The Problem of the Self in the Later Nishida and in Sartre
By Brian D. Elwood

Philosophy East and West
Vol. 44, No. 2 April 1994
pp. 303-316

Copyright 1994 by University of Hawaii Press
Hawaii, USA




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I. Introduction


    A curious little monograph titled Shuzo Kuki and Jean-Paul Sartre: Influence and Counter-Influence in the Early History of Existential Phenomenology was published, in 1987, for the Journal of the History of Philosophy. [1] In this monograph, Stephen Light reveals that in 1928 the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) had weekly discussions with the Japanese philosopher Kuki Shuzo (1888-1941). It seems that in 1976, a certain Professor Akio Sato discovered a notebook marked "Monsieur Sartre" while cataloging Kuki's papers. Apparently Kuki and the young Sartre engaged in conversations on the topic of modern French philosophy. Although it is not clear that Sartre exerted any special influence on Kuki, it is now evident that it was Kuki who played the crucial role of introducing Sartre to the thought of both Husserl and Heidegger, rather than Raymond Aron, as claimed by Simone de Beauvoir in La Force de l'age.

    Not only is Light's shrewd detective work significant for the history of philosophy, it also draws attention to the unusual life and thought of the Japanese philosopher Kuki. Light's monograph provides a translation of Kuki's Parisian writings, twelve of which are a comparative analysis of Japanese and Western philosophy. The subtitle of the monograph, however, appears somewhat misleading when we consider that there is no mention of Sartre in Kuki's Parisian writings. This is not surprising of course, since Sartre was still unknown as a philosopher at the time Kuki composed these various essays. In any case, it might be suggested that Sartre's absence in these writings serves to highlight a largely uncharted territory in the history of East-West comparative philosophy. Although some, like William Bossart, have labored to compare Sartre's theory of consciousness with the Zen doctrine of no-mind, little effort has been made to analyze Sartre's philosophy in comparison with Japanese philosophy -- for example, with the Kyoto-ha or Kyoto School of philosophy. [2]

    One might expect this to be the case, considering the meager interest in Sartre among the Japanese intelligentsia. In 1955, Gino Piovesana observed that Husserlian phenomenology became familiar in Japan after 1921. Later there emerged a special interest in Heidegger and Jaspers. He suggests that this was due to there being something about these thinkers that particularly suited the Japanese ethos. Piovesana observes that the publications of the Kyoto School of philosophy give the impression that the school, which had earlier been associated with idealism, became a center of existentialism after the war. However that may be, it is apropos to note with Piovesana that the esteem which Western existentialists



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enjoyed among adherents of the Kyoto School did not extend to either Sartre or Camus.

    In 1921, Kuki went to Europe for more than eight years of study at the universities of Heidelberg, Freiburg, and Marburg with Rickert, Husserl, and Heidegger, respectively. Later he moved to Paris to study under Bergson. After his return to Japan he received a professorial position at Kyoto Imperial University where he taught alongside Nishida Kitaro (1870-1945), the central figure of the "Kyoto School" of philosophy and generally considered the foremost philosopher of Japan. Loosely associated with the "Kyoto School" himself, Kuki held Nishida in the highest esteem.

    In Europe, Kuki had the opportunity to study with many of the European philosophers who most absorbed Nishida's attention. Both Kuki and Nishida eagerly assimilated Husserlian phenomenology. As Stephen Light has noted, however, Kuki "remained distant from Hegelian phenomenology." [3] Light also cites Professor Omodaka Hisayuki's observation that Kuki is set apart from Nishida's intellectualism by virtue of Kuki's emphasis on affectivity. [4] Given the apparent disparities, the common influence of Husserl and Heidegger on both Kuki and Nishida, coupled with what we have noted above about Kuki's remarkable bequest to Sartre, form a fascinating montage which is all the more compelling when we recognize the paucity of attempts made at a comparative analysis of Sartre and Nishida.

    Considered against this intriguing tapestry, the influence of French vitalism and German existential phenomenology on both Nishida and Sartre make the comparative analysis of these philosophers an imperative concern for East-West comparative philosophy. If Kuki was a leading exponent of existential phenomenology in Japan, certainly Nishida's importance in its transmission to Japan was no less pronounced. It was Nishida who first initiated discussion of Husserl in an article of 1911, shortly after the first French article on Husserl. [5] It is, of course, common knowledge that Sartre was the leading existential phenomenologist in France. Despite their mutual involvement with existential phenomenology, however, concern with the comparative analysis of these philosophers is relatively unprecedented.

