The range of Nishida's early religious thought: Zen no kenkyuu
By David Dilworth

Philosophy East and West
Vol. 19 (1969)
pp. 409-421

Copyright 1969 by University of Hawaii Press
Hawaii, USA



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The intellectual career of Nishida Kitaroo (1870-1945), generally regarded as Japan's foremost modern philosopher, [1] grew out of his early Zen experience and his philosophical interest in the question of religious experience. The efforts of many Japanese thinkers who, indebted to Nishida, have contributed to the movement of "philosophy of religion" in modern Japan are illustrative of this central orientation in his own thought. This movement has its roots in the wider spiritual, particularly Buddhist, heritage of Japanese tradition, and even in modern times can be thought to antedate Nishida. [2] Nevertheless, probably the first philosophically original assimilation of Eastern and Western religious ideas in modern Japan is attributable to Nishida Kitaroo, whose range of epistemological and metaphysical ideas introduced a broad conceptual framework which became, and remained, the point of departure for the "Kyoto school" of modern Japanese religious philosophy. [3]

    Nishida's overall contribution was hardly limited to religious philosophy.  Nevertheless, his whole career was a developing process of articulation of fundamental religious attitudes which permeated his early Zen training prior to the publication of his first major work, Zen no Kenkyuu [A Study of Good]. [4] To express these deepening attitudes he continued on his intellectual journey from the publication of that work in 1911 until his death in a Zen monastery at Kamakura in 1945. His religious philosophy was thus coextensive with his whole literary career, which itself was grounded in his own personal re-

1. See Takeuchi Yoshinori, "Nishida's Philosophy as Representative of Japanese Philosophy," under "Japanese Philosophy," Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1966 ed.

2. Takeuchi, op. cit., p. 959. Cf. Watsuji Tetsuroo, Nihon no rinri shisooshi [A History of Japanese Ethical Thought], 2 vols. (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1952), II, 781, 792. In his early Works, Hatano Seiichi (1877-1950) stimulated a study of Western thought by such works as An Outline of the History of Western Philosophy (1897), The Origins of Christianity (1909), and especially A Study of Spinoza (1904, in German; translated into Japanese in 1910).

3. Hans Waldenfels, "Absolute Nothingness: Preliminary Considerations on a Central Notion in the Philosophy of Nishida Kitaroo and the Kyoto School," Monumenta Nipponica XXI, no. 3-4 (1966), 354-391. This article treats of Nishida Kitaroo, Tanabe Hajime (1885-1962), Nishitani Keiji (1900-), and Takeuchi Yoshinori (1913-), and gives copious references to a Wider literature of the "Kyoto school."

4. Zen no Kenkyuu [A Study of Good], trans. V. H. Viglielmo (Tokyo: Japanese Government Printing Office. 1960). Professor Viglielmo's forthcoming study, Nishida Kitaroo: The Early  Years, to be published by Princeton University Press, will be the most comprehensive coverage of Nishida's early religious life up to the publication of Zen no kenkyuu that is available in English. Further information on the life and thought of  Nishida in English is in G. K. Piovesana, Recent Japanese Philosophical Thought, 1862- I962 (Tokyo: Enderle, 1963), pp. 85-122; and in L. Knauth, "Life is Tragic: The Diary of Nishida Kitaroo," Monumenta Nipponica XX, no. 3-4 (1965), pp. 335-358. Waldenfels, Piovesana, and Knauth furnish further information on translations of Nishida's works.



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actions as an intellectual of the late Meiji, Taishoo, and Shoowa periods. [5] We must note his participation in this wider social experience which, subject to cultural and intellectual influences from both East and West, formed the concrete tissue of feelings and ideas available to him as a person living through a time almost coextensive with modern Japanese history up to the end of World War II. Nishida's writings have particular interest, as they are representative of the sophistication of philosophical ideas which the modern Japanese intellectual world attained in a relatively short period of time. Scholars interested in the theme of "modernization" in the late Meiji and early Taishoo periods can find in Nishida's case an important example of a continuous assimilation of Western categories which contributed in part to the development of Japanese philosophy to its present high level.

