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1st Unit : 6th Study Group Session

"Philosophy in Meiji Japan: Philosophy of the Organism and Its Genealogy"

1   The sixth research meeting of the 1st Unit was held on Friday, December 7, 2012, at Hakusan Campus, Toyo University. The presenter was Prof. Inoue Katsuhito, Faculty of Letters, Kansai University, Osaka; his paper was entitled "Philosophy in Meiji Japan: Philosophy of the Organism and Its Genealogy". A summary of the presentation follows.

   Inoue Tetsujirō (1855–1944), Inoue Enryō (1858–1919), and Miyake Setsurei (1860–1945), who belonged to the school of "Meiji Academy Philosophy", gradually came to the conviction while exploring the Western philosophical tradition that the East Asian tradition they had inherited was not only comparable in sophistication to Western philosophy but in fact constituted a fully developed body of metaphysical thinking that they described as "substantive monism", the "ontology of the phenomenal reality", which held that at the root of a phenomenon was a transcendental, absolute being called shin'yo ("suchness" or "true reality"), and that shin'yo was not "behind" the phenomenon but "within it; therefore, a phenomenon was nothing other than the manifestation of a true reality. This transcendendance can thus be understood as immanent, as opposed to external, transcendendance. This is a particular form of thinking found not only in Mahayana Buddhism but also in the neo-Confucian idea of liyi fenshu (理一分殊: the teaching that a transcendent unity, preserving to the end its transcendence, develops itself into various things). These thinkers tried to resist Western dualism by presenting this Eastern monism to the world.

2   The idea of an "ontology of the phenomenal reality" was rooted in the statement that "the relative aspect of suchness (shin'yo) as material principle is nothing but the absolute aspect of suchness as purely formed" found in the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, a Buddhist text that had been selected as a text book by Hara Tanzan (1819–1892) in his course "Reading Buddhist Texts" (1879.11–1881.6) given at the University of Tokyo. In the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, shin'yo is nondiscriminating and equal to "true existence", and spontaneously develops into the dimensions of discrimnation, appearance, and disappearance. This idea of equality-cum-discrimination forms the organic world of "harmonious equality of one and many (一多円融相即)", which also constitutes the basis of Eastern metaphysics.

   What prompted Tetsujirō Inoue to develop the "ontology of the phenomenal reality" as "a distinctively Japanese philosophy" was his encounter with works by Schopenhauer and by Eduard Hartmann (1842–1906) during his study in Germany. When he read these works, with their strong orientation towards the East, he saw a spontaneous development of shin'yo; that is, a concept of various manifestations of shin'yo in the "metaphysics of the will" of these philosophers. Nishida Kitarō (1870–1945), who discusses the "spontaneous development of an integrated being" in "pure experience", was following in Inoue's footsteps.