory.”

      According to the Zhuangzi, listening to the music of nature draws the self into the silence required to experience things in their self-arising spontaneity. How does this happen? This essay answers by way of the Yue Ji (Record of Music), where it is said that great music embodies the timeliness of nature. Using both texts, I develop timeliness as the opportune moment, temporal natality, and nature’s memory. Listening to the timely music of nature is shown to be an act of ecological perception that, by releasing time in favor of timeliness, reveals our aesthetic accordance with nature’s own becoming.

    • Wirth, Jason. “Dōgen and the Unknown Knowns: The Practice of the Wild after the End of Nature.”

      Thinkers like Slavoj Žižek and Tim Morton have heralded the end of our ideological constructions of nature, warning that popular “ecology” or the “natural” is just the latest opiate of the masses. Attempting to think what I call Nature after Nature, I turn to the Kamakura period Zen master Dōgen Eihei (1200–1253) to explore the possibilities of thinking Nature in its non-ideological self-presentation or what Dōgen called “mountains and rivers (sansui).” I bring Dōgen into dialogue with his great champion, the American poet Gary Snyder (who understands the process of sansui as “the wild”), as well as with thinkers as diverse as Schelling, Kundera, Žižek, Agamben, and Muir. Beyond Nature being any one thing, what Badiou derides as the “cosmological one,” I argue for the reawakening and sobering up to multiple Nature, beyond its appearance as an object to a discerning subject, as the bioregions which give us our interdependent and dynamic being.

    • Schultz, Lucy. “Creative Climate: Expressive Media in the Aesthetics of Watsuji, Nishida, and Merleau-Ponty.”

      In different ways, Watsuji, Nishida, and Merleau-Ponty describe a self that extends beyond the skin through a sort of dialectic of internal/external space of perception and action, which has implications for understanding the relationship between art and nature in artistic creation. Through an exposition of Watsuji’s conception of human being in relation to a climatic milieu, Nishida’s theory of the expressive body as the site of the world’s own self-transformations, and certain claims made by Merleau-Ponty in his essays on painting, this article provides a way of understanding how material media may become expressive when they are taken up by artists.

    • Jung, Hwa Yol. “A Prolegomenon to Transversal Geophilosophy.”

      This essay proposes the idea of transversal geophilosophy as ultima philosophia to save the earth. Geophilosophy is that philosophical discipline which embraces all matters of the earth as a whole. Since it requires global efforts on all fronts, it is necessarily cross-cultural, cross-speciesistic, and cross-disciplinary, that is, geophilosophy is transversal. It attends especially to the importance of Sinism, which incorporates Confucianism, Daoism, and Chan/Zen Buddhism, in constructing an ethico-aesthetic paradigm. Sinism is a species of relational ontology or philosophy of Interbeing which defines reality as social process, that is, in the cosmos everything is connected to everything else or nothing exists in isolation, that coincides with the “first law” of ecology. Not only is the aesthetic a discourse of the body, but also the body is our anchorage in the world. In Sinism, the aesthetic and the ethical come together in the embodied concept of harmony, which is the master keyboard, as it were, they are being played together: what is harmonious is simultaneously beautiful and ethical, which culminates in the cosmopolitan virtue of ren. Today we must walk tomorrow as well as yesterday: we steop backward in order to step forward. The Way (Dao) of Ecopiety is to be had in part by recycling the ancient wisdom of Sinism instead of abandoning it as old and foreign.

  • Philosophy East and West. 63.2 (April 2013).

    Of special interest to readers here:

    • Krueger, Joel. “Watsuji’s Phenomenology of Embodiment and Social Space.”

      This essay situates Tetsuro Watsuji within contemporary approaches to social cognition. It argues for Watsuji’s current relevance, suggesting that his analysis of embodiment and social space puts him in step with some of the concerns driving ongoing treatments of social cognition in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. It is further shown how Watsuji offers a fruitful contribution to this discussion by lending a phenomenologically informed critical perspective. First, some interpretative work is done to explore Watsuji’s conception of embodied intersubjectivity. The focus in particular is on Watsuji’s conception of what is termed here the “hybrid” body as well as his distinctive treatment of interpersonal space—what Watsuji terms “betweenness” (aidagara). Next, these notions are connected to current treatments of social cognition within philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Made explicit are several of the ways that Watsuji challenges the core cognitivist and internalist presuppositions behind the Theory of Mind paradigm, and experimental work is drawn from, among other sources, developmental psychology and gesture studies to support Watsuji’s alternative characterization of embodied social interaction.

