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Annihilating the Nothing: Hegel and Nishitani on The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism

In: Frontiers of Philosophy in China
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Gregory S. MossDepartment of Philosophy, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

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In Nishitani’s The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism, Nishitani explores, among other related topics, the history of the problem of Nihilism in the West. Conspicuously absent from Nishitani’s historical analysis is the thought of Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, who famously raised the charge of Nihilism against Fichte’s philosophy in 1799. As is evident from a variety of Hegel’s texts, Hegel explicitly responds to Jacobi’s charge against Speculative Idealism and designs his philosophy in part as a response to Jacobi’s charge of Nihilism. On the one hand, Nishitani fails to appreciate Hegel’s philosophy as a responseto the problem of Nihilism because he has an incomplete possession of the history of the problem. On the other hand, Nishitani’s critique of Hegel begs the question.Nishitani’s dogmatic rejection of Hegel appears to be grounded in his methodological approach to the philosophy of history, which assumes the falsehoodof Hegel’s account. Jacobi’s charge against Speculative Idealism consists in the Idealist’s failure to account for the very existence of the world. On his view, philosophy is Nihilism because the world disappears completely from philosophical speculation. Hegel attempts to overcome this charge of Nihilism by re-thinking the structure and content of reason.

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