Kitarō Nishida is the most important and representative philosopher in modern Japan, who now attracts increasing attention internationally. He endeavored to give a logical foundation to the Eastern way of thinking through his confrontation with Western philosophers. The aim of this paper is to recover the modern and intercultural significance of Plotinus’ philosophy in the light of Nishida’s philosophy. Nishida refers to Plotinus repeatedly, expressing his deep empathy, though his philosophy, which professes itself to be highly critical, is not mysticism. When we compare him with Plotinus, we can find a great affinity in their fundamental structure. ‘Absolute nothingness (zettai mu)’, the basis of all reality in Nishida’s philosophy, is prior to both subjectivity and objectivity, and corresponds to the Plotinian One, which transcends both thinking and being. The correspondence between their logical structures consists in regarding subjectivity and objectivity as developments of an indefinite principle that transcends and precedes the discrimination of the two, and determination as determination of what is indeterminate. However, differing from Plotinus, Nishida lays stress on corporality, ordinariness and individuality. Though Plotinus was never pessimistic about this world, the experience emphasized in the Enneads was not earthly, while Nishida’s ‘radical ordinariness’ was the standpoint to which we should attain in a mundane life. When we compare Plotinus with Nishida, we encounter the intersection of the West and the East, antiquity and modernity, and mysticity and ordinariness.
Kitarō Nishida (1870-1945)1 is the most important and representative philosopher in Japan, who now attracts increasing attention internationally.2 He endeavored to give a logical foundation to the Eastern way of thinking through his confrontation with Western philosophers such as Leibniz, Kant, the Neo-Kantians, Fichte, Hegel, Bergson and so on.3 The affinity between Nishida and Heidegger is often noted,4 but it is supposed that what Nishida read in Heidegger’s works might be only Sein und Zeit, or with it, one or two early articles at the most.5 Beside, he never sympathized with this philosopher.6 It might be Hegel who is often said to have especially influenced Nishida’s thought,7 though, of course, in a restricted way.8 Although there are few writings that treat of religion itself, his thought has a religious tint, which derives from a Buddhist tradition in his life and depends on his own inner experience.9 In his maiden work, he shows approval of Western mysticism, and through his early works, before the establishment of his logic of place, he refers to Plotinus repeatedly, expressing his deep empathy. Nishida construes Plotinus in an incomplete manuscript entitled On the One, stating that “what is formed is a determination of what has no form” (nkz 11.440), but this expression is also that by which Nishida describes the very essence of Asian culture. “At the basis of Eastern culture we have nurtured for thousands of years, does there not lie anything that can be called seeing the form of the formless and hearing the sound of the soundless? Our minds are compelled to seek for a thing like this. I would like to give a philosophical foundation to such a demand” (3.255). For Nishida, “the form of true reality is the form of the formless and its sound is the sound of the soundless” (2.327). And “it should be through the so-called ‘understanding in silence’10 of Plotinus that we know it” (ibid., cf. 1.233, 3.28, 153.), he continues.
Though Nishida distinguishes his philosophy from mysticism, when we compare him with Plotinus, we can find a great affinity in their fundamental structure. ‘Absolute nothingness (zettai mu)’, the basis of all reality in Nishida’s philosophy, is prior to both subjectivity and objectivity, and corresponds to the Plotinian One, which transcends both thinking and being (i.e. subjectivity and objectivity in the intelligible world). The correspondence between their logical structures consists in regarding subjectivity and objectivity as developments of an indefinite principle that transcends and precedes the discrimination of the two, and determination as determination of what has no determination. According to such a logic, cognition established on the side of subjectivity and existence established on the side of objectivity arise simultaneously as two aspects differentiated from one fundamental principle. The forms appear when the formless forms are seen and rationality is realized as rationalization of what is beyond it. In this kind of structure, it is because the primal One turns towards itself and not towards the outside that subjectivity and objectivity are differentiated from it, and it follows from this that all activity and being arise as determinations of the One and are enveloped in it. Furthermore, inasmuch as the basis of our self is what has no determination, our true self is found through renouncement and negation of worldly selves that have various determinations. However, Plotinus and Nishida differ from each other in that, whereas the former regards the One and its procession separately as different hypotheses, the latter thinks of the two as one inseparable reality. There is also a great difference in their theory of time, both of which have the same structure of time as image of eternity. Furthermore, these differences relate to their different religious standpoints.
Nishida’s concept of ‘pure experience’, discussed in his maiden work An Inquiry into the Good (1911), already contains germinally and potentially the fundamental features developed in his latter philosophy (cf. nkz 1.3, Preface upon besetting the type).11 The term ‘pure experience’ derives from the theory of pure experience which was prevailing in those days, such as the ‘reine Erfahrung’ of Avenarius or Mach and the ‘pure experience’ of James. Whereas James’ pure experience is too psychological and positivistic in Nishida’s eyes, pure experience as advocated by Nishida is not mere personal experience, but a universal and transcendental one, which enables personal experiences.