    • MacKenzie, Matthew. “Enacting Selves, Enacting Worlds: On the Buddhist Theory of Karma.”

      The concept of karma is one of the most general and basic for the philosophical traditions of India, one of an interconnected cluster of concepts that form the basic presuppositions of Indian philosophy. The focus of this essay is on two interrelated aspects of the Buddhist theory of karma. After some preliminary comments on the general philosophical notion of karma and on the enactivist approach to philosophical psychology, I will explore the distinctively Buddhist idea that through the karmic process we enact ourselves—that is, we make and remake ourselves through our actions. Second, I will discuss the idea that we also enact our world(s) through karma—that is, our patterns of action and reaction bring forth meaningful worlds, which in turn shape those very patterns for better or worse. Finally, I will briefly discuss the character and cultivation of enlightened action, action free from the production of karma.

    • Davis, Gordon. “Traces of Consequentialism and Non-Consequentialism In Bodhisattva Ethics.”

      Barbra Clayton and Charles Goodman have recently proposed interpretations of Mahāyāna philosophy that take its fundamental ethical commitments to be consequentialist. There are aspects of the bodhisattva ideal, however, that result in a distinctive constraint on what might otherwise amount to a commitment to consequentialist maximization. Though the doctrinal provenance of this constraint is unique, the constraint itself is in some ways akin to a feature of Kant’s ideal of the kingdom of ends. This does not make Mahāyāna ethics proto-Kantian, but it does suggest that its complexity does not rule out an analysis in terms of familiar consequentialist and non-consequentialist theoretical elements.


  • FUJIOKA Tsuyoshi. “The Japanese Lysenkoism and Its Historical Backgrounds.” Studies in the History of Biology 5.1 (2013).

    Two bases of the rising tide of Lysenkoism in Japan after WW II are Japanese Marxist philosophy influenced by Soviet philosophy and evolutionary biology. Almost all Japanese Marxists left Lysenkoism after Lysenko’s downfall, however, a group of biologists continued to support Lysenko’s theory. In Japan, Lysenkoism attracted the attention of biologists who were not satisfied with Neo-Darwinism. The delay of the acceptance of the evolutionary synthesis in Japan is closely related to the influence of Lysenkoism on biologists. In this paper, I will explain the philosophical and scientific background of Japanese Lysen-koites. These factors will help to understand why the influence of Lysenkoism continued for as long as it did in Japan, long after it was abandoned in other countries.

  • Ogawa, Ruby Toshimi. “In Consideration of 18Th Century Japanese ‘Kokugaku’ Studies in Harmonizing Our Cultural Identities Within a Holistic Educational Approach for the 21St Century.” Bunkyō University Bulletin of Living Science 35 (2013).

    From the early formation of “Kokugaku” (Nativist Studies), the significance of this national narrative known as the “Kojiki-den” had valorized the intellectual movement for cultural self –determination in Japan. One of the most well respected nativist Japanese scholars exemplifying the intellectual movement of “Kokugaku” was the author and literary master, Motoori Norinaga. He originally started this work in 1764, and had authored the “Kojikiden” (“Commentaries of the Kojiki”) in 44volumes as his life’s work. Within the extensive writings of the “Kojikiden”, Norinaga supported the view of the “Japanese mind” and coined the term, “magokoro” or “pure mind”. Based on Norinaga’s idea of forming a distinct cultural identity that characterized human existence, the innate part of an individual’s national identity was potentially recoverable through a deeper sense of Japanese perceptions, judgments and values. In this regard, there is merit in establishing a formal identity whereby learning can flourish and take root to include our most common and universal value systems.