    It is, of course, not difficult to see that although there is no record of influence between Nishida and Sartre, there is a certain affinity between the Nishidan and the Sartrean theory of the self. Nishida's definition of the self as the "self-consciousness of nothingness" is reminiscent of the Sartrean "self," which is the nonsubstantial and "nihilating" cogito. This cogito is nonthetic with respect to itself. As the "self-consciousness of nothingness," the ontological foundation of the self is deontological, as it were, like Sartre's "being-for-itself." [6] This analogy has been noted by David Dilworth and Hugh Silverman in their article, "A Cross-Cultural



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Approach to the De-Ontological Self Paradigm." In this article, they indicate that the notion of the "self-consciousness of nothingness" is parallel to the Sartrean nonthetic or "nonpositional" self-consciousness.

    Asserting that Sartre's "nihilating" consciousness, which always remains nonthetic with respect to itself, typifies the deontological position, they propose that

An analogous conception of non-thetic self-determination appears in Nishida Kitaro, whose central notion of mu no basho, 'the topos of nothingness,' is a modern Buddhist counterpart to Sartre's existential phenomenology. Like Sartre's pre-reflective cogito, Nishida demonstrates a conception of consciousness after the analogy of the 'eye that cannot see itself.' [7]

Dilworth and Silverman go so far as to contend that Nishida's notion of mu no basho can be translated, "without the least departure from Nishida's meaning," in terms of nonthetic self-consciousness. For both Nishida and Sartre, the self establishes its identity only in situation.

    As startling as the resemblance is, however, it is important to recognize that, in certain respects, Nishida's views on the self are radically dissimilar from those of Sartre. It might be said that they have different theories of self-negation. Whereas for Sartre, death is "that which on principle removes all meaning from life," for Nishida, only by confronting the "eternal death" of the self can one become an authentically self-conscious individual. By the self-consciousness of the "eternal death" or nothingness of the self, one truly realizes the singularity of one's existence.

    Although Nishida and Sartre both highlight the absolute nothingness of the self and the existential anguish experienced in the encounter with this absolute nothingness and freedom, Sartre tends to depreciate the significance of death in a fashion unlike Nishida. In this article, we hope to show that Nishida's notion of the self-consciousness of the "eternal death" of the self has an ontological and religious significance not discernible in Sartre's theory of nonthetic self-consciousness. In the process, we intend to elucidate aspects of both affinity and dissimilarity with respect to the problem of the self in the later Nishida and in Sartre.


II. The Religious Exigency

   Published in 1911, only one year after he became assistant professor at Kyoto University, A Study of Good or An Inquiry into the Good (Zen no kenkyuu) won immediate acclaim and was the launching of Nishida's career. [8] In the chapter titled "The Religious Demand," he established the tone for the concluding section, "Religion," which served as the culmination of his first treatment of his pivotal theme of "pure experience" and was the inception of a very long philosophical inquiry into the problem of the self. Over thirty years later, in his final essay, "The Logic of Place



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and a Religious World View," we encounter the same concern expressed in his work of 1911, to break through the ubiquitous subject-object dichotomy in favor of "seeing" or "intuition" in a deeper, and clearly religious, sense. He begins this essay asserting that philosophers cannot fabricate religion from their philosophical systems; their task is to "explain this event of the soul." He rejects the notion that religion is hopelessly illogical and "mystical, " implying that his intention is to provide a logic whereby religious experience can be elucidated and drawn into a broader community of intelligent discourse.

    Although Sartre adopts an atheistic standpoint, one can say that the religious exigency is of paramount importance to his view of the human condition. For Sartre, the basic human drive is not the Freudian libido or the Adlerian will to power; it is a certain sort of religious urge. Sartre's interpretation of religiosity is somewhat singular. He asserts that "To be man means to reach toward being God. Or if you prefer, man fundamentally is the desire to be God." [9] For Sartre, however, God is the impossible but ideal synthesis of the "in-itself-for-itself" (en-soi-pour-soi). The drive to be this impossible synthesis is the "fundamental project" of humankind, one which is tragically doomed to fail. Humankind suffers, then, from a perennial religious "complex" characterized by an ultimate frustration. Although God is impossible, the religious ideal is basic to being human; hence human beings have abundant religious experiences. We can say, then, that Nishida and Sartre would concur that we experience a religious exigency, but differ in their respective interpretations of such.