The most direct reality for us is the facts themselves we experience. According to Nishida, pure experience is identical with direct experience and it is “the facts just as they are” (1.9). It is “the state of experience just as it is without the least addition of deliberative discrimination”. For example, it is “the moment of seeing a color or hearing a sound” which is “prior not only to the thought that the color or sound is the activity of an external object or that one is sensing it, but also to the judgment of what the color or sound might be” (1.9). In a present consciousness that is an experience itself, there does not yet arise a judgment about an object or recognition that this is one’s own experience. Therefore, in pure experience, “there is not yet a subject or an object, and knowing and its object are completely unified” (ibid.). It is only when the unity in pure experience prior to the subject/object distinction is broken and analyzed that the discrimination between them arises. That is, the so-called mental phenomena such as mind or thinking are seen as being on the side of subjectivity and the so-called material phenomena or the notion of existence on the side of objectivity. “Various types of discriminative knowledge derive from reflection on this reality (namely, pure experience)” (1.52, see also 152) and they are its abstractions. So, to regard subject and object as mutually independent realities is rather an arbitrary view, which is already at a remove from true reality (1.34, 49-50). Most highly critical thinking is that which discards all such arbitrary assumptions and starts from the most certain, direct knowledge, which is the fact itself (1.44). Thus, starting from pure experience, which is the foundation of all realities and is prior to the subject/object distinction, Nishida explains various phenomena as its self-development.12
Development of pure experience through differentiation is in a sense an activity of a still greater unity (1.15). For also meanings or judgments, which are developments of pure experience, are made by the connection of a present consciousness to past consciousness, namely, by unifying activity that unifies a present consciousness in a greater network of consciousness. For example, when one interprets an auditory sensation to be the sound of a bell, one connects and unifies the sensation to past experiences. In every case, the unity itself is experienced in an intuition prior to the subject/object distinction, and such unifying activity acts necessarily at the base of thinking or judgment as well, for otherwise, they would not become a coherent unity in the least. So, Nishida states, “There is a unity behind reflective consciousness as well. Reflective consciousness is established by that unity, and so it is a kind of pure experience, too” (1.148). Development of pure experience is realized by the unifying activity of a greater unity and “all consciousness is established according to a unity, which extends from the unity in the daily consciousness of each individual person to the universal unity of consciousness inclusive of all individual consciousness” (1.143-144).13 Development of pure experience through differentiation is an infinite activity of a unity that develops itself incessantly from a smaller unity to a greater unity, of which intuition is always pure experience prior to the subject/object distinction. The infinite unifying power of reality is hidden even in our small chests and “possessing this power, we can search for the truth of the universe in learning, we can express the true meaning of reality in art and we can know the foundation of reality that forms the universe in the depths of our hearts―we can grasp the true face of God” (1.80). According to Nishida, God is “the greatest and final unifier of our consciousness” (1.145) and “the unifier of pure experience that envelops the universe” (1.148). God is the unity of mind seen on the side of subjectivity and nature seen on the side of objectivity, and all realities are God’s development through differentiation. Our individuality as well is “part of God’s development”, namely “one of God’s activities of differentiation” (1.154). As our individual consciousness is what is defined as God’s self-development, we can realize God in ourselves by breaking out of our small self-consciousness. “Our true self is the ultimate reality of the universe, and if we know the true self we not only unite with the good of humankind in general but also fuse with the essence of the universe and unite with the will of God―and in this religion and morality are culminated. The method through which we can know the true self and fuse with God is our self-attainment of the power of the union of subject and object. To acquire this power is to kill our false self and, after dying once to worldly desire, to gain new life” (1.134). Thus, according to An Inquiry into the Good, the most profound religion is established upon “the unity of God and humans” (1.141).14
God as unifying activity transcends reflective knowledge and does not become an object of knowledge. For when a unity has become an object of consciousness, it is not the unifying activity itself any longer, but is its development and is already finite. God is found in the depths of the unifying activity of our consciousness, but God himself transcends all categories and is non-objectifiable.15 From this standpoint, “God is absolute nothingness. God is not, however, mere nothingness. An immovable unifying activity clearly functions at the base of the establishment of reality, and it is by means of this activity that reality is established” (1.81). In brief, God is nothingness that generates all reality. “Because God is no-thing, there is no place where God is not, and no place where God does not function” (1.81). Because God transcends the opposition between being and non-being, God establishes every being, and all that is formed is a “manifestation” of God (1.142). “God is the basis of the countless beings in the universe, and no things exist apart from God. Because all things emerge from God’s internal nature, God is free” (1.147). “God transcends time and space, is eternal and indestructible, and exists everywhere” (1.151). According to Nishida’s later words, God is “absolute being because of being absolute nothingness. Because God is simultaneously absolute being and absolute nothingness, there is no place where God is inoperative, and no place where God is ignorant. God is omniscient and omnipotent” (10.16).
Thus, depending on his thought of pure experience that develops itself infinitely, Nishida states that the deepest religious knowledge is to find God in intuition in the inner soul, just as in the religion of ancient India and in the Western mysticism in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (1.80). However, it should be noticed that Nishida’s philosophy, which professes itself to be “highly critical”, is not mysticism, and in his later works he rather tended to exclude mystical elements from his philosophy. As we will see later, Nishida endeavored to formulate a logical structure throughout his life.
Now then, how does pure experience, which precedes the subject/object distinction, develop itself into thinking and judgment? Nishida explained it with the notion of “self-awareness” subsequently in his second major work, Intuition and Reflection in Self-Awareness ( jikaku) (1917).16 “Intuition is a consciousness of unbroken progression, of reality just as it is, wherein subject and object are not yet divided and that which knows and that which is known are one. Reflection is a consciousness which, standing outside of this progression, turns around and views it.... I propose that what lights up the internal connections between these two is our self-Awareness” (2.13). Reflection means that the self sees itself, and intuition prior to the subject/object distinction is differentiated into subject and object by being seen through reflection. And in self-awareness, the self reflects itself not outside of itself, but in itself. “When we say that the self reflects on the self, or reflects itself, we are not dealing with something apart from the self in which the self is reflected as experience is reproduced in the form of concepts, but rather it is in the self that the self is reflected. Reflection is an event within the self, by which the self adds a certain something to the self, a knowing of the self which is also a process of self-development. Self-identity, correctly understood, is not static identity but dynamic development...”(2.14). In Intuition and Reflection in Self-Awareness, Nishida explains thus on the fact of self-awareness the relation between experience and its reflection stated in An Inquiry into the Good, namely the formative mode of reality as the self-development of unifying activity of pure experience.
Self-awareness is an infinite activity that makes the self its object, or rather, which creates objects by the self (cf. 2.399). Creation is the self-seeing activity in reflection, which constitutes objects by the self. “To create is to return to the depth of the self” (2.206). Therefore, in the self-awareness system, reflection, which is the return of the self to the self is to reflect and to develop the self. “Reality is both infinite development and infinite return; both egressus and regressus” (2.219). Because what the self sees in returning to itself is its shadow the self reflects, reflection on the self is development of the self. “The self returns to its foundation in reflection, while it develops itself in action. But reflection is itself action, self-return is itself self-development, retreat is itself advance” (2.222). So, “self-development is identical with self-return” (2.233) and “reflection is identical to self-development” (2.243).