    In the last few decades, the traditional educational goals are being redefined by incorporating a more holistic approach based on our values by integrating our culture-based nationalism. In part, our social identity has been determined by our cultural milieu and social mores. Within a holistic philosophy, the educational system can be explained from the total sum of its component parts from our national, cultural and ethnic identities. Specifically , famed psychologist Abraham Moslow refers to this part of holism as “self –actualization” of a person ‘s system of cultural and nativist values. Thus, the holistic perspective is primarily concerned with the development of a person’s potential as defined by various levels such as brain intellect, emotional intelligence, communication, physical abilities, artistic creativity, and inner spirituality. Each of these parts that define us create our “holistic” selves within our environment.

    For this research inquiry on mobilizing a more “socially responsive” consciousness among learners in response to our environmental crisis, the ever-evolving role of an education system has been focusing on the harmony between the inner life and in embracing one’s cultural and personal identity. In taking strides for a more integrative, holistic approach toward education, this would enable the learner to understand the importance of social responsibilities with others from the community to global levels of connectivity based on our social and cultural personhood.

  • OMOTO Akira. “The accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: What went wrong and what lessons are universal?” Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research (May 2013).

    After a short summary of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, this paper discusses “what went wrong” by illustrating the problems of the specific layers of defense-in-depth (basic strategy for assuring nuclear safety) and “what lessons are universal.” Breaches in the multiple layers of defense were particularly significant in respective protection (a) against natural disasters (first layer of defense) as well as (b) against severe conditions, specifically in this case, a complete loss of AC/DC power and isolation from the primary heat sink (fourth layer of defense). Confusion in crisis management by the government and insufficient implementation of offsite emergency plans revealed problems in the fifth layer of defense.

    By taking into consideration managerial and safety culture that might have relevance to this accident, in the author’s view, universal lessons are as follows:

    a) Resilience: the need to enhance organizational capabilities to respond, monitor, anticipate, and learn in changing conditions, especially to prepare for the unexpected. This includes increasing distance to cliff edge by knowing where it exists and how to increase safety margin.

    b) Responsibility: the operator is primarily responsible for safety, and the government is responsible for protecting public health and environment. For both, their right decisions are supported by competence, knowledge, and an understanding of the technology, as well as humble attitudes toward the limitations of what we know and what we can learn from others. c) Social license to operate: the need to avoid, as much as possible regardless of its probability of occurrence, the reasonably anticipated environmental impact (such as land contamination), as well as to build public confidence/trust and a renewed liability scheme.

  • SUZUKI Fumitaka. “Kant’s Criticism of Rational Psychology and His Theory of Transcendental Ego.” Bulletin of Aichi University of Education 62 (March 2013).

    In our previous article, “The Cogito Proposition of Descartes and Characteristics of His Ego Theory”, on the basis of which article we are going to analyze Kant’s ego theory, we asserted that through the Copernican revolution in epistemology Kant had completed the ego theory of Western modern philosophy, namely, the paradigm shift in ego theory from the substantiality theory of mind to the theory of transcendental I. In the present article, we would like to clarify Kant’s theory of transcendental I by analyzing the chapter “Of the Paralogisms of Pure Reason” (the Paralogisms Chapter) of the Critique of Pure Reason of its first edition.

    (Contains a discussion of Watsuji Tetsurō’s “Person” and “Humanity” in Kant カントにおける「人格」と「人類性」.)

  • TEZUKA Miwako. “Jikken Kōbō and Takiguchi Shūzō: The New Deal Collectivism of 1950s Japan.” Positions 21.2 (2013).

    In post-1945 Japan, the government, guided by the occupation authority, reeducated the people with a democratic ideology. Belligerent nationalism was replaced by a national mission of enrichment of arts and culture. Takiguchi Shūzō (1903 – 79), a poet-critic and supporter of vanguard art since the prewar period, continued to cultivate the spirit of defiance against the establishment in the postwar art world. However, as a respected man of culture, he was also involved in a project of building the first national museum of modern art for the purpose of public enlightenment. This article explores how Takiguchi fostered independent art movements despite his conflicting engagement with the establishment.