    In his essay titled "Towards a Philosophy of Religion with the Concept of Pre-established Harmony as Guide" (1944), Nishida asserts that we can only enter into the "religious dimension" insofar as, along the "road of life," we confront self-contradiction in "the very depths of the self-awareness of the self...." [10] Hence, he states that "Religion is the problem of the self." [11] Sartre, on the other hand, would doubtless eschew such an assertion lest it imply a "religious" interpretation of the self. As we have seen, however, he is very much concerned with the "problem of the self." The problem of the self, for Sartre, is tragically religious in character. In a sense, both Nishida and Sartre equate the religious question and the problem of the self. They also tend to characterize the self as a nothingness. Despite these affinities, however, not only do Nishida and Sartre develop radically divergent ontologies, but they express distinct orientations toward self-negation, death, and religious consciousness.

    Sartre, for his part, does not allow for the possibility of an autonomous religious mode of consciousness. The phenomenon of so-called "religious consciousness" merely reflects the structure of consciousness as conceived by his ontology. Nishida, on the other hand, introduces his essay of 1945 by asserting his notion of an autonomous religious dimension. He proposes that Kant was able to view religion only from the standpoint of moral consciousness. He comments on Kant:



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For Kant, religion was meaningful only as a supplement to morality. I do not find any uniqueness accorded to religious consciousness in his thought, and I wonder if he was aware of any such uniqueness. [12]

Never wavering from his recognition of Kant's eminent stature and significance, Nishida sought to break through and expand the Kantian framework so as to develop a structure permitting multifarious fields of experience wherein religious consciousness is granted apriority.

    The task of contrasting Nishida's orientation with Sartre's, however, is not simply a matter of relating Sartre to a post-Kantian version of idealism. In breaking through the Kantian framework, Nishida does not here exhibit his earlier inclination to pursue a neo-Kantian direction. Neither can a contrast be developed in terms of Sartre's critique of mysticism. No longer does Nishida concede to any view of religious consciousness as "mystical." In the course of his last writings, "moral" and "mystical" interpretations of religious experience give way to a pervasive Zen coloration wherein the religious is seen in the "ordinary and everyday." Concomitant with this is Nishida's insistence that the absolute is not to be found in the direction of an objective transcendence wherein God possesses a separate personality; rather, it is to be found in a Buddhistic direction of "immanent transcendence" wherein we discover that we are in the embrace of absolute compassion.

    In Nishida's last writings, not only do we begin to see a distinctive religious emphasis on the "ordinary and everyday" world, but we see a correlative emphasis on the historical world. Critical of the "otherworldliness" which he discerns in traditional Indian Buddhism, Nishida expresses a religious form of worldliness wherein he seeks a "true absolute dynamism" beyond mere passivity. When we consider this in terms of Sartre's critique of religious "quietism" and mystical otherworldliness, it becomes apparent that Sartre's criticisms cannot be applied to Nishida's views as expressed in his last writings, but in some ways even concur with Nishida's own criticisms. Rather than pursue a comparative analysis of Nishidds and Sartre's respective orientations toward religious experience per se, however, we turn first to consider some aspects of the problem of the self, which, as we have noted above, is regarded by both Nishida and Sartre as intimately related to religious questions.


III. Existential Anguish and the Problem of the Self

   In his last writings, Nishida returns to his early critique of notions of rational and moral apriorities of the self. He expresses the conviction that the entire question of the self-autonomy of the moral and the rational is basically irrelevant to the fundamental religious question of the very existence of the self. As mentioned above, the very existence of the self becomes problematic when we are self-conscious of the self-contradictions of the self. He observes that



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The sorrows of human life and its self-contradictions have been constant themes since ancient times. But many people do not face this fact deeply. When this fact of the sorrow of life is faced, the problem of religion arises for us. (Indeed, the problem of philosophy also arises from this point.) [13]

Through a deep confrontation with the sorrows and self-contradictions of life we can reach the "standpoint of total freedom and self-authenticity."