However it is not possible to reflect the very foundation of the self-awareness system, for what is reflected is its shadow, which is already objectified. Consciousness is the self-development of what is non-objectifiable in itself. It means that the self to which the self was said to return is not a substantial entity that is objectifiable.
Nishida, who has thus found that the basis of reality that cannot be grasped in reflection is united with its development in self-awareness, recognizes the significance of Eriugena’s idea that God who creates and is not created (Natura creans et non creata) is identical to God who neither creates nor is created (Natura nec creata nec creans) (2.216).17 According to Nishida, reality itself, which can be called God, is Natura nec creata nec creans, which transcends reflection, because it transcends all categories and can be said to be neither motion nor rest. However, it is Natura creans et non creata, in so far as there are infinite developments when it is seen in reflection. That is to say, “it is both infinite development (creans et non creata) and infinite reflection (nec creata nec creans). The union of reflection and what is reflected in self-awareness throws light on this union of contradictories” (2.232).
As stated above, self-awareness is the self’s reflecting itself in itself, and that wherein reflection arises leads to Nishida’s important concept ‘place (basho)’ in From the Actor to the Seer (1927). The self reflects itself not outside of itself, but its inside and self-development through differentiation arises in the self. The self that reflects the self is “not a mirror that reflects outside, but that reflects inside” (3.433). In this sense, ‘the place’ means that wherein all reality is established, and that which envelops all in itself. All realities are what it is determined in each restricted way, and so, we could say that they are smaller than it and enveloped in it. “The place” of which all “being and acting” are reflections, is “that which reflects the self in the self, being itself nothingness” (3.255). It is a “seeing without a seer” (ibid.), because, as stated above, it is not a substantial entity. Since it is not conceptually determined any longer, it is nothingness as object, and so, Nishida calls it ‘place of nothingness’.
He explains the structure of place, logicizing it with the clue of the subsumptive relation in concept and the relation between subject and predicate in judgment. While Aristotle defined the individual as the subject that cannot become predicate, Nishida’s ‘place of nothingness’ is said to be the ultimate predicate that cannot become subject. Nishida argued that this logic of place is the logic of predicate, which is opposite to Aristotle’s logic of subject, and opposed it as the logic of Eastern nothingness to the logic of Western being.18 Being is established in the place of nothingness. The individual is what the place of nothingness defined itself as. In this way, Nishida’s thought developed from the standpoint of pure experience to that of the place through self-awareness.19
It is in his early thought just prior to the establishment of the logic of place that Nishida approached Plotinus consciously. In the first part of From the Actor to the Seer (1927), whose latter part discusses place, Nishida directs his attention to the intuition which is the foundation of self-awareness. He writes in the preface, “Since Intuition and Reflection in Self-Awareness, I have considered the intuition at the base of the will. I have had an idea, like Plotinus’ idea, that to act is to see” (nkz 3.253).20 According to Plotinus’ treatise entitled On nature and contemplation and the One (iii8), to which Nishida referred often about that time, the production by nature is not by physical function such as “thrusting or levering” (ibid. 2.5, v96.22-23, Aristoteles Physica vii6,259b16-20, nkz 3.329, 363), but by contemplation. While nature itself remains in itself and sees itself (iii84.17-20, 26-27), nature’s “act of contemplation makes what it contemplates (θεώρημα)” and the object contemplated then is “the lines which bound bodies” (ibid. 4.7-10).21 Physical forms are thus generated by the self-contemplation of nature, which is physically formless. Nishida argues, “I think that it is our self-awareness that elucidates most clearly the signification of intuition stated long ago by Plotinus, that nature’s creation of things is intuition and all desires the intuition of the One. In self-awareness, I know myself as object, and to know is to act and to create” (nkz 3.281). In discussing self-awareness, Nishida referred thus to Plotinus’ contemplation, which signifies that what has no form produces form by seeing in itself.
In Plotinus, the idea that natural objects are generated by nature’s contemplation corresponds to the idea that Intellect is generated by the One’s reversion to itself. To the question “How does the One generate Intellect”, Plotinus answered, “Because by turning to itself the One started to see; and this vision is Intellect” (v17.5-6).22 In a lecture on the outlines of philosophy, Nishida explains this, “the One transcends the discrimination between subject and object, but Intellect is generated, so to speak, by the One’s seeing itself, and the contents of Intellect are Platonic Ideas” (nkz 14.253). Then, it would be possible to say that the self-thinking of Intellect is an activity actualized when the One defined itself self-awareness-ly in Nishida’s fashion. According to Plotinus, Intellect is an activity of the One (that is, its derivative/external activity) (v42.33-37, v312.39-41, v16.44-45, i82.21-22, vi740.22-23), and the derivative/external activity of the One is that whose substance is Intellect.23 In contrast to this derivative activity of the One, there is another activity of it, which constitutes, as it were, its substance. The so-called substance of the One is identified with the so-called activity of it (vi813.9-10, cf. 20.1-27),24 and it is said to be a kind of “self-intuition” (vi739.1-4, v42.17-19, vi816.19-21), which is non-cognitive and does not objectify the One itself. The term ἐπιβολή (vi739.2) employed for the One’s self-intuition signifies the intuition prior to recognition.25 What such a self-intuition develops itself and becomes the reflective activity that sees and objectifies itself can be thought as the self-thinking of Intellect, and there arise subject as thinking activity and object as what is thought.26 Between Intellect and the One, there is a distinction between the reflective contemplation in which self-seeing activity objectifies the self and the intuition which precedes such a reflective contemplation and is the source of it. Nishida construes this as follows. “The infinitely active Good as stated by Plotinus” (nkz 3.284-285) is “a self-intuition, which is by no means objectifiable” (3.285) and “Intellect is that in which the knower and the known are identical. Consequently, the fundamental nature of Intellect is self-awareness.... There must be an intuition at the base of Intellect. When what is intuitionally one comes into subject and object, it is Intellect” (14.361). We might say that the source of the recognition as the self-thinking of Intellect is the self-intuition of the One, which is a sort of pre-cognitive consciousness, and rationality (λόγος) of Intellect is the rationalization of what is beyond rationality that is the One (cf. v315.31-32).
The above-mentioned argument depends on the construction of the generation of Intellect in v17.5-6 as what derives from the self-contemplation of the One, but even if we accept that Intellect is generated by the so-called inchoate intellect’s reversion to the One,27 the conclusion does not so differ and we can equally see an affinity of Plotinian structure with that of Nishida’s ‘self-awareness’. The inchoate intellect is compared to “a sight not yet seeing” (v311.5, cf. ibid. 12, v42.6), and it derives from the One and turns towards the One (v21.7-11). This contemplation is reflective, because “the sight” proceeds from the One and is determined by turning towards the One.28 What is contemplated as being determined by the reflective contemplation that turns to and sees the One is the multiple forms (namely beings) that are images of the One (vi715.12-14, 17.16-18, 35.30-32, v311.1-8), and thus, the forms are generated from the One that is beyond being and so formless.29 That is to say, the reversion to the One of the sight that proceeds from the One is the determination of Intellect and the establishment of subject and object of thinking. It is the generation of intelligible forms, namely the emanation of the One, and the forms are generated by the contemplation of what is formless. Therefore, similar to Nishida’s self-awareness, in this case too, we might say that “self-development is identical with self-return” and “retreat is itself advance”.30
Again, according to the former interpretation of v17.5-6, just as Nishida’s self-awareness “reflects the self in the self”, the procession of Intellect from the One in Plotinus occurs by ‘the One’s turning towards itself’, namely by turning inwards of itself and not outwards of itself, and in this sense, we might say that also the Plotinian One reflects its shadow in the self and not out of the self. For, the outside of the One does not exist originally. If it existed, the One would have boundaries (cf. v511.1-5). In view of the fact that the One does not contain multiplicity in itself, the production of multiplicity occurs outside of the One, for it is not possible to say that the One produces multiplicity in itself so that it becomes multiple. It means, however, that it is not by the internal activity of the One, but by its external activity, that multiplicity is generated from the One. What are generated from the One are larger than the One numerically, but none of them surpasses the One in its content and all are what the infinite One (vi732.15) is defined as in each restricted way. Therefore, there is nothing greater than the One and so, “it embraces all the other things” (v59.9-10).31 Just as Nishida’s place of nothingness reflects in itself ‘all being and acting’ as its shadows, though ‘being itself nothingness’, the Plotinian One generates ‘being’ and ‘activity’ as its images by the reflective contemplation that proceeds from it and turns towards it, though being itself what is beyond them, and it embraces them all in it. Therefore, Plotinus’ One is a kind of “nothingness, which is not opposed to being, but envelops being” (nkz 3.372) like Nishida’s absolute nothingness. Nishida comments on Plotinus’ One, “the One that transcends subject/object opposition in every sense and establishes them in itself by determining them, is neither beauty nor ugliness, neither good nor bad and neither being nor non-being” (11.440).
As I have argued above, the relation between the inner self-intuition of the One and the emanative reversion in Plotinus has an affinity with that between intuition and reflection in Nishida’s self-awareness. However, whereas, in Nishida, intuition and reflection are one as self-awareness and are inseparable in “the internal connection” (2.13), in Plotinus the intuition and the reflective contemplation are distinguished substantively. For even though the One is never without emanation, the One’s inner self-intuition and its emanative reversion are respectively the One’s internal activity, that is, the One itself, and Intellect, that is, the external activity of the One, and they are two different hypostases. On the other hand in Nishida, already in the thought of pure experience argued in An Inquiry into the Good, God and the world, that is God’s development through differentiation, are not separated from each other, but regarded as two sides of one and the same reality. “Non-being separate from being is not true non-being; a one apart from all things is not the true one; equality divorced from discrimination is not true equality. Just as there is no world without God, there is no God without the world” (1.151-152). “God is none other than the world and the world is none other than God” (1.152-153).
Nishida’s thought differs from that of Plotinus also on the issue of human production and action, in that he thinks them entirely inseparable from contemplation, whereas in Plotinus contemplation is an independent activity of them and prior to them. Nevertheless, in Plotinus too, production (ποίησις) and action (πρᾶξις) are closely related to contemplation. He distinguishes the production and action executed in order to see the form from those executed in seeing the form, and calls the former ‘a weakness of contemplation’ and the latter ‘a consequence of contemplation’. “A weakness, if the doer or maker had nothing in view beyond the thing done, a consequence if he had another prior object of contemplation better than what he made” (iii84.41-43). Although Nishida contests against Plotinus and says, “in artistic intuition, to act is to see and to see is to act. Plotinus thought of action as weakness of contemplation, but in artistic creation, action must be knowledge at the same time” (nkz 3.281), in Plotinus as well, in the case of creation as ‘consequence of contemplation’, such as in artistic creation, we might say that to see and know a form is to create.