    In Takiguchi’s mind, artistic collectivism had to be rooted in the public domain so that art and society would inform each other. His utopian vision paralleled many objectives of the historical avant-gardes of the West, and it was transmitted to the postwar generation of artists, most notably, to the artists' collective Jikken Kōbō (Experimental Workshop; active 1951 – 57). This group exemplified the postwar Japanese reception of the Bauhausian philosophy of unified art, and Takiguchi played an important role in fostering Jikken Kōbō’s interest in the Bauhaus. By placing the transmission of utopianism from Takiguchi to Jikken Kōbō in a larger politicocultural context, this article analyzes the effect of the legacy of the US-led occupation on the idea of artistic collectivism in 1950s Japan.

    The United States was already under the influence of the Bauhaus in the 1930s as evidenced in the establishments of Black Mountain College and the Chicago Bauhaus. The concept of progressive art education promoted by these schools eventually reached Japan through the postwar occupation, whose initial directive was fueled by New Deal liberalism. This article examines a work that revisited Bauhausian philosophy, Jikken Kōbō’s 1955 The Future Eve (Mirai no ivu), an experimental ballet theater based on a science fiction novel written in 1886 by the French novelist Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. The Future Eve revealed Jikken Kōbō’s affinity with the Bauhaus in its collective engagement with production of theater, its strong interest in merging art and technology, and ultimately, its belief in art’s relevance to social and public issues of the time.



  • Park, Doyoung. “A Vehicle of Social Mobility: Utilitarian Factors in the Rise of Neo-Confucianism in the Early Tokugawa Period.” University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, 2013.

    This dissertation explores the utilitarian aspects of the Neo-Confucianism’s rise in the early Tokugawa period. Neo-Confucianism was an important intellectual foundation for political leaders because it served as the cultural medium of Chinese civilization. Since the Kamakura period, Zen monks had monopolized access to Neo-Confucian scholarship to enjoy exclusive political patronage. However, Fujiwara Seika, a Neo-Confucian convert from Zen, changed this situation. He established a private school to train a younger generation of Neo-Confucianists in Kyoto. His school liberated the access to Neo- Confucianism from Zen Buddhism’s institutional grip and expanded the pool of Neo- Confucianism’s followers. Soon, the leaders of Tokugawa politics increased recruitment of Neo-Confucianists to the detriment of Zen monks since the shogunate’s hiring of Hayashi Razan. Some previous scholars have regarded this hiring wave as a sign of Neo- Confucianism’s ideological triumph over Buddhism in Tokugawa politics. However, this dissertation disputes that idea and suggests that Tokugawa leaders preferred Neo- Confucianists because they were more accessible, professional, and economically effective than Zen monks. Successful role models like Razan stimulated the mind of commoners and rōnin, both of whom had lost vehicles of social mobility after Hideyoshi’s separation of peasants and samurai. With the ambition to enhance their social status, commoners found Neo-Confucian scholarship a useful vehicle for social mobility, and these utilitarian motives spread the increasing preference of Neo-Confucianism throughout Tokugawa Japan society.

  • Yamada, Yoshiko. “The Discursive Construction of Japanese Identity and its Haunting Others.”. Florida International University, 2013.

    This dissertation examined the formation of Japanese identity politics after World War II. Since World War II, Japan has had to deal with a contradictory image of its national self. On the one hand, as a nation responsible for colonizing fellow Asian countries in the 1930s and 1940s, Japan has struggled with an image/identity as a regional aggressor. On the other hand, having faced the harsh realities of defeat after the war, Japan has seen itself depicted as a victim. By employing the technique of discourse analysis as a way to study identity formation through official foreign policy documents and news media narratives, this study reconceptualized Japanese foreign policy as a set of discursive practices that attempt to produce renewed images of Japan’s national self. The dissertation employed case studies to analyze two key sites of Japanese postwar identity formation: (1) the case of Okinawa, an island/territory integral to postwar relations between Japan and the United States and marked by a series of US military rapes of native Okinawan girls; and (2) the case of comfort women in Japan and East Asia, which has led to Japan being blamed for its wartime sexual enslavement of Asian women. These case studies found that it was through coping with the haunting ghost of its wartime past that Japan sought to produce “postwar Japan” as an identity distinct from “wartime imperial Japan” or from “defeated, emasculated Japan” and, thus, hoped to emerge as a “reborn” moral and pacifist nation. The research showed that Japan struggled to invent a new self in a way that mobilized gendered dichotomies and, furthermore, created “others” who were not just spatially located (the United States, Asian neighboring nations) but also temporally marked (“old Japan”). The dissertation concluded that Japanese foreign policy is an ongoing struggle to define the Japanese national self vis-à-vis both spatial and historical “others,” and that, consequently, postwar Japan has always been haunted by its past self, no matter how much Japan’s foreign policy discourses were trying to make this past self into a distant or forgotten other.

