Kitaro Nishida

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Kitarō Nishida
Kitaro Nishidain in Feb. 1943.jpg
Born May 19, 1870
Unokema, Ishikawa, Japan
Died June 7, 1945 (aged 75)
Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan
Alma mater University of Tokyo
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Japanese philosophy
School Kyoto School
Institutions University of Kyoto
Main interests
Zen Buddhism, Moral philosophy
Notable ideas
Logic of Basho (non-dualistic concrete logic), Absolute Nothingness

Kitarō Nishida (西田 幾多郎, Nishida Kitarō, May 19,[1] 1870 – June 7, 1945) was a prominent Japanese philosopher, founder of what has been called the Kyoto School of philosophy. He graduated from the University of Tokyo during the Meiji period in 1894 with a degree in philosophy. He was named professor of the Fourth Higher School in Ishikawa Prefecture in 1899 and later became professor of philosophy at Kyoto University. Nishida retired in 1927. In 1940, he was awarded the Order of Culture (文化勲章, bunka kunshō). He participated in establishing the Chiba Institute of Technology (千葉工業大学) from 1940.

Nishida Kitarō died at the age of 75 of a renal infection. His cremated remains were divided in three and buried at different locations. Part of his remains was buried in the Nishida family grave in his birthplace Unoke, Ishikawa. A second grave can be found at Tōkei-ji Temple in Kamakura, where his friend D. T. Suzuki organized Nishida's funeral and was later also buried in the adjacent plot. Nishida's third grave is at Reiun'in (霊雲院, Reiun'in), a temple in the Myōshin-ji compound in Kyoto.[2]


Being born in the third year of the Meiji period, Nishida was presented with a new, unique opportunity to contemplate Eastern philosophical issues in the fresh light that Western philosophy shone on them. Nishida's original and creative philosophy, incorporating ideas of Zen and Western philosophy, was aimed at bringing the East and West closer. Throughout his lifetime, Nishida published a number of books and essays including An Inquiry into the Good and "The Logic of the Place of Nothingness and the Religious Worldview." Taken as a whole, Nishida’s life work was the foundation for the Kyoto School of philosophy and the inspiration for the original thinking of his disciples.

The most famous concept in Nishida's philosophy is the logic of basho (Japanese: 場所; usually translated as "place" or "topos"), a non-dualistic concrete logic, meant to overcome the inadequacy of the subject–object distinction essential to the subject logic of Aristotle and the predicate logic of Immanuel Kant, through the affirmation of what he calls the "absolutely contradictory self-identity", a dynamic tension of opposites that, unlike the dialectical logic of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, does not resolve in a synthesis. Rather, it defines its proper subject by maintaining the tension between affirmation and negation as opposite poles or perspectives.

When David A. Dilworth wrote about Nishida’s work, he did not mention the debut book in his useful classification. In his book Zen no kenkyū (An Inquiry into the Good), Nishida writes about experience, reality, good and religion. He argues that the most profound form of experience is the pure experience. Nishida analyzes the thought, the will, the intellectual intuition and the pure experience among them.[3] According to Nishida’s vision as well as to the essence of Asian wisdom, one craves harmony in experience, for unity.[4]


Tomb of Nishida Kitarō in Kamakura

According to Masao Abe, "During World War II right wing thinkers attacked him as antinationalistic for his appreciation of Western philosophy and logic. But after the war left wing thinkers criticized his philosophy as nationalistic because of his emphasis on the traditional notion of nothingness. He recognized a kind of universality in Western philosophy and logic but did not accept that it was the only universality."[5]

List of works

See also


  1. Yusa Michiko. Zen & Philosophy: An Intellectual Biography of Nishida Kitaro. University of Hawaii Press, 2002, p. 5.
  2. Yusa Michiko. Zen & Philosophy: An Intellectual Biography of Nishida Kitaro. University of Hawaii Press, 2002, p. 337.
  3. Nishida, Kitarō (1980), Zen no kenkyū An Inquiry into the Good, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.
  4. Iţu, Mircia (2005), Nishida Kitarō. O cercetare asupra binelui, Braşov: Orientul latin, page 240 ISBN 973-9338-77-1.
  5. Abe, Maso (1987). An Inquiry Into the Good. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. xxv. ISBN 978-0-300-05233-6. 

