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Professor Kan Sakurai: A Reconsideration of Nishida Philosophy and Japanese Nationalism

  • University of Edinburgh Room 2.14 Appleton Tower (map)

Speaker: Professor Kan Sakurai (Nihon University) 
Date: Wednesday, February 8th, 17:00-19:00
Venue: Room 2.14, Appleton Tower, University of Edinburgh

Kitaro Nishida (西田幾多郎, 1870-1945) is one of the representative philosophers of modern Japan and the founder of the Kyoto school. Based on both the Western and Eastern tradition, Nishida developed his unique system of philosophy, which includes such essential concepts as ‘junsui keiken’ (純粋経験, pure experience), ‘basho’ (場所, place) and ‘rekishiteki sekai’ (歴史的世界, historical world). Nishida assumed that the good was ‘the actualization of personality’ (Zen no Kenkyu『善の研究』An Inquiry into the Good, 1911), and thus his works centred on the ideas of individual awareness and the formation of individual identity in modern Japan. 

Asserting that ‘our self, as the creative element of the creative world, is forming the historical world’, Nishida’s discourse emphasises the ‘world’ even during the wartime. It is undeniable that Nishida’s universalism was ironically compatible with imperialist ideology, and the vulnerability of his philosophy to excesses of nationalism and imperialism should be thoroughly examined. However, it is also important to recognise that Nishida dealt with a key question in modern thought, that is, the foundation of the individual’s awareness and identity in the holism. 

In this presentation, I hope to demonstrate the difficulty in overcoming nationalism in the holistic framework. 

Kan Sakurai (1972- ) is an associate professor in Liberal Education for Art at the College of Art, Nihon University, Tokyo. Specialising in history and philosophy of education, his research involves two fields: (1) the study of educational thought in modern Japan focusing on Kitaro Nishida’s concept of the formation of the individual identity, and (2) critical review of moral education in contemporary Japan, especially from the viewpoint of freedom of conscience. His research centres on the conflict of individuality and collectivity. Sakurai is the author of Nishida Kitaro: Sekai no Naka no Watashi (『西田幾多郎 世界のなかの私』Nishida Kitaro: I in the Midst of the World, Tokyo: Chobunsha, 2010, new edition). He has carried out postgraduate study at the Graduate School of Education, The University of Tokyo.