    Judging from the subsequent orientation of the "philosophy of religion" movement in Japan, the synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas achieved in Nishida's thought has indeed had its main impact in the area of religious philosophy, as noted above. While to some, including the present writer, such a development may seem to be an unnecessary restriction of the possibilities which his thought suggests, it can hardly be denied that Nishida's own focus of attention stimulated that direction. [6] From his key transitional work of 1927, Hataraku mono Kara miru mono e [From the Acting to the Seeing], which began an explicit articulation of a generalized Zen "logic of the East" centering upon the concept of the "topos of nothingness" (mu no basho [a]), Nishida's ideas were a deepening quest intellectually to repossess certain fundamental "Oriental" religious experiences. He thus began a dialogue with Western religious ideas which, particularly from a Buddhist position, has continued down to today. [7]

5. Nishida Kitaroo zenshuu [The Complete Works of Nishida Kitaroo], 19 vols. (2d ed.; Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1965). A partial listing of Nishida's major philosophical works must include: Zen no kenkyuu [A Study of Good], 1911; Jikaku ni okeru chokkan to hansei [Intuition and Reflection in Self-Consciousness], 1917; Ishiki no mondai [Problems of Consciousness], 1920; Geijutsu to dootoku [Art and Morality], 1923; Hataraku mono kara miru mono e [From the Acting to the Seeing], 1927; Ippansha no jikakuteki taikei [The Self-Conscious System of the Universal], 1930; Mu no jikakuteki gentei [The Self-Conscious Determination of Nothingness], 1932; Tetsugaku no kompon mondai [Basic Problems of Philosophy], 2 vols., 1933-34; and six volumes of philosophical essays.

6. Watsuji Tetsuroo (1889-1960), while indebted to Nishida's thought, is one example of a modern Japanese philosopher working outside of the "philosophy of religion" movement. Watsuji's Fuudoo [Climate: A Philosophical Study], trans. G. Bownas (Tokyo: Japanese Government Printing Office, 1961), is available in English. Its introductory essay is particularly suggestive of the possibilities of philosophical thought outside of the specific context of religious philosophy. Watsuji's major writings were in the field of ethics, e.g., Ethics as a Philosophy of Man (1934), Ethics (3 vols., 1937-49), A History of Japanese Ethical Thought (2 vols., 1952). Cf. Takeuchi Yoshinori, "Watsuji Tetsuroo," Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1967 ed.

7. For example, Takeuchi Yoshinori, "Buddhism and Existentialism: the Dialogue between Oriental and Occidental Thought," in Religion and Culture: Essays in Honor of Paul Tillich, ed. W. Leibrecht  (New York: Harper & Row, 1959); Takeuchi, "Hegel and Buddhism," Il Pensiero VII, no. 1-2 (1962), 5-46; Abe Masao, "Buddhism and Christianity as a Problem of Today," Japanese Religions III, no. 2 (1963), 11-22; no. 3, 8-31; "A Symposium on Christianity and Buddhism," IV, no. 1-2 (1964), 5-52 and 26-57; "Christianity and Buddhism: Centering Around Nihilism and Science," V, no. 3 (July 1968), 36-62. For further references to relevant literature see Waldenfels, op. cit., p. 354 and passim.



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    The present article can do no more than mention the full career of Nishida Kitaroo, and those of his followers and critics. It is primarily intended to be a summary of and commentary on the religious ideas which Nishida presented to the world in his first major work, A Study of Good. Because of this restriction, it will be impossible to trace here the gradual transition in Nishida's position from 1911 to his later "logic of the East," which has become his chief claim to originality as a world thinker. A few excellent introductions to this total development of Nishida's career already exist in English. [8] My aim will rather be to focus upon this limited area of Nishida's first work as one illustration of the kind of assimilation of Western philosophical ideas which occurred in Japan during the late Meiji (1868-1912) and Taishoo (1912-1926) periods. It will also be to study these ideas as philosophical categories that are intrinsically interesting as philosophical categories.



