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: