God and Nothingness
Robert E. Carter, 1
The idea of nothingness has been viewed as neither a vital nor a positive element in Western philosophy or theology. With the exception of a handful of mystics, nothingness has been taken to refer to the negation of being, or to some theoretical void. By contrast, the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitarō gave nothingness a central role in philosophy. The strategy of this essay is to use the German mystic Meister Eckhart as a more familiar thinker who did take nothingness seriously, and then to look closely at Nishida’s philosophy, and at the work of his contemporary Ueda Shizuteru, in exploring the central importance of nothingness in Zen Buddhist thought. Eckhart writes of the nothingness of the godhead, whereas Nishida and Ueda speak of nothingness ‘‘pure and simple.’’ Eckhart remains within the being of the godhead and theology. Nishida moves directly to nothingness. Some have claimed that Nishida is not a mystic, and Nishida himself concurred, yet it is Ueda who explains why Nishida can rightly be read as a mystic and as not a mystic. He argues that Zen includes mysticism, but then goes beyond it to a
‘‘non-mysticism.’’ Mystic or non-mystic, the guidance that Nishida and Ueda offer leads to a compelling outlook on life.
Wenqi 文氣 (literary pneuma) is a foundational idea in Chinese aesthetics. It has remained elusive since its initial formulation, however. This is so largely because previous scholars did not examine its ontological and epistemological conditions in analytic terms, still less explore its implications in a conceptual framework of artistic creation. Here, it is proposed to explore its general as well as specific implications against the larger background of Chinese intellectual thought and in relation to contemporary theories of literature and aesthetics. Through a philosophical inquiry, wenqi is here reconceived as an integration of the primal energy of the universe, the creative energy of human beings, and the totalizing force that animates an artistic work. Wenqi is viewed not as a substance or a product but as a creative and shaping force that flows from the writer into his writing, gives it a distinct shape, and makes it different from any other writing. The theory of wenqi is a system of aesthetic principles that govern the creative and shaping force operating in the space of three intertwined entities: the macrocosm of the universe including human society, the microcosm of the writer, and the microcosm of his writing.
Central to Confucian teachings in the Analects is the ideal of self-cultivation—in particular that of the junzi 君子(‘‘gentleman’’ ‘‘nobleman’’) ideal. At the same time that Confucius recommends that individuals follow such an ideal, he also places limits on who actually might attain it. By examining statements involving such terms as the junzi, the ‘‘petty man’’ (xiao ren 小人), and the ‘‘masses’’ (min 民, or zhong 眾), or common people, this essay highlights the sociopolitical and gender restrictions informing one of the most basic, yet lofty, ethical goals of the text. A new means is also offered of discussing these socially delimited discrepancies in moral cultivation by referring to leading, or self-determining agency in association with junzi on the one hand, and to conformist agency for women and common people on the other.
In volume 75 of Heidegger’s Complete Works, there is an article written in 1943 in which Heidegger cited the whole of chapter 11 of the Lao Zi to illustrate his view of the uniqueness of the poet. This essay attempts to expose Heidegger’s rendering and interpretation of that chapter. They contain both a deepened exegesis of his doctrine of ‘‘Being’’ and ‘‘time’’ in his earlier writing, and a methodological revealing of the guiding word
‘‘appropriation’’ in his late works.
Abū Hāmid al-Ghazālī (1058–1111 C.E.) is well known, among other things, for his account, in al-Munqidh min al-dalāl (Deliverance from error), of a struggle with philosophical skepticism that bears a striking resemblance to that described by Descartes in the Meditations. This essay aims to give a close comparative analysis of these respective accounts, and will concentrate solely on the processes of invoking or entertaining doubt that al-Ghazālī and Descartes describe, respectively. In the process some subtle differences between them in this regard will be brought to light that are relevant to the comparative issue of the respective solutions at which they arrive. The latter issue will not be touched upon here, although the present discussion is intended as a prelude to a future treatment of that topic.
Parallels of the All Base Consciousness?, a review of Contexts and Dialogue: Yogācāra Buddhism and Modern Psychology on the Subliminal Mind, by Tao Jiang
Paul Brownell, 102
Maestros de Occidente: Estudios sobre el pensamiento andalusí, by A. Martínez Lorca
Reviewed by Massimo Campanini, 107
Indian Buddhist Theories of Persons: Vasubandhu’s ‘‘Refutation of the Theory of a Self,’’ by James Duerlinger
Reviewed by N. H. Samtani, 108
Islamic Humanism, by Lenn E. Goodman
Reviewed by Ali Çaksu, 112
Death, Contemplation and Schopenhauer, by R. Raj Singh
Reviewed by Douglas L. Berger, 115
Ordinary Mind as the Way: The Hongzhou School and the Growth of Chan Buddhism, by Mario Poceski
Reviewed by Jinhua Jia, 118
BOOKS RECEIVED, 122