Nishida's career was launched with the publication of A Study of Good in 1911, the year after he became assistant professor of philosophy at Kyoto University. This work, which won Nishida instant respect and which has been the most widely read of his works, was the product of a long period of maturation during his years as an instructor in the Kanazawa school system in the last decade of the Meiji period. [9] But in a certain sense his intellectual preparation for the writing of this book took an even longer time. When the

8. Introductions in English to Nishida's thought are found in Takeuchi, op. cit., and "The Philosophy of Nishida Kitaroo," Japanese Religions III, no. 4 (1963), 1-32; Matao Noda, "East-West Synthesis in Kitaroo Nishida," Philosophy East and West IV, no. 4 (1954-55), 345-359; Shimomura Torataroo, "Nishida Kitaroo and Some Aspects of His Philosophical Thought," trans. V. H. Viglielmo in his A Study of Good, pp. 191-217; Nishida Kitaroo: Intelligibility and the Philosophy of Nothingness, trans. with an introduction by Robert Schinzinger (Tokyo: Maruzen, 1958); Nishida Kitaroo, "The Problem of Japanese Culture," trans. Masao Abe, in Sources of Japanese Tradition, ed. Ryusaku Tsunoda, William T. de Bary, and Donald Keene (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), pp. 857-872.

9. A Study of Good, p. 3..A11 references are to vol. 1 of The Complete Works of Nishida Kitaroo (see above, n.5). While I am quoting the Japanese text, I have made full use of V. H. Viglielmo's translation of A Study of Good. My translations in some instances differ slightly from his. I have had the advantage of invaluable conversations with Prof. Viglielmo on Nishida during his stay in Kyoto during the spring of 1968.



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work was published in his forty-first year, it was already the culmination of at least twenty years of thought and experience; that is, the last two decades of the Meiji period.

    In retrospect, this process of intellectual maturation in an individual growing up in the relatively remote area of Kanazawa during the turbulent 1890s and  1900s is a fascinating example of how intellectual currents pulsate like electronic waves across a land to come to focus in an individual localized form. His first steps as a student of philosophy; the stimulation of several brilliant classmates and friends, including D. T. Suzuki; his youthful "Meiji liberalism"; his three introspective years at Tokyo University, where he came into contact with the new German philosophy that has dominated Japanese philosophical circles ever since; a deepening interest in Zen practice from his early twenties; his writing, at the age of twenty-three or twenty-four, a study of the British Hegelian philosopher T. H. Green; his first teaching assignment at the age of twenty-five, followed by busy years teaching psychology, ethics, and history of philosophy; actual Zen practice from about this same time which reached its greatest intensity during his twenty-seventh through twenty-ninth years -- these experiences formed traces on Nishida's subconscious spiritual life which, by a constant process of condensation and recondensation in the light of new experiences for another decade, were to issue forth in A Study of Good. The question of religion seems to have dominated his attention from before his thirtieth year, when he also began to show a more critical philosophical mind and to write brief philosophical pieces. [10] From around 1903 he began to turn his attention to the task of transforming his lecture materials and new insights into A Study of Good. Years of further study and reflection produced the work which, in retrospect, was probably the single most influential contribution to Japanese philosophy in modern times.

    A careful analysis of the content of A Study of Good also suggests that it reflects a gradual transformation of earlier materials into book form. While Nishida had integrated its contents into a coherent system by the time of its publication in 1911, it was still a rather loosely joined entity comprised of four main sections: (1)  "Pure Experience";  (2)  "Reality";  (3)  "The Good"; and (4) "Religion." Nishida confirms this structural impression by his statement in the Preface that he wrote the second and third sections first. He actually planned to publish the ontology of Section Two immediately, but was prevented by illness from doing so. Section Three was ostensibly a reformulation of his early essay on Green's ethics in the light of his later lectures and reflection. The first and fourth sections were then written, presumably in that sequence, as internal evidence suggests. Perhaps out of a consideration of this history of the manuscript, Nishida invited his readers, in the Preface of 1911,

10. Viglielmo, "Nishida Kitaroo: The Early Years"  (manuscript), pp. 47-54, 60-63.



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to skip over the initial portion (four chapters)  of the first section, "Pure Experience," and begin the sequence of ideas from Part Two, which he called the "core" of his philosophical thought at that time. But he named the work   Zen no Kenkyuu [A Study of Good] after the content of Sections Three and Four to indicate that his ontological ideas were meant to lead up to the central questions of moral and religious, i.e., human, life itself (pp. 2-3).

    What the history of the manuscript indeed reveals is that the last section on "Religion" was the final form of Nishida's thought to that juncture. In that sense it rounded out the system of ideas with which he launched his philosophical career. We can only touch upon the contents of that system here. Section One, "Pure Experience," took off from William James's notion of the same name. It was a rejection of both the atomistic psychology of classical British empiricism, and the sensationalism of the later positivistic epistemologies which had been vaguely, and illogically, allied with the classical material atomism of post-Newtonian cosmology. Nishida aligned himself with this modern endeavor to read the immediacy of experience in terms of a functional analysis of organically relating tissues of relations in which the classical dualisms of subject-object, mind-matter, etc., were regarded as abstractions superimposed upon the immediacy of experience itself. At the end of Section One Nishida exhibited a clear intention of reading the notion of "pure experience" as a primary "religious intuition" of the experient subject.

    In Section Two, "Reality," Nishida went on to part company with James's radical empiricism in favor of a kind of idealistic rendering of reality in terms of "spirit" in language which was predominantly that of Berkeley and Hegel. [11] For example, citing Berkeley, Nishida proceeded to shift the center of metaphysical gravity away from the "independent thing" categories of traditional philosophical description to the "experient subject" categories of the esse est percipi point of view. He thus began to ontologize the notion of experience in a way somewhat foreign to William James, but consistent with his Zen insights. Particularly in his brief treatment of God in Section Two, chapter ten, entitled "God as Reality," he showed signs of a larger spiritual ken which we know to have included Buddhist insights. However, he formulated his ideas here in language drawn directly from Western idealistic categories, which were in turn subsumed and developed into the fuller treatment of the notion of "Religion" in the fourth part of the text. Even the third part, as previously noted, was an elaboration of a notion of moral ''self-realization" which came from the ethics of the British Hegelian philosopher, T. H. Green.

11. The chapter headings of Section Two themselves bear witness to his point: "Phenomena of Consciousness are the Only Reality" (chap. 2), "True Reality Always has the Identical Form" (chap. 4), "The Basic Form of True Reality" (chap. 5), "The Only Reality" (chap. 6), "The Differentiation and Development of Reality" (chap. 7).



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    With this brief sketch of the background to Section Four, "Religion," of A Study of Good, let us turn directly to the first formulation of explicit religious categories in Nishida's career.  For purposes of analysis I  will follow the categoreal development of its four main chapters as they occur in the text, paying particular attention to the philosophical language and logic of Nishida's argument.



1. The opening chapter of Section Four, entitled "The Religious Demand," serves as a point of departure for Nishida's formal remarks concerning the nature of religion, which incidentally shed light on his own understanding of the notion of pure experience. This is evident from the opening sentence of the chapter, where it is said that "the religious demand is the demand with regard to the self, a demand concerning the life of the self" (p. 169). The whole work to this juncture is a metaphysical discourse on the life of the self, that is, a rational articulation of the various implications of the notion of subjectivity itself. In this present context Nishida turns attention to felt moral and religious exigencies in the life of the person as the basis for further philosophical analysis: "It is the demand wherein the self perceives its relativity and finitude, and at the same time joins with the absolute and infinite' power, thereby desiring to acquire the true life of eternity." Nishida thus makes a start on the basis of the philosophical datum of the religious exigency itself. If we recall his formal Zen training and personal religious interests, this point becomes more plausible. The religious demand, he insists, is identical with the life demand. It is "the deepest demand of man's heart," since it seeks an all-embracing unity which transcends even the unities of knowledge and the will (p. 172). Therefore, the question of the religious demand is made central to the notion of pure experience in A Study of Good.