On the other hand, an action as ‘weakness of contemplation’ in Plotinus is such an act as moves around in looking for something “good”. Since as a result, “the good” is obtained “in the soul” (iii86.1-9), action is said to be to “seek to obtain by going round about, so to speak, what cannot be got by going straight to it,” (ibid. 6.2-4, cf. nkz 3.285, 4.128, 320). Thus, “action comes up again to contemplation” (iii86.9-10). So in every case, action is for the sake of contemplation (ibid. 6.1, cf. nkz 3.281) and it is said that “all things aspire to contemplation” (iii81.2, cf.7.17, cf. nkz 9.488) or “every action is a serious effort towards contemplation” (iii81.15). And since the final good discovered in the soul is the One, the One is “the goal for all things” (ibid. 7.17-18), and Nishida comments, “all things aspire to the intuition of the One” (nkz 3.281, cf. 284, 352, 380, 14.253). However, it is needless to say that Plotinus does not attach importance to action as “detour”, and Nishida criticizes it: “Plotinus says that nobody who can see directly the truth wants an action that is its mere shadow (cf. iii84.43-44) and thinks that the more one becomes spiritual, the more one becomes static and intuitive, being apart from action, but the manifestation of intuition is not the denial of action. It is to envelop action” (nkz 9.488). As we have observed in the case of production or action as “consequence of contemplation”, in Plotinus too, contemplation is not merely static, but what causes creation and action, and for example, the self-determination and freedom in practical action are said to be “referred to the inner activity of virtue itself, that is, its thought and contemplation” (vi86.19-22). Nevertheless, in Plotinus, “action cannot precede contemplation” (iii85.20-21). He treats lightly production and action in general, regarding them as “weakness of contemplation” and states, “The duller children, being incapable of learning and contemplative studies, turn to crafts and manual work” (iii84.45-47). By contrast, Nishida did not value highly static contemplation without action or production.32
The feature of the Plotinian mysticism consists in the acknowledgement of the experience of union with the ineffable One and in the doctrine of the genesis of the world as the procession from the One. As we have observed, though Nishida’s thinking is rooted in the concrete and direct experience in daily life, his thought expressed in An Inquiry into the Good is that which leads to Plotinian mysticism in that God as the greatest unifier of the pure experience is regarded to be what transcends all categories and is non-objectifiable, and especially in that the true meaning of religion is said to be found in grasping the significance of our “unity” with God (nkz 1.141). However after having faced Tanabe’s criticism announced in the article entitled ‘Consulting the teaching of Professor Nishida’ in 1930,33 he lays emphasis rather on the difference from Plotinus than on the affinity with him. From the opinion that the absolute is the extremity that should be sought through moral conducts of individuals, Tanabe regards Nishida’s self-awareness of absolute nothingness as a religious experience and its position as that of religion (H. Tanabe (1963) 311), and criticizes that his systematization of realities depending upon such a principle is a transformation of philosophy into religion. Stating that Nishida’s self-determination of absolute nothingness takes the same line as the Plotinian procession, Tanabe expresses misgivings that a renunciation of philosophy is brought by setting the ultimate unknowable universal as principle and interpreting the reality as its self-determination (ibid. 309). Considering this criticism and intending to elucidate the role that the determination of nothingness plays in the constitution of knowledge (cf. nkz 5.5), Nishida writes ‘The Act of consciousness as the self-determination of Place’ (1930) and ‘My so-called self-awareness determination of absolute nothingness’ (1930), which are included in Self-awareness determination of nothingness (1932). According to Nishida, knowledge is possible by being “a determination of the place which envelops action” (5.5). As we have observed, the ‘place’ is that which envelops not only the object seen, but also the seeing action, and that in which both are established. Nishida’s absolute nothingness is not what is nothing merely as object, and his self-awareness is to see being itself nothingness, namely, to see without a seer. In self-awareness of absolute nothingness, reality determines the reality itself (5.111, 112, 127) as the self-determination of what sees being itself nothingness, and here the objective knowledge is established. Nishida states, “True reality reveals itself where we lose our self at the extremity of our individual self, that is to say, what is factual is seen as contents of the self-determination of what sees being nothingness.... Thus, all knowledge (even mathematics) is based on the self-determination of what is factual” (5.88, cf. ibid. 6, 55). “Philosophy is established on the fact of the self-awareness itself that determines itself being nothingness. It might be regarded also as a religious fact, but at the same time, it has a signification of knowledge as an intuitive fact” (5.89, cf. ibid. 6). As we have seen, also the pure experience that is the starting point of Nishida’s philosophy was that of which reflection brings various knowledge.
What is to be mentioned here in the relation with Plotinus is that against Tanabe’s criticism Nishida states in ‘My so-called self-awareness determination of absolute nothingness’ that “it is not a sort of merely mystical experience” (5.107), or that “it is not a mere religious ecstasy” (5.121). Then he explains the difference from the Plotinian One as follows. “My so-called the self-awareness of absolute nothingness is not what is thought in the direction of logical and grammatical subject such as the Plotinian One. It does not mean what determines itself being ‘a being’, but what determines itself being nothingness” (5.121). And thereafter he often criticizes Plotinus, saying that the Plotinian One is “what is thought in the direction of noema” (6.122), or “what transcends the Idea in the direction of the Idea” (8.326, 7.223, 216, 5.121-122), regarding that it is what is thought objectively. For Nishida, true nothingness must be what transcends act/ noesis/34 matter in the direction of act/ noesis/ matter.
However, we must examine here if it is suitable to interpret the Plotinian One as what is thought in the direction of object, being, or Idea as Nishida does, and the procession from the One as “noematic and objective determination” as Tanabe does alluding to Plotinus (H. Tanabe (1963) 312). It would be undeniable that this interpretation of Nishida on Plotinus derives partly from his thought that the Western tradition of logic is that of ‘being’ (cf. nkz 10.353), namely the objective logic,35 but it is probably neither independent of the establishment of his logic of place. The notion of place is suggested by ‘the place (χώρα)’ of Plato (Timaeus 52a8, cf. nkz 3.415) in which the generation arises, and which corresponds to matter in the sensible world in Plotinus. It means that Nishida’s ‘place’ is thought to be something like matter.36 However the sensible matter in Plotinus is indefiniteness as the absolute lack of form and the absolute ‘non-being’ that has no force of generation any more. The One is never close to such a thing, but is rather prior to the Idea of Plato, and from this point of view, it is “what transcends the Idea in the direction of the Idea”. Therefore, in spite of Nishida’s agreement with Plotinus in the first part of From the Actor to the Seer that “what envelops all and establishes all must be something like the Plotinian One” (3.374), already in the article entitled Place included in the latter part of this work, he distances himself from Plotinus and concludes: “The intellectualistic Greek could not be thorough in the signification of true nothingness, even in the Plotinian One” (3.468, cf. 7.216).