    The confrontation with the sorrows and self-contradictions of life is a standard characteristic of existentialist philosophy. In an essay titled "The Humanism of Existentialism" (found in Essays in Existentialism [1965]) , Sartre endeavors to defend existentialism against certain popularly held criticisms. [14] It is generally known, he says, that the basic charge against existentialism is its apparent emphasis on the tragic side of life. He wonders, however, if those who accuse existentialism of being too gloomy are reacting not so much to its apparent pessimism as to its optimism. He inquires if what really scares such reactionaries is not the sense in which existentialism "leaves to man a possibility of choice? [15] Existential choice is self-conscious choice which we actively determine. We can, of course, remain passive. In which case we have still chosen passivity.

    Freedom, for Sartre, is not merely a description of external conditions wherein humanity confronts alternative possibilities. Freedom is the state of being to which "being-for-itself" is condemned. We make choices, but "we are not free to cease being free." [16] If freedom is the very being of consciousness, what form does the consciousness of freedom assume? According to Sartre,

... it is in anguish that man gets the consciousness of his freedom, or if you prefer, anguish is the mode of being of freedom as consciousness of being; it is in anguish that freedom is, in its being, in question for itself. [17]

For Sartre, freedom (the very "being of consciousness") becomes problematic to itself in its self-consciousness. In freedom, the human being is both his or her past and future, but only in the form of "nihilation." Humans become self-conscious of "being both this past and future and as not being them." [18]

    We see here a Sartrean expression of that problematicity of the very existence of the self which Nishida has identified with the religious question. Much in the same way as Nishida had asserted, Sartre finds that the very being of consciousness becomes problematic when we are self-conscious of the self-contradictions of the self. The self-contradiction cited above consists in the self both being and not being its past and future. This self-contradiction emerges for Sartre because it is in freedom that human reality separates its present from its past and future by "secreting" its own "nothingness." Thus, we are also speaking here of the self-consciousness of freedom. With respect to Nishida, it is apropos to



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observe that in the voluntaristic stage of his thinking (1917) he describes the self-consciousness of the "absolute free will" as the basic form of consciousness. This might be thought to have some proximity to Sartre's assertion that freedom is the being of consciousness, although, strictly speaking, Sartrean freedom cannot be equated with so-called "free will." In any case, we need to consider Nishida's view of self-determination. Let us first consider, however, the character of Sartrean anguish.

    We have seen that Sartre asserts that it is in anguish that man gets his consciousness of freedom. In Being and Nothingness, he cites Kierkegaard as characterizing anguish in the face of what one lacks as anguish in the face of freedom. He also notes that Heidegger, who was greatly influenced by Kierkegaard, considers anguish as the apprehension of nothingness. In Sartre's view, these two descriptions of anguish are not contradictory. In anguish we confront our utter freedom as a consciousness which is intrinsically obliged "to be its own nothingness" or which incessantly experiences itself as the "nihilation" of its past being. Thus Sartre posits that "Consciousness is a being, the nature of which is to be conscious of the nothingness of its being." [19] This notion of the nothingness of consciousness is an intrinsic aspect of both Sartrean and Nishidan philosophy. Our concern at this point, however, pertains to Nishida's mature thought. In the discussion that follows, we shall observe some significant disparities between Sartre's and Nishida's respective points of view with respect to the problem of the self.

    According to Sartre, the first principle of existentialism is that "Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself." [20] For Sartre, this means not only that "man defines himself," but that prior to doing so he is indefinable "because at first he is nothing." No explanations can be made by reference to any fixed and given human nature. Not only is there no a priori meaning or value, but there is no universal or ready-made human nature or essence that can be revealed by any a priori theory of humanity or any religious interpretation that purports to speak of humanity prior to and apart from its actual existence. Hence, by existentialism Sartre means the doctrine "that existence precedes essence, or, if you prefer, that subjectivity must be the starting point." [21] Subjectivity must be the point of departure because human beings are self-consciously problematic to themselves, because they are responsible for what they are, and because "it is impossible for man to transcend human subjectivity." [22]

    In asserting that existence precedes essence, the existentialist views himself as turning the tables on nearly all classical philosophy, from Plate to Hegel, wherein existence always derives from essence. Plate, of course, emphasized the search for essence by virtue of its inherent immutability. In Sartre's view, the notion is carried down through the ages that each individual human being is a particular example of a universal concept of "man." Thus it is widely assumed that the essence of human being



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"precedes the historical existence that we find in nature." [23] Existentialism, on the other hand, expresses a distinctive concern for the concrete existence of the individual. Therefore, the existentialist critique of essentialist accounts of humanity goes hand in hand with its critique of determinism. If there is no fixed human nature, then humanity must be wholly free. This means that human beings must be wholly accountable for their behavior, and it is only in cowardice that they turn to "deterministic excuses," seeking to hide from the "complete arbitrariness" of their existence.