    Now, what is the religious demand in concrete terms? Nishida first affirms, contrary to much vulgar superstition which has traditionally passed under the name of morality and religion, that the true religious attitude cannot be based on thoughts of selfish merit or fear. Nor is it a demand for "self-peace," which mistakenly finds the significance of religion in "extinguishing the temperament of enterprise and activity by taking up a negative life of small pleasure and no distress" (p. 170). [12] He states that "peace" is rather the result of true religious experience, the demand for which, positively taken, is "the great demand of life which one is unable to end even if one wishes to do so." It is the demand of the appetitive center of the personality, the most powerful

12. This fine rendering, as well as several others in this section, is that of V. H. Viglielmo's translation of A Study of Good, p. 158.



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desire of which is to center the self in the universe of its experiences. Moreover, it is the demand for the largest experience of the self as unifying center. In the process of discovering this true center the self perceives the fact of its relative perspective in the world of pure experience. Accordingly, religious experience is precisely that pursuit of "absolute unity" by wholly casting aside one's own finite relativity. This phenomenology of the religious attitude clearly suggests Nishida's Zen background. But in the precise formulation of it Nishida returns to his idealistic position of the unity of consciousness, which is the source and center of the original state of the subjectivity of the self. He writes that the religious exigency is identical with "the demand for the unity of consciousness, and at the same time for union with the universe" (p. 172). Thus the question "why is religion necessary" is synonymous with "why is it necessary to live," for the demands of religion are those of life itself (pp. 172-173).

    In sum, we note that Nishida launched his explicit religious ideas with a kind of phenomenological analysis of the experiential exigency of the religious attitude itself. While the larger premises for this chapter are already contained in the preceding sections of the book, the present chapter is also a fresh confrontation of experiential content relating to the religious exigency itself. A certain generalized Zen religiosity may well have been the deeper motivation for Nishida here. The chapter is an implicit statement of precisely the kind of personal religiosity which Nishida developed in his later writings in which a Zen ontology predominates.

2. In Chapter Two, entitled the "Essence of Religion," the structure of the religious experience is more deeply analyzed. Generically, religion is defined as the relation between God and man. Here God is intended to mean "the foundation of the universe," and man is said to mean "our individual consciousness." Nishida then affirms that the mutual relation of things differing in essence cannot be established outside of self-interest. Therefore he positively defines the religious relation to be the "relation of a God and man of the Same nature," i.e., "there must be the relation of father and son" (pp. 173- 174). Why Nishida uses the analogy of father and son [b] at this juncture is not perfectly clear. Nor does it seem perfectly apposite in the light of the general orientation of his thought, which, using his own terms, is more pantheistic [c] than theistic [d]. But apart from the merits of his use of the anthropomorphism of father and son, Nishida's account consistently endeavors to enunciate a doctrine of internal relation between God and man, where the "basic though of all religion" is defined in terms of a twofold requirement: (1) that "God and man have the same nature," and (2) that "man returns to his origin in God." The text continues: "But merely for God and man to have the same interests and for God to help us and protect us is not yet true religion. God



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must be the foundation of the universe, and at the same time our foundation, for our returning to God is returning to that source. Moreover, God must be the object of all things, i.e. God must also be the object of man, and every man must find his true object in God" (p. 174).

    Precisely because of this experience of God as immanent ground and source do we "feel infinite warmth in God and are able to attain to the essence of religion, which is to live in God" (p. 176). As both Augustinian and Buddhist traditions have maintained, each in its own way, we lose our self to find our true Self.