    (Abstract only. Full dissertation available April 17, 2015.)

New Funding Opportunities in Buddhist Studies

From Warp, Weft, and Way:

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) announces a new initiative supporting research and teaching in Buddhist studies funded by a $1.9 million grant from the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation. Working with the Foundation, ACLS will offer an articulated set of fellowship and grant competitions that will expand the understanding and interpretation of Buddhist thought in scholarship and society, strengthen international networks of Buddhist studies, and increase the visibility of innovative currents in those studies. ACLS will organize competitions for the following:

These are global competitions. There are no restrictions as to the location of work proposed or the citizenship of applicants.

Applications must be submitted through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system (OFA). Sample applications and a link to OFA will be available in July 2013. Further details may be found here: /buddhist-studies/

Conference: Inoue Enryo and Intercultural Philosophy

Going to be in Iowa in two weeks? Like Japanese philosophy? Here’s the conference for you!

The International Association for Inoue Enryo Research organizes a two day workshop about

“Inoue Enryo and Intercultural Philosophy”

on May 24 / 25, hosted by Luther College in Decorah, IA, USA.

Conference languages will be English and Japanese. Everybody interested is welcome. For registration, please email to:


Friday, May 24, 2pm - 5pm:
Interdisciplinary Discussion Forum in English about the Project of Intercultural Philosophy.

Saturday, May 25, 9am - 7 pm:
Workshop about “The Philosophy of Inoue Enryo” in English and Japanese.

Presentations will be:

三浦節夫 [Setsuō Miura]:
“Inoue Enryō’s Mystery Studies”

Gereon Kopf:
“The Ghost in the Gate of Philosophical Reason”

Rainer Schulzer:
“Comparative Ethics of Conscience in the Early Inoue Enryō”

Agustín Jacinto Zavala:
“Re-educating the Nation: A Sketch of the Educational Ideals in Inoue Enryō and Nishida Kitarô”

遊佐道子 [Michiko Yusa]:
“Philosophy, The Philosophy Society, The Philosophy Academy – Inoue Enryō’s Contribution to Modernizing Japanese Mentality from Within”
「哲学・哲学会・哲学館 ― 日本の精神的近代化への井上円了の貢献」

Leah Kalmanson:
“The Temple of the Absolute: Inoue and the Ethics of Practicing the Impracticable”
「哲学堂公園 ― 井上円了における実践不可能なものを実践する倫理」

Scott Hurley:
“Tathāgatagarbha: doctrine or philosophy – a conversation between Yinshun and Inoue”
「佛性は教義か哲学か ― 印順法師と井上円了との対話」

For any further question, please email to Rainer Schulzer at:

May Roundup

A new month means it’s time for a new post rounding up all the news from the world of Japanese philosophy. Here we go!


Issue one of the long awaited Journal of Japanese Philosophy is now available for order. Here is the TOC:

Uehara Mayuko

The Significance of Japanese Philosophy
Fujita Masakatsu, translated by Bret W. Davis

Japanese Philosophy as a Lens on Greco European Thought
John C. Maraldo

Opening Up the West: Toward Dialogue with Japanese Philosophy
Bret W. Davis

Kūkai and Dōgen as Exemplars of Ecological Engagement
Graham Parkes

Japanese Postmodern Philosophy’s Turn to Historicity
Lin Shaoyang

Book Review

McCarthy, Erin. Ethics Embodied: Rethinking Selfhood through Continental, Japanese, and Feminist Philosophies
Leah Kalmanson


  • Hesig, James. An Inquiry into the Good and Nishida’s Missing Basho.” Comparative and Continental Philosophy 4.2 (2012) 237–251.