However, from the standpoint of Plotinian studies on intelligible matter and the inchoate intellect, which develops after Nishida’s death,37 we should rather say that the One transcends the intelligible world not in the direction of form or object but in the direction of matter or act. As we have observed concerning the inchoate intellect, which can be identified with intelligible matter, the forms as intelligible objects are generated when the indeterminate (cf. v42.6, vi717.15) sight (i.e. the inchoate intellect), which has been generated from the One, sees the One in turning towards it. That is to say, act precedes object in the intelligible world and is generated from the One earlier than object.38 Forms are produced by both the One and this indeterminate element (v42.4-8, v15.13-19, vi716.32-35). Furthermore, our soul attains to the union with the One by abandoning all it can grasp as objects, whether sensible or intelligible (vi734.2-4, vi97.19-20, v56.17-21). We cannot see the One, if we try to see it as a form (v56.36-37), that is, as an object. We see it rather where we abandon intelligible forms and go back to the source of intelligible matter. For example, the indefinite sight as the inchoate intellect can be identified also with the supra-intelligible aspect of Intellect called “Intellect in love” (vi735.24) and it performs the role of final stage for our ascending to the One (ibid. 35.33-41).39 From this structure of Intellect, it should be said that what is closer to the One in the intelligible world is indeterminate act/ noesis/ matter rather than determinate object/ noema/ form and the One that is indeterminate is what transcends the act/ noesis/ matter in the intelligible world in the direction of act/ noesis/ matter. Consequently, when we take Plotinus’ doctrine of the inchoate intellect into consideration, we cannot say that Nishida’s criticism of the Plotinian One as objective is appropriate. The One is not merely what transcends object but also the principle from which the act of seeing, thinking and living (cf. vi717.20-21) arises primarily. The procession from the One starts, so to speak, from seeing without a determinate seer.40 The knowledge of Intellect is a kind of reflection, in which the seeing activity that proceeds from the One turns towards the One itself. Speaking of Nishida’s way, it is what is realized as the self-awareness of the One, and speaking of Plotinus’s way, it is the truth as self-thinking of Intellect (v52.19-21, iii74.12-13, v35.23-24). In Plotinus too, the One is never irrelevant to the establishment of knowledge, but rather its basis, the cause of Intellect and the “root of rational principle (λόγος)” (vi815.33).41 Thus, the thought of Plotinus is different from a mystical religion that makes the principle of the objectively unknowable absolute, and we can recognize the parallelism of constitution of knowledge between Plotinus and Nishida.
However, whereas Nishida’s self-awareness of absolute nothingness is the basis of the knowledge of this reality, the knowledge for which the Plotinian One provides the basis is that of the intelligible world, and our experience of the One is what is to be called mystical experience. In the sense that Plotinus’s philosophy is based on such an experience, Tanabe would be right in designating it as religious philosophy. And the diverging point of Plotinus and Nishida consists in the following difference. As I have indicated, the external activity of the Plotinian One is Intellect that is a different hypostasis from the One, and our union with the One is to abide in its internal activity.42 By contrast in Nishida, God and the world are two sides of one and the same reality. There is no pure experience without its self-development, and intuition and reflection are internally connected in self-awareness. Therefore, when he asserts “the union” with the absolute, we should not think that a static identity is signified by this term.43 It is not a unity in substance, but as it were, that in action. “The unity itself cannot become the object of knowledge; we can become it and function, but we cannot know it” (nkz 1.146). He explains it by referring to Paul’s word, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (1.135, cf. Galatians 2:20). According to his latter saying, our self is “the self-projective point of the absolute One” (10.333).44 It seems to me that the diverging point of Plotinus and Nishida consists in whether the multiplicity is separated from the One or the One and many are simultaneous. Nishida focusses in his latter writings on the structure of the world that is simultaneously one and many, which is also the world of mutual opposition and mutual determination of many individuals, and proceeds to argue on the historical and dialectical world through his key concept of action-intuition (kōiteki chokkan)45 and absolutely contradictory self-identity (zettai mujunteki jikodōitsu).
We find a remarkable difference between Nishida and Plotinus in their theory of time, although Nishida invokes Plotinus’ words in this respect. That is, Nishida agrees with Plotinus’ idea that “time is an image of eternity” (iii711.46-47, cf. 1.19-20, 11.20, cf. Plato Timaeus 37d5-7, nkz 3.286, 307, 381), but their thoughts actually corresponding to this expression are different from each other.
In Plotinus, eternity is the life of Intellect, which “abides in the same, and always has the all present to it” (iii73.16-17). “It abides in the same in itself and does not change at all but is always in the present” (ibid. 3.20-22). For Intellect thinks all at once, and therefore “it does not go from one thing to another but is always the selfsame without extension or interval (ἀδιαστάτως)” (ibid. 3.14-15, cf.2.32, 3.37-38, 11.53). In contrast, time is the life of the soul in a movement of passage from one way of life to another” (ibid. 11.43-45). “In always moving on to the ‘next’ and the ‘after,’ and what is not the same, but one thing after another”, the soul advanced to some length and “constructed time as an image of eternity” (ibid. 11.17-20). The power of the soul “which wanted to keep on transferring what it saw there (i.e. in the intelligible world) to something else, did not want the whole to be present to it all together” (ibid. 11.21-23). The soul, then, unrolled in succession (ἐφεξῆς) (ibid. 11.37) the whole that is presented all at once in Intellect. What is not extended in Intellect is thus transferred to what has extension and continuity (συνεχές), and this is time (ibid. 12.1-4).
However, according to the theory of time argued in Self-aware determination of nothingness (1932), Nishida regards time not as mere continuity, but as “continuity of discontinuity” (nkz 5.208, 217, 219, 268, 346), and it is each moment of time that is a shadow of eternity. If a determination of a certain moment transfers to another determination of a next moment, it is because the previous determination is negated and vanishes. A moment passes to a next moment through its self-negation. The law that connects elements of time “must be to affirm the self by negating the self, that is, to live by dying” (5.218). So, “the bottom of the present is absolute nothingness” (5.112) where there is no determination, and each moment of time arises as “the self-determination of absolute nothingness” (5.112, 217) or as “the self-awareness determination of absolute nothingness” (5.147). The determination of the present is the self-determination of absolute nothingness that determines itself being nothingness, and the present determines the present itself through its self-negation. “The absolute present” that determines each moment of time is “the eternal now” (5.148) and “time is established as the self-determination of the eternal now” (ibid.).46
Therefore, ‘eternity’ for Nishida is “not the so-called eternal permanence that has neither genesis nor extinction, but that which dies everywhere and is born everywhere47 as the self-determination of absolute nothingness” (5.228), and is “the self-identity of the absolute contradictory” (6.71, cf. 5.219). Thus in Nishida, time is continuity of discontinuity through its self-negation. By contrast in Plotinus, eternity means the immutable now and time is the continuous and successive flow. That is to say, time is simply continuous and time as continuity is an image of eternity that has no continuity.