    Another way Nishida articulates the relation of immanent ground, which is the essence of the religious relation, is that "our spirit is the partial consciousness of God." Even though God and man do "possess the foundation of an identical spirit," it might still seem possible to conceive of God and man as mutually independent. But he cautions that this is "viewing from the flesh and distinguishing spirit temporally and spatially," for "those who possess the same foundation in spirit are the same spirit." He even affirms that our spirit [e] (seishin) must be the "same substance as God" [f] and that "God and man are the same substance" [g] (p. 177). Citing Boehme's mystical idea of die innerste Geburt, he declares that we reach God through the deepest internal life.

    Further clarification of the basic thought of this chapter seems unnecessary  at this point, since the theme of the relation between God and man is given even more explicit philosophical structuring in the next two chapters, which deal with "God" and with "God and the World," respectively. Here we may note that Nishida's position has quickly moved far beyond the phenomenology of the religious exigency of the previous chapter. In addition to analogies with types of Buddhist thought, it shows awareness of the main line of mystical and pantheistic thought in the Western tradition, to which Nishida frequently alludes in this final section of A Study of Good. The key point of this itinerarium mentis in Deum tradition is the concept of internal and immanent relation, based on identity of substance, between God and man. Nishida has taken this central point and generalized it into the essential definition of the religious relation itself. In a certain sense his thought here exhibits a degree of eclecticism and use of Western philosophical categories which probably cannot be said to be truly Zen in connotation. For the Zen concept of the experience of "self-mind" [h] and the Western concept of itinerarium mentis in Deum part company over the question of duality, which Western religious thought retains to some extent. Nishida avoids all reference to this problem in the present context.

3. The subsequent chapter, entitled "God," may be said to be the most important chapter of this series, in that Nishida's conception of God is developed in a philosophical language that is precise and systematic. It therefore



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serves to clarify some of the ideas previously entertained. At the very start, for example, Nishida reiterates his contention that God is not to be conceived "as a transcendent creator outside the universe," but as "directly the ground of this reality." He elucidates this point by adding: "The relation between God and the universe is not such as that between an artist and his work, but is the relation between essence and phenomenon, and the universe is not a thing created by God, but is a 'manifestation' of God" (p. 178). In this con- text Nishida seems definitely to be employing a "substance" language in the description of God. "Essence and phenomenon," [i] "manifestation of God" [j] and the like are all expressions of this "substance" language and the "logic of identity" consistently witnessed throughout this important chapter. At no time does Nishida really depart from the Spinozistic or Hegelian frame of reference previously noted, although Nishida's rendering of this line of thought may well be original. However, we may be permitted to inquire whether "substance" language, even in a Spinozistic or Hegelian (i.e., non-Aristotelian or non-Cartesian) sense, is the most adequate kind of language in a philosophical description of God and of the relation between God and the universe. Nishida himself does not seem to entertain this question in A Study of Good, even  though his previous discussion of pure experience may have prepared us for the possibility of alternative kinds of philosophical categories in articulating these metaphysical concepts.

    I will leave this question of philosophical language pending for the time being in order to follow Nishida's own argument. Having begun with the repudiation of God as external creator in favor of his own notion of the internal manifestation of God in the universe, Nishida somewhat inconsistently   goes on to offer an argument which is almost literally a page from Newton (he also mentions Kepler), when he argues from the order of natural phenomena to "the one unifying power behind them in control." This notion is even applied to the human soul as well, when it is said that "...throughout  the East and West, a tremendous unifying force is in control" (pp. 178-180). Nishida himself had rejected the "causal" argument for God's existence in a previous passage (pp. 98-100). The present line of reasoning seems inconsistent with several previous premises, and is in fact not pursued too far. Returning to his esse est percipi position that "we cannot know matter separately as an independent reality apart from our phenomena of consciousness, Nishida reiterates the point that "the facts of direct experience ... are only these phenomena of consciousness." He therefore postulates that we must return to the self, for "the secret key to explaining the universe lies in the self." Even what Newton and Kepler observed as the order of natural phenomena is actually nothing more than the order of our phenomena of consciousness (pp. 181-182). But God, it has been argued, is the foundation of reality;   therefore God, as the unifier of consciousness, is the unifier of the universe.



