Heidegger and Nishitani: nothingness, nihilism, and the possibility of meaning
University College Cork
The aim of this study is to inquire into the experience of the self in terms of the relation between Being (meaning) and Nothingness (non-meaning) by way of a comparative dialogue between the German phenomenologist, Martin Heidegger and the Kyoto School philosopher, Nishitani Keiji. Nihilism is taken as the experience of existence as meaningless and phenomena as uniformly insignificant due to the restriction of alternate manners of self-understanding through the forgetting of the origin of meaning. The approach will not be to resolve the problem but to explore an alternative disclosure of nihilistic phenomena that renders it non-problematic. Heidegger and is thought on Ereignis (the integral relation of man and Being/Nothingness) and Nishitani's use of the Buddhist term Śūnyatā (the absolute nothingness of which the individual is a mask/expression) are compared to provide a framework for understanding the experience of nothingness as nihilism in terms of its essential role in the human experience of meaning. The goal of this comparative approach is to question Heidegger's characterization of nihilism as bound to the development of Western thought, and aims to understand Western nihilism as originating in a universal experience of nothingness, which invokes Nishitani’s philosophy and his understanding of nothingness and nihilism in his response to Nietzsche. The comparison is between these specific thinkers since not only do both explicitly engage with the problem of nihilism but both critique modernity with great insight yet, in such a way that they are not immune from a certain blind-spot. The thesis argues both thinkers mis-characterize nihilism due to fundamental tensions in their core concepts being at once ontological, existential, and ethical. True understanding of nihilism and possibility of both meaning—and abiding in meaninglessness—is found in the unity of all three philosophical domains.
Heidegger , Nishitani , Nihilism , Phenomenology , Japanese philosophy , Kyoto school
Copson, L. 2020. Heidegger and Nishitani: nothingness, nihilism, and the possibility of meaning. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.