    In December 2010 Kyoto University hosted a symposium honoring the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Nishida Kitarō’s An Inquiry into the Good. The following is an English version of a talk delivered on that occasion. In it I have tried to argue against the widely held view that this maiden work contains the germ of Nishida’s mature philosophy, and at the same time to suggest that an early strain of ambiguity regarding the notion of the will points to a neglect of the natural world in his “logic of place.”

  • James, Jeffery. “Exist-Stencil.” Architectural Design 83 (Apr. 2013): 112–117. doi: 10.1002/ad.1599.

    Architect and interior designer Jeffrey James admits an ambivalent attitude towards nature. Here he turns that ambivalence to positive effect through a series of poetic digital collages that provide a mediation between ‘our incomprehension of the vast magnificence and complexity of the natural world and the actual spaces that we can physically touch and inhabit’.

    (Blogger’s note: deals especially with the aesthetics of wabi-sabi.)

  • Matsunagaa, Louella. Review of Critical Buddhism: Engaging with Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought by James M. Shields, Ashgate: 2011. Journal of Contemporary Religion 28:2 (2013).

  • Satō Kenji. “Sociology of Culture in Transition.” International Journal of Japanese Sociology, 22 (Mar. 2013): 32–40. doi: 10.1111/ijjs.12007.

  • Sumida Manabu. “The Japanese View of Nature and Its Implications for the Teaching of Science in the Early Childhood Years.” In International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Care by Jan Georgeson and Jane Payler. McGraw-Hill International: 2013.

Conference Proceedings



  • Berque, Augustin. Thinking Through Landscape. Routledge: 2013.

    Our attitude to nature has changed over time. This book explores the historical, literary and philosophical origins of the changes in our attitude to nature that allowed environmental catastrophes to happen. It presents a philosophical reflection on human societies’ attitude to the environment, informed by the history of the concept of landscape and the role played by the concept of nature in the human imagination and features a wealth of examples from around the world to help understand the contemporary environmental crisis in the context of both the built and natural environment.

    Thinking Through Landscape locates the start of this change in human labour and urban elites being cut off from nature. Nature became an imaginary construct masking our real interaction with the natural world. The book argues that this gave rise to a theoretical and literary appreciation of landscape at the expense of an effective practical engagement with nature. It draws on Heideggerian ontology and Veblen’s sociology, providing a powerful distinction between two attitudes to landscape: the tacit knowledge of earlier peoples engaged in creating the landscape through their work — “landscaping thought” — and the explicit theoretical and aesthetic attitudes of modern city dwellers who love nature while belonging to a civilization that destroys the landscape — “landscape thinking”.

    This book gives a critical survey of landscape thought and theory for students, researchers and anyone interested in human societies’ relation to nature in the fields of landscape studies, environmental philosophy, cultural geography and environmental history.

    (Blogger’s note: Berque is the leading interpreter of Watsuji Tetsurō’s Climate and Culture.)

  • Shigaraki Takamaro. Heart of the Shin Buddhist Path: A Life of Awakening. Tr. David Matsumoto. Wisdom Publications: 2013.

    In his Heart of the Shin Buddhist Path, Takamaro Shigaraki examines Shin Buddhism anew as a practical path of spiritual growth and self-transformation, challenging assessments of the tradition as a passive religion of mere faith. Shigaraki presents the core themes of the Shin Buddhist path in fresh, engaging, down-to-earth language, considering each frankly from both secular and religious perspectives. Shigaraki discloses a nondual Pure Land that finds philosophical kinship with Zen but has been little discussed in the West. With its unassuming language and insights drawn from a life of practice, Heart of the Shin Buddhist Path dispels the fog of misconception that has shrouded Western appreciation of Shin traditions to reveal the limitless light of Amida Buddha that reaches all.

April Roundup

No fooling, it’s April already, and that means it’s time for our monthly roundup post. Here are some of the recent items in Japanese philosophy:


  • Frattolillo, Oliviero. A Standpoint in International History: South-East Asia’s Fūdosei in Watsuji Tetsurō’s Geocultural Appraisal. Dialegesthai 14. 2012.