    Nishida, for his part, shares the existentialist concern with the concrete existence of the individual. In his last writings, however, he asserts that "what exists must have some nature." [24] Nishida reasons that if we consider the autonomous action of the self to be freedom, we are already presupposing that the self is endowed with some sort of determinate nature, "for if the self were merely amorphous, there would be no autonomy." [25] It is often said that to act out one's essence or to follow one's essence is freedom. Hence, Nishida says that "mere arbitrariness is not freedom." [26] But wherein can we locate this essence of the self? Nishida denies that it is adequate to associate the nature of the self with rationality. The rational self can be anyone's self. It is not yet the unique, concrete individual and personal self which "determines itself" as one "focal point of the world." This personal, individual self exists in the self-consciousness of its own eternal nothingness. Although the Nishidan notion of the essential nature of the self is notoriously recondite, it is clear that its focal concern is with the "absolute contradiction" which he finds manifest in this self-consciousness of the nothingness of the self.

    From a Sartrean perspective, the nothingness of the self is precisely the existential condition which negates essentialist notions of the self. Let us be clear, however, that Sartre does not deny that there is something we can call a human essence. Sartrean "essence," however, is only a consequence of the "for-itself's" activity or self-definition. There is no preestablished or inescapable pattern for "human nature." Each human being makes his or her essence as he or she lives. We should also bear in mind that although Sartre denies that it is possible to find a universal essence in each human being that would be our shared human essence, Sartre still affirms that "there does exist a universal human condition." [27] Sartre does not deny that there are certain a priori boundaries which define the human situation in general. Although historical situations vary, there is no variance in the obligation to exist in the world, to work in the world, to live among others, and to be mortal. These limits are "neither subjective nor objective, or, rather, they have an objective and a subjective side." [28] In that they are ubiquitously discernible, they are objective. In that they are lived and because human beings freely determine their existence with respect to them, they are subjective.



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   Although it may be tempting, for good reason, to characterize Nishida's view as simply another version of the essentialism that Sartre is opposed to, it is appropriate to consider whether what Nishida seems to regard as the essential nature of the self strays in any drastic sense from what Sartre deems to be the a priori limits which define the "universal human condition." In other words, when Nishida takes freedom to consist in acting out one's essence, is he expressing a view which departs radically from Sartre's view of the subjective side of the a priori limits wherein humanity freely determines its existence in reference to such limits? We shall have to bear this question in mind. At this point we can only make some observations. Although Nishida allows for some sort of rudimentary "essence" of the self, he does not view such assertions as invalidating his principal tenet that the self is ultimately "absolute nothingness. "The Nishidan notion of the essential human nature seems to refer to the a priori limits which define the universal human condition and in terms of which human beings freely determine themselves to be a "focal point of the world."

    In Being and Nothingness, Sartre describes the basis of the psychobiological condition of "man" and his unavoidable connection with the world and with the past under the category of "facticity." Facticity is the universal human condition. It is the "for-itself's" necessary connection with the "in-itself." By virtue of facticity we can say that the "for-itself" exists. If we were to suggest that Nishidan essence refers to facticity, however, we would depart from Sartre's perspective. For Sartre, facticity is not an essence of humanity since its meaning depends on the "for-itself" for its interpretation. Nishida, for his part, is no less emphatic as to the input of consciousness with respect to the meaning of facticity. That we act consciously, he says, means that each of us is an "expressive point of the world" and that the world is "subjectively appropriated by our self." [29] Nishida explains that

... the world which stands over against us as something thoroughly objective is transformed into a world of signs within us, is grasped by us as a significative world. [30]


IV. The Self-Consciousness of Death

The essential human nature for Nishida lies in the fundamental self-contradiction of self-existence as manifest in our self-consciousness of our absolute nothingness. This self-contradiction is especially exemplified in the self-consciousness of that supreme a priori limit, death. All living things die. Being a living thing, know that I, too, will die. This is not, however, what Nishida has in mind. In the case of this sort of knowledge of my death, he says, "I am objectifying myself and regard myself as a thing." [31] Some say that when the flesh dies, the spirit lives on. For Nishida, the notion of "living in the spirit" suggests rationality and morality, It



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pertains to our access to the rational and the universal. The rational and the universal, however, are not living things. Hence Nishida says that "For reason to be self-conscious of death has no meaning." [32] Self-consciousness of the "eternal death of the self" arises when the self confronts its own absolute negation. This can only happen to an individual since only such a being can truly know that it is an individual. Only such a being is a "true individual, a true person."