References and further reading

Translated works

  • An Inquiry into the Good, trans. Masao Abe and Christopher Ives. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.
  • "An Explanation of Beauty," trans. Steve Odin. Monumenta Nipponica vol. 42 no. 2 (1987): 211–217.
  • Intuition and Reflection in Self-Consciousness, trans. Valdo H. Viglielmo, Takeuchi Yoshinori and Joseph S. O'Leary. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.
  • Last Writings: Nothingness and the Religious Worldview, trans. David Dilworth. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993.
    • "Logic of the Place of Nothinginess and the Religious Worldview"
    • "Concerning My Logic"
  • Place and Dialectic: Two Essays by Nishida Kitaro, trans. John W. M. Krummel and Shigenori Nagatomo. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Ontology of Production: Three Essays, trans. William Haver. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.
  • The Unsolved Issue of Consciousness, trans. John W. M. Krummell, in Philosophy East and West 62, no 1 (2012):44–59.
  • L’Éveil à soi, trans. Jacynthe Tremblay. Paris: CNRS Éditions, 2003, 298 p.
  • De ce qui agit à ce qui voit, trans. Jacynthe Tremblay. Montréal: Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 2015, 364 p.
  • Autoéveil. Le Système des universels, trans. Jacynthe Tremblay. Nagoya: Chisokudō Publications, 2017.


  • Carter, Robert E. The Nothingness beyond God: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Nishida Kitaro Paragon House, 1989. ISBN 1-55778-761-1)
  • Christopher Ives. Imperial-Way Zen: Ishikawa Hakugen's Critique and Lingering Questions for Buddhist Ethics. University of Hawaii Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8248-3331-2
  • Heisig, James W. Philosophers of Nothingness University of Hawaii Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8248-2481-4
  • Nishitani Keiji. Nishida Kitaro University of California Press, 1991. ISBN 0-520-07364-9
  • Tremblay Jacynthe, Nishida Kitarō. Le Jeu de l’individuel et de l’universel, Paris, CNRS Éditions, 2000, 334 p.
  • Tremblay Jacynthe, Introduction à la philosophie de Nishida, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2007, 141 p.
  • Tremblay Jacynthe, Auto-éveil et temporalité. Les Défis posés par la philosophie de Nishida, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2007, 229 p.
  • Tremblay Jacynthe, L’Être-soi et l’être-ensemble. L’Auto-éveil comme méthode philosophique chez Nishida, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2007, 194 p.
  • Tremblay Jacynthe, Je suis un lieu, Montréal, Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2016, 316 p.
  • Tremblay Jacynthe (ed.), Laval Théologique et Philosophique. Philosophie japonaise du XXe siècle, 64 (June 2008, no. 2) 233-573.
  • Tremblay Jacynthe (ed.), Philosophes japonais contemporains, Montréal, Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2010, 492 p.
  • Tremblay Jacynthe (ed.), Théologiques. Les philosophes de l’École de Kyōto et la théologie 12 (2012, no. 1-2) 3-383.
  • Tremblay Jacynthe (ed.), Milieux modernes et reflets japonais. Chemins philosophiques, Québec, Presses de l’Université Laval, 2015, 286 p. (with Marie-Hélène Parizeau).
  • Wargo, Robert J. J. The Logic Of Nothingness: A Study Of Nishida Kitaro. University of Hawaii Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8248-2969-7
  • Yusa Michiko. Zen & Philosophy: An Intellectual Biography of Nishida Kitaro. University of Hawaii Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8248-2459-8


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