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In a fuller text: "God is the unifier of the universe, and the universe is the expression of God. This comparison is not merely metaphoric, it is fact. God is the greatest and ultimate unifier of our consciousness. Indeed, our consciousness is a part of the consciousness of God, and its unity comes from the unity of God" (p. 182). What we are seeing, then, is that despite his basic Zen religiosity Nishida tended to philosophize in A Study of Good in language which was heavily indebted to Western idealism.

    To summarize the remaining arguments of the present chapter, I will endeavor to reduce a longer text to three fundamental premises and three conclusions. The first premise is that "that which controls spirit must be the laws of spirit." Second, "spirit is not merely the combination of these functions, but behind spirit there is one unifying force, and these phenomena are its expression." The third premise  (itself a conclusion)  is that this unifying force connotes a spiritual personality, and God "is the one great personality who is the ground of the universe," or conversely, the universe is "the personal expression of God" (p. 182). The first conclusion is that "reality must be directly the thought and will of God" (quoting Spinoza, Ethics I. 16). Second, because of God's universal consciousness, "in God everything is actuality, and God is always active.... In God there is neither past nor future.... God resides in the eternal now.... In God there is no hope, reflection, or memory, and consequently there is no consciousness of a special self .... God is absolute freedom.... In this kind of God there is no variable will" (pp. 183-184). God is "infinite love" (p. 185). Third, God's personality must be transpersonal, by virtue of being "the one great intellectual intuition at the base of the universe," and "the unifier of pure experience which embraces the universe" (p. 186). These citations represent the substance of Nishida's argument concerning the attributes of God, as the scholastic philosophers might call them. To a student of Western theism they are familiar ideas. Nishida himself offers a generous sprinkling of allusions to Augustine and the Renaissance mystics throughout this chapter.

4. The fourth chapter, entiled "God and the World," does not introduce radically new material. It is a continuation of the main threads of the preceding chapter, with further emphasis on the relation which obtains between God and the world. Nishida's argument is that this relation can be inferred from the relation of the unity of consciousness to its content. On this premise, he concludes to the pure subjectivity of the Divine. This is the concept of the Divine inscrutability, which is common to Buddhism and the via negativa of Western theology. Here we may expect to find Nishida developing the idea of via negativa along Buddhistic lines, as he does in later writings. However, no such attempt is made. Nishida pursues his idealistic position in a most thorough- going manner. He writes: "such things as God's eternity, omnipresence, omni-



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science, and omnipotence, must all be interpreted from the characteristics of the unity of consciousness" (p. 190). Citing Hegel, he concludes:

Nothingness separated from being is not true nothingness; the one separated from the all is not the true one; equality separated from distinction is not true equality. In the same way that if there is no God there is no world, if there is no world there is no God. Of course, when I here say the world, I do not mean only this world of ours. Since, as Spinoza has said, the 'attributes' of God are infinite, God must include infinite worlds. However, the universal expression must belong to the essence of God and is certainly not an accidental function. It is not that God previously created the world but that He is its eternal creator. (p. 190)

From here Nishida goes on to speak of God's "necessary" or "essential" manifestation in the phenomenal world. Thus "God reflects on Himself, i.e. makes a mirror of Himself prior to the revelation ... and from this, God and the world develop." In another expression of the Hegelian logic, "God in expressing His deepest unity must first be greatly disintegrated" (p. 192). While Buddhist overtones may perhaps be read into these statements, Nishida himself chooses to take an analogy from Christian sources: "Man, if seen from one side, is directly the self-awareness of God. If we employ the legends of Christianity, precisely because there was the fall of Adam is there the salvation of Christ, and consequently the infinite love of God has become manifest" (p. 193).