    Sartre, for his part, asserts that it is not possible for the "for-itself" to be aware of its own possibility of dying. "My death" always remains exterior to my awareness. Sartre explains that

Death is not my possibility of no longer realizing a presence in the world, but an always possible nihilation of my possibles, which is outside of my possibility. [33]

Although I can imagine someone's death, my death is incomprehensible to me. Hence, Sartre asserts that the fact of death indicates the ultimate "triumph of the point of view of the Other over the point of view which I am toward myself." [34] Sartre is critical of what he calls "the idealist attempt to recover death." In this attempt, he says, death as the end of life is interiorized and humanized. Death becomes the meaning of life "as the resolved chord at the end of a melody." Recovering death in this way means making it mine. By thus interiorizing death, it is individualized. No longer the great unknowable, it becomes "the phenomenon of my personal life which makes of this life a unique life." [35]

    Certainly this notion of the recovery of death whereby my life is individualized seems suggestive of Nishida's views already noted above. Although Sartre recognizes the advantage of such views and the "undeniable portion of truth" involved, he finds it necessary to review the entire question, unwilling to concede that there is any "personalizing virtue" to be associated with my death. Sartre's critique focuses largely on Heidegger's view of Dasein as Sein zum Tode. In Sartre's reading, the most positive content of Heidegger's Entschlossenheit ("resolute decision") pertains to the notion of the attempt to "recover" death by transforming it into an expected death. In Sartre's view, the counsel is easier to give than to follow. Death is one thing which I cannot appropriate or "recover" as mine. Although Sartre deems it suitable to insist that we must live each moment as if we might die, he insists that this does not indicate that we should make death into an object of contemplation as if it could disclose the meaning of our acts. Death does not give meaning to life; it is "that which on principle removes all meaning from life." [36]

    This is not the place to consider Sartre's views on death in any detail. It is, however, opportune to consider in what sense the general thrust of his evaluation may be said to apply to Nishida. Unlike Sartre, Nishida emphatically asserts that it is possible to be self-aware of one's "own



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eternal death." Nishida is not trying to say that one can imagine or expect one's own death, or that one can reflect on it. He means that one can become genuinely aware of one's own death. As noted above, Nishida is not speaking of the mere reflective observation that, being a living thing, I must die since living things always die. This sort of knowledge of one's death is still founded on the objectification of one's self as a thing and cannot be a genuine awareness of one's death. Sartre's view, as we have already seen, is that we are confined to this sort of knowledge. There can be no genuine awareness of one's own death because one's own death always remains totally exterior to one's awareness. I cannot prepare for death or recover it as mine since it is always beyond me. Once I die, my death is available only as the point of view of others.

    It is clear that Nishida's intention is not to counsel us to contemplate death as an object in an endeavor to appropriate one's death by transforming it into an expected death, in the manner to which Sartre refers. Nishida is saying something even stronger than any assertion suggesting that we can extract the meaning of our lives from our death. He is reminding us that living is dying. He maintains, therefore, that we cannot even have lives as self-conscious individuals without death. A plant or animal may have no knowledge whatsoever of its own death. Nishida says that, "Something which does not know of its own death does not possess a self." [37] We might even say that it has no death. The more aware one is of the "eternal death of the self" the closer one approaches authentic individuality or personhood.

    Nishida goes so far as to say that the awareness of the eternal death or "eternal nothingness" of the self is the "fundamental reason for the very existence of the self." [38] That we know the self in self-negation is the "absolute self-contradiction" of the self's existence. This absolute self-contradiction is the raison d`etre of the self. The self, in other words, cannot be otherwise. That "we know the self in self-negation," does not imply the mere judgment that the self dies or that the self is nothingness. The self is not self-conscious through mere self-reflection. Only when we are genuinely aware of the eternal death of the self or "its own entrenal nothingness" can we become truly self-conscious. By facing this "eternal nothingness" we can truly realize the singularity of our existence. In ratio to the degree of self-consciousness, the religious exigency emerges and we experience religious and existential anguish. This is because the self leads this absolutely contradictory existence.