  • Hoffman, Michael. Review of A History of Japanese Political Thought, 1600-1901, by Hiroshi Watanabe. Translated by David Noble. Japan Times. (Via WW&W)

  • YAMAUCHI Tomosaburō. Some Aspects of Humanism that Combines East and West: MacArthur, Shôwa Tennô, and Justice Pal. 大阪教育大学紀要 第I部門 第61巻 第2号 75 〜 89頁(2013年2月).

    The Pacific War waged by Allies and Japan in the Second World War was usually considered as a war between the countries of democracy and fascism. Yet this view of war would be changed when one looks the matter from the viewpoint of today’s environmental crisis and environmental ethical views. Although the views of nature are so different between East and West, there is a hope that all human kind will, once people would think rationally, converge in that humanity survive the crisis. In this paper I will mention General MacArthur, Shōwa Tennō, and Justice Pal, and investigate that they could, in spite of all the different of views, converge in humanity. If people could let humanism override such other intuitive moral principles as derived from human interests, economic profit, and political notions of state sovereignty, rights and justice, then there would be a hope of converging people from different cultures, which would hopefully save humanity from environmental crisis.

Blog posts

Several good posts over at The University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy blog:


  • Park, Peter. Africa, Asia, and the History of Philosophy. SUNY Press, June 2013.

    In this provocative historiography, Peter K. J. Park provides a penetrating account of a crucial period in the development of philosophy as an academic discipline. During these decades, a number of European philosophers influenced by Immanuel Kant began to formulate the history of philosophy as a march of progress from the Greeks to Kant—a genealogy that supplanted existing accounts beginning in Egypt or Western Asia and at a time when European interest in Sanskrit and Persian literature was flourishing. Not without debate, these traditions were ultimately deemed outside the scope of philosophy and relegated to the study of religion. Park uncovers this debate and recounts the development of an exclusionary canon of philosophy in the decades of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. To what extent was this exclusion of Africa and Asia a result of the scientization of philosophy? To what extent was it a result of racism?

    This book includes the most extensive description available anywhere of Joseph-Marie de Gérando’s Histoire comparée des systèmes de philosophie, Friedrich Schlegel’s lectures on the history of philosophy, Friedrich Ast’s and Thaddä Anselm Rixner’s systematic integration of Africa and Asia into the history of philosophy, and the controversy between G. W. F. Hegel and the theologian August Tholuck over “pantheism.”

    “Africa, Asia, and the History of Philosophy is a welcome addition to a neglected area in the history of ideas. Philosophy has long suffered from exclusions that keep us from fully appreciating the contributions to our field from Africa and Asia. Park’s book uncovers some of the sources of philosophy’s exclusionary practices. The historical detail is impressive.” — Elizabeth Millán, author of Friedrich Schlegel and the Emergence of Romantic Philosophy


Also remember, it’s not too late to support The Voice of Nothingness documentary project.

The Voice of Nothingness

I received a note from Matteo Collodel about a project to try to fund a documentary film about the Kyoto School:


We would like to bring to your attention our independent documentary film project to be filmed in Japan (with English subtitles):

The Voice of Nothingness: Zen Buddhism and the Philosophy of the Kyoto School

Please view the project presentation including a 3 min. video on the following funding platform:

Although the Kyoto School is little known outside scholarly circles, with the help of your contribution we hope not only that this film could become an inspiring example for filmmaking about philosophy, but that it could also make the Kyoto School known to a larger audience.

Any contribution will help to reach the target budget to realize this project and the supporter will be thanked by receiving a secure private link to download the completed film in High Definition. We would be grateful if you could support this project by circulating this message too.

Thank you for your consideration and best wishes from Berlin, Germany.

Thomas Josef Roth
DokHausBerlin Filmproduktion

Here is the promotional trailer they have created so far:

Educators take note: the final film will be about 40 minutes long, which is perfect for showing in class.

If you are interested in this project, please visit their website and help fund it before Sun 14 Apr 11:59PM PT.

March Roundup

It’s March, so that means it’s time for a roundup post.