We can know that Nishida’s religious standpoint is explicitly different from that of Plotinus from his last complete article, The Logic of place and the Religious World View49 that he finished two months before his death (1945).
He writes in it: “Since Plotinus, what is called mysticism is extremely close to Zen of the East, but I think that its foundation is not free from the objective logic. On the contrary, the Plotinian One is antipodal to Eastern nothingness. Therefore it has not attained to the standpoint of radical ordinariness” (10.353, cf. 8.513, 13.20, 94, 98). I have already indicated that the Plotinian One is not an object or what is thought by means of objective logic, but it is certain that Plotinus’ standpoint is different from Nishida’s ‘radical ordinariness’ and also the relation between the One and us is different from what Nishida calls ‘the reciprocal correspondence (gyakutaiō)’. I shall discuss this difference in the conclusion.
Just as Nishida thinks that “there is the true absolute where it reverses itself” (10.316), according to Plotinus too, the One has external activity and generates beings by “turning to itself”. This procession from the One is perpetual and the One is always present to us, but in order that we become conscious of it, we have to abandon all we have possessed since our descent from the One (i67.5, vi99.50-52, cf. ibid. 11.23: ἐπίδοσις αὐτοῦ), and in this sense, our total self-negation is necessary for the return to the One. Then occurs the mystical union with the One, which is an “abrupt” (ἐξαίϕνης: vi734.12-13, cf. Plato Symposium 210e4), unusual and exceptional event for us. It is “deliverance from the things of this world” (vi911.50). But it is a temporary state for us, and after this experience our consciousness descends to lower realms again (iv81.1-11).50 Plotinus describes the movement of the soul as a “circular movement” around the One (vi98.1-10).51
In like manner, Nishida states that our self moves “circularly” around the source “from whence it is born, from whence it acts and whereto it dies” (10.330). However, there is in fact a difference between what they mean by the term “circular”. While in Plotinus what is thought to be our true self is the intelligible part of soul that remains always in the intelligible world (iv88.1-3, iii85.10-11, to the latter of which, Nishida refers in nkz 3.283), which is apart from corporeal things, Nishida thinks that the true self is the momentary self-determination of the absolute present, which is inseparable from body. “All that are in my so-called world of determination of nothingness are that which corporally determine themselves, and what can be thought to be the true self as self-awareness of nothingness can be said to be the corporal self” (5.209-210). According to Nishida, our self is there where each moment determinates the moment itself. “There is the self where the present determines the present itself, and the present is there where the self determines the self” (5.150). And whereas, in Plotinus, the return to the One is an unusual and exceptional experience for us who have corporeal sense in ordinary life, in Nishida, for whom our self is the momentary self-determination of the absolute present, our circular movement around the absolute takes place in every moment of time. “As a sole existence”,52 he states, our self “comes into contact with God at the extremity of the momentary self-determination that the moment determines itself (5.191, cf. 149-150). That is to say, our experience of God is in each moment of time. By contrast, in Plotinus, our reversion to the One is neither in each moment, nor momentary. Although the union with the One is temporary, it is continuous to the extent that we become conscious of “happiness (εὐπάθεια)” (vi734.38, cf. ibid. 34.30, 35.26, Plato Phaedrus 247d4) in this state.
The further difference is that, in Plotinus, the reflective and external activity that proceeds from the One is regarded as the simple manifestation of the power of the One, but in Nishida, the self-vision of the absolute is thought to be the ‘self-negation’ of the absolute. According to Nishida, our self exists by the self-negation of the absolute and “the human world is established from the standpoint that the absolute sees the self in the self thoroughly self-negatively” (10.349). He states, “The logic of place stands in the opposite position to the mystical philosophy in that the individual is established from the absolute negation” (10.356). Our self is established as “the extremity of the self-negation of the absolute One in individual and multiple manners” (10.333) and conversely, “our self comes into contact with God only through its own death” (10.315). That is, the absolute and our self correspond to each other through their respective self-negations. This is what Nishida names ‘the reciprocal correspondence’. In this relation, it is “as the extremity of the individual” (10.340) and “as an unique individual” (10.342), that we correspond to the absolute. For, “the true individual”, says Nishida, “is the existence who knows the eternal death of the self” (10.314). “What does not die is not for once only. What is repeated, what is not for once only is not the individual” (ibid.). “Death is to enter into eternal nothingness of the self. Therefore the self is for once; the self is unique and individual” (10.324). As he indicates, “There is no true self-awareness of the individual in Greece. There is no individual in Plato’s philosophy” (10.339, cf.9.451); neither can we find a significance of the individual in Plotinus. According to Nishida, in contrast, “the more we become individual, the more we correspond to the absolute One” (10.340). In each moment of being established as a once-off individual, we come into contact with the absolute. “Our self is always in contact with the absolute One reciprocal-correspondently, as a self-determination of the absolute present” (10.359, cf.105) that is nothingness from whence our self is born and whereto it dies. Consequently, for him, “religion is not apart from ordinary mind” (10.359). This religious standpoint is what Nishida names ‘radical ordinariness’ (byōjōtei), which makes us “the personal self” by making us conscious of ourselves as “individual plurality of the absolute One” and as “the self-determination of the absolute present” through our perpetual self-negation (10.356-357).