    From the foregoing material we can conclude that Nishida's first formulation of ontological and religious categories was an interesting assimilation of Western idealistic language which had a certain originality in that its pantheistic direction was further grounded in his own notion of pure experience. On the whole, it reflects a comprehensive grasp of the literature and thought structure of Western mysticism and transcendentalism. Nishida was evidently drawn to Western pantheism at this early stage in his career.



In this survey of the religious categories of Nishida's first major work, A Study of Good, we have noted a definite trend in Nishida's thought to ontologize the notion of pure experience in a way somewhat foreign to William James. Certainly his pantheistic conclusions differed from the theistic ideas of James's A Pluralistic Universe. Since James and other authors suggest alternative ways of developing this initial notion, we may conclude that Nishida's basic affinities lay elsewhere. He had been introduced to the writings of William James by D. T. Suzuki, and had read James and Bergson in the years immediately prior to the publication of A Study of Good. Their writings seem to have mediated his own earlier ideas concerning a "condition of pure experience" prior to subject-object distinctions in the immediacy of experience.



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But he found similar ideas in Berkeley, Spinoza, Hegel, and the tradition of Christian mystical writers. In the last analysis, his greater affinities were with the latter stream of idealistic and pantheistic tradition in the West. When he proceeded to formulate his own religious categories in A Study of Good he took pains to identify his own position with this mystical element of Western tradition. He subordinated Buddhistic insights to this thought structure, presumably because he was still in the process of finding his way among these ideas to his own position. In this first work we see the beginning of Nishida's lifelong process of drawing upon the rich background of Eastern and Western tradition and attempting to assimilate it into a larger position. This catholicity of interest should be evident from even the foregoing brief survey. Nishida's mild eclecticism at this early point in his career gave evidence of his desire to participate intellectually in the widest structure of theistic ideas.

    In his next three major works, Intuition and Reflection in Self-Consciousness (1917), Problems of Consciousness (1920), and Art and Morality (1923), Nishida continued to feel his way among Western religious ideas. But a polarity between the language of God and of the "self" began to emerge with increasing emphasis on the "self" itself. Thus Nishida's early interest in Western pantheism, evidenced especially in A Study of Good and Intuition and Reflection in Self-Consciousness, gave way to a deeper philosophical anthropology in which the interchange of "God" and "self" suggested a deeper ground. He explored this deeper ground beginning with his epochal From the Acting to the Seeing (1927), where he explicitly moved his position to a generalized Zen ontology of the "topos of nothingness" by pursuing a demand to "give the philosophical basis" of the experience of "seeing the form of the formless" and "hearing the voice of the voiceless" which lies "at the root of Eastern culture transmitted by our ancestors for thousands of years" (From the Acting to the Seeing, p. 6). By this time, however, he had already gone through a long process of assimilation of Western categories, so that his interest in articulating the "logic of the East" was in a sense mediated, and enriched, by his knowledge of Western ontology. This philosophical itinerarium gave Nishida greater insight into his own tradition, and added to his appreciation of the contrast between Eastern and Western spiritual disciplines. He became the spokesman of the logic of the East only after immersing him- self in the logic of the West.

    A Study of Good was only the first step for Nishida Kitaroo. As philosophy in the sense of pure tetsugaku [k] it may well be judged to be the work of youth. One is prompted to make this criticism in the light of Nishida's later sophistication as an original thinker. Yet even in his own times A Study of Good represented original philosophical talent and fresh insight that won the acclaim of contemporary readers. This fact also suggests that Nishida's early assimilation of Western ideas was more than eclectic. It was the beginning of a new



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synthesis of East and West. Its creativity contributed to the "modernization" of the intellectual life of modern Japan by setting a new standard for Japanese philosophy. His early religious ideas especially heralded a new direction which was to become the "philosophy of religion" movement of the "Kyoto school."


a 場所 g 神人同體,神人合一
b 父子關係 h 自心
c 汎神論 i 本體,現象
d 有神論  j 表現
e 精神 k 哲學
f 神人同一體