    Although Sartre highlights the nothingness of the self and the encounter with absolute freedom in anguish, he tends to depreciate the significance of death. For Nishida, on the other hand, the nothingness of the self is the "eternal death" of the self without which there would be no self. For Nishida, then, death has an ontological significance with respect to the existence of the self which does not appear in Sartre. This



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discrepancy is all the more notable when we consider that, like Nishida's self, the Sartrean self is absolutely self-contradictory; that is, the prereflective cogito is a self only as lacking a self. Sartre's view of the self as lacking a self correlates with his rejection of any notion of an essence of the self. Similarly, Sartre rejects any notion of a "transcendental self." Nishida, on the other hand, utilizes the notion generously up until his last essays.



1 - Stephen Light, Shuzo Kuki and Jean-Paul Sartre: Influence and Counter-influence in the Early History of Existential Phenomenology (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987). Also see the review of this book by Steve Odin, Philosophy East and West 41 (1991): 577-583.

2 - William Bossart, "Sartre's Theory of Consciousness and the Zen Doctrine of No-Mind," in The Life of the Transcendental Ego, eds. Edward S. Casey and Donald V. Morano (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986).

3 - Stephen Light, Shuzo Kuki and Jean-Paul Sartre, p. 11.

4 - For a discussion of Nishida's so-called "intellectualism," see my dissertation, "A Comparative Analysis of Nishida and Sartre with Special Reference to their Respective Ontologies" (University of Tennessee), pp. 23-27.

5 - See Light's comments in Shuzo Kuki and Jean-Paul Sartre, p. 26 n. 2.

6 - "Being-for-itself" (etre-pour-soi) is the being of consciousness conceived as a lack of being, a relation to being or a desire for being. "Being-in-itself" (etre-en-soi) is the being of the phenomenon conceived as the nonconscious being which always overflows the knowledge we have of it.

7 - David A. Dilworth and Hugh J. Silverman, "A Cross-Cultural Approach to the De-Ontological Self Paradigm," The Monist 16, no. 1 (January 1978): 91.

8 - Nishida Kitaro, An Inquiry into the Good (Zen no kenkyuu), trans. Masao Abe and Christopher Ives (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990). Earlier edition: A Study of Good (Zen no kenkyuu), trans. Valdo H. Viglielmo (Japan: Ministry of Education, 1960).



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9 - Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (L'Etre et le Neant), trans. with introd. by Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Washington Square Press, 1956).

10 - Nishida Kitaro, "Towards a Philosophy of Religion with the Concept of Pre-established Harmony as Guide," trans. David A. Dilworth, The Eastern Buddhist 2, no. 1 (June): 19-46.

11 - Ibid.

12 - Nishida Kitaro, "The Logic of Topos and the Religious World-view," part 1, trans. Yusa Michiko, The Eastern Buddhist, N.S., 19, no. 2 (Autumn 1986): 1-29.

13 - Nishida Kitaro, "Religious Consciousness and the Logic of the Praj~naapaaramitaa Suutra," Section II of 'The Logic of Place and a Religious World-view' (1945), trans. David A. Dilworth, Monumenta Nipponica 25, nos. 1-2 (1965): 210-216.

14 - Jean-Paul Sartre, Essays in Existentialism (New York: Citadel Press, 1974).

15 - Ibid., p. 33.

16 - Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. 567.

17 - Ibid., p. 65.

18 - Ibid.

19 - Ibid., p. 86.

20 - Jean-Paul Sartre, Essays in Existentialism, p. 36.

21 - Ibid., p. 34.

22 - Ibid., p. 37.

23 - Ibid., p. 35.

24 - Nishida Kitaro, "The Logic of Topos," p. 22.

25 - Ibid., p. 21.

26 - Ibid., p. 22.

27 - Jean-Paul Sartre, Essays in Existentialism, p. 52.

28 - Ibid.

29 - Nishida Kitaro, "The Logic of Topos," p. 5.

30 - Ibid.

31 - Nishida Kitaro, "Religious Consciousness," p. 204.

32 - Ibid.



p. 316

33 - Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, p. 687.

34 - Ibid., p. 691.

35 - Ibid., p. 682.

36 - Ibid., p. 690.

37 - Nishida Kitaro, "Religious Consciousness," p. 213.

38 - Ibid., p. 205.