  • Mayeda, Graham. “Time for Ethics: Temporality and the Ethical Ideal in Emmanuel Levinas and Kuki Shūzō.” Comparative and Continental Philosophy 4.1 (2012).

    In this article, I compare and contrast the phenomenological ethics of Emmanuel Levinas with that of twentieth-century Japanese philosopher, Kuki Shūzō. In the resulting counterpoint, I put special emphasis on the conception of time espoused by each author. I argue that both go astray by mistakenly basing their ethics on the complete otherness of the other (diachrony) rather than recognizing that both the other (diachrony) and I (synchrony) are originally inseparable in experience before the conceptual separation of “me” and “you.” The fetishization of otherness, which is associated with the feminine in the ethics of both philosophers, leads them to overlook how the details of our everyday concrete experience can provide a guide for action. This paper also explores the two East Asian ethical ideals that Kuki proposes-the Buddhist ideal and the ideal of bushidō, the code of the samurai warrior. In his ethics, Kuki prefers the ethics of bushidō to that of Buddhism. I explain how Kuki’s misunderstanding of Buddhism leads him to this choice, and I explore what he overlooked in Buddhist ethics.

  • Uehara Mayuko. Review of Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook. Monumenta Nipponica 67.2 (2012).


    The editors, who deeply comprehend the Japanese language and are, needless to say, well versed in Western philosophy and Buddhism—and have particular expertise in modern Japanese philosophy—have devoted themselves over many years to elucidating enduring propensities in Japanese thought and culture. Even for them, and for their highly skilled and knowledgeable collaborators, it must have been extremely difficult to arrive at suitable criteria for deciding which figures and texts were to be included in this anthology and to determine the most effective ways of presenting the assembled content. They were faced with the problem of how to excise “Japanese philosophy” from the whole of Japanese history for inclusion in a single volume, and one tactic they employed in doing so was the exclusion of philosophers born after 1950. The main question they had to address, however, was how to define “Japanese philosophy” itself. The title of this book is thus a direct reflection of its editors' line of inquiry.



  • Cavallaro, Dani. Japanese Aesthetics and Anime: The Influence of Tradition. McFarland, Jan. 2013.

    This study addresses the relationship between Japanese aesthetics, a field steeped in philosophy and traditional knowledge, and anime, a prominent part of contemporary popular culture. There are three premises: (1) the abstract concepts promoted by Japanese aesthetics find concrete expression at the most disparate levels of everyday life; (2) the abstract and the concrete coalesce in the visual domain, attesting to the visual nature of Japanese culture at large; and (3) anime can help us appreciate many aspects of Japan’s aesthetic legacy, in terms of both its theoretical propositions and its visual, even tangible, aspects.

  • Kwak, Jun-Hyeok and Melissa Nobles, eds. Inherited Responsibility and Historical Reconciliation in East Asia. Routledge, Feb. 2013.

    Contemporary East Asian societies are still struggling with complex legacies of colonialism, war and domination. Years of Japanese imperial occupation followed by the Cold War have entrenched competing historical understandings of responsibility for past crimes in Korea, China, Japan and elsewhere in the region. In this context, even the impressive economic and cultural networks that have developed over the past sixty years have failed to secure peaceful coexistence and overcome lingering attitudes of distrust and misunderstanding in the region.

    This book examines the challenges of historical reconciliation in East Asia, and, in doing so, calls for a reimagining of how we understand both historical identity and responsibility. It suggests that by adopting a ‘forward-looking’ approach that eschews obsession with the past, in favour of a reflective and deliberative engagement with history, real progress can be made towards peaceful coexistence in East Asia. With chapters that focus on select experiences from East Asia, while simultaneously situating them within a wider comparative perspective, the contributors to this volume focus on the close relationship between reconciliation and ‘inherited responsibility’ and reveal the contested nature of both concepts. Finally, this volume suggests that historical reconciliation is essential for strengthening mutual trust between the states and people of East Asia, and suggests ways in which such divisive legacies of conflict can be overcome.

    Providing both an overview of the theoretical arguments surrounding reconciliation and inherited responsibility, alongside examples of these concepts from across East Asia, this book will be valuable to students and scholars interested in Asian politics, Asian history and international relations more broadly.

    Via WWW