As I have argued in this paper, there are fundamental affinities between the structure of Plotinus’ philosophy and that of Nishida, in that both of them regard the principle of all things as something indeterminate and various determinations as the self-determination, self-differentiation or the self-development of the indeterminate principle. However, differing from Plotinus, Nishida lays stress on corporality, ordinariness and individuality. Whereas the union with the One in Plotinus is an unordinary experience for us, which is “deliverance” from all of this world, according to Nishida, our self is always in front of the absolute reciprocal-correspondently, as a momentary self-determination of the absolute present. Though Plotinus was never pessimistic about this world, the experience emphasized in Plotinus was not earthly, but Nishida’s ‘radical ordinariness’ was the standpoint to which we should attain in a mundane life. While in Plotinus, the One is independent of the plurality of beings, Nishida emphasizes the simultaneousness of the One and many (e.g. pure experience and its self-development, God and the world, intuition and action, the place and what are in it, the absolute nothingness and its self-determination, and the absolute and the individual). Thus, in spite of their structural affinity, their thoughts are unfolded differently. What was the world there above in Plotinus is simultaneously this corporeal world as the depth of our ordinary life in Nishida.53
1 Nishida’s original text employed in this paper is K. Nishida (2002-2009). [hereafter nkz]. The first Arabic numeral indicates volume and the second one indicates page.
2 M. Yusa (1995) 295-296.
3 In this paper, I am concerned with the relation between Plotinus and Nishida, but also on broader influences from modern Western philosophy upon Nishida; see R. Wilkinson (2009).
4 Cf. J. W. M. Krummel (2010).
5 Cf. R. Ōhashi (1994) 240.
6 Cf. C. A. Rigsby (2010).
7 Dialectical features of Nishida’s philosophy can be seen even from his earliest thought. Nishida writes: “In the process of development of the dynamic universal, the whole appears implicitly first, proceeds to the state of division and confrontation and then returns to the original state, where it manifests its concrete truth. Just as Hegel says, it proceeds from an sich to für sich and then becomes an und für sich” (nkz 1.211, cf. 52).
8 Cf. M. Fujita (1994).
9 Though he practiced Zen seriously for about ten years since he was 28, he rarely refers to Buddhist ideas themselves in his works.
10 Cf. nkz 1.233, 3.28, 153. Plotinus’ “understanding in silence (συνιέναι... σιωπῇ)” (iii84.3, cf. 6.11: λόγος σιωπῶν) is that which is opposed to the word in utterance and which is not yet differentiated by words.
For the English translation of the Enneads, I use that of A. H. Armstrong, and add corrections where necessary.
11 For An Inquiry into the Good, I employ the excellent English translation of M. Abe and Ch. Ives. (K. Nishida, 1990). But according to custom, the numbering of volume and page is always that of nkz (2002-2009). An Inquiry into the Good is partly translated also into French: K. Nishida (1997).
12 In Nishida, ‘development’ does not mean the growth from immaturity, but the differentiation of whole unity that has no distinction in itself.
13 “The idea that the unity of consciousness is limited to individual consciousness is a dogmatic assumption added on to pure experience” (nkz 1.144). Discrimination between the self and not-self derives from an analysis of pure experience. “Pure experience can transcend the individual person.... It is not that there is experience because there is an individual, but that there is an individual because there is experience. The individual’s experience is simply a small, distinctive sphere of limited experience within true experience” (1.23-24). “I thus arrived at the idea that experience is more fundamental than individual differences, and in this way I was able to avoid solipsism” (1.7).
14 In Plotinus too, we can attain to the union with the One by our self-renouncement, and the One is the principle of unity of the intelligible world (cf. vi717.15-16 and 24-25) that is “One-Many” (v41.21, vi714.11-12, vi215.14, 15, v315.11, cf. Plato Parmenides 142b-155e) and the ultimate cause of unity of individuals in the sensible world through Intellect and the soul (vi91). However, the One is not directly related to the unification of this world, and unlike Nishida, Plotinus had no idea of a process of the world towards a greater unity. The Plotinian One does not correspond to Nishida’s notion of unity, and the decisive difference is that it is irrelevant to our consciousness that has the sensible world as object. On the notion of unity in Nishida, see M. Dalissier (2009), which discusses in detail Nishida’s philosophy from his original perspective of cavity and unification.
15 In Intuition and Reflection in Self-Awareness, Nishida states, “In terms of a theory of stages of reality, Plotinus, Pseudo-Dionysius, and Eriugena show that God transcends all categories, that absolute free will which entirely eludes reflection is the most concrete, primary reality” (2.245).
16 Cf. K. Nishida (1987).
17 Cf. Eriugena, De divisione naturae, 1.1 (441B), 4.39 (1019A-B).
18 As for Nishida’s logic of place, see K. Kosaka (1991) 208-221.
19 On early thought of Nishida, see also S. Ueda (1993).
20 Nishida repeats in Fundamental Problems of Philosophy (1933) too, “As in Plotinus, we can say that to act is to see” (6.110). He writes also in the preface of the Japanese translation of Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre (1930), “I am not apart from Fichte even now, but behind the development of his Tathandlung I seek only for a seer of the self like that of Plotinus, and from this standpoint I would like to comprehend Fichte’s thought of Tathandlung as well” (11.278).
21 “Plotinus says that nature does not create in seeing, but for nature, to see is to create” (3.29).
22 For the construction of this passage, see R. Okano (2005).
23 Cf. v42.33-37, vi721.4-6. The external activity of a hypostasis is different from the hypostasis itself (v42.29-30). It is an activity that constitutes the substance of the succeeding hypostasis (cf. v21.16-18, vi222.26-28).
24 Like Nishida’s place of nothingness, which is a “seeing without a seer”, the Plotinian One is “the first activity (ἐνέργεια) without substance (οὐσία)” (vi820.9-10), that is, an activity without subject. However, in the strict sense that the One transcends being and “activity” (I71.19-20), Intellect that is the external activity of the One is “the first activity (πρώτη ἐνέργεια)” (v312.27, vi740.23).
26 However, in Plotinian Intellect, subject and object are still one and the same and it is in the sensible realm that subject and object are completely separated.
27 On the doctrine of the inchoate intellect, see v42.3-12, v21.7-13, vi715.10-24, 16.10-22, 17.11-34, 35.19-33. See also the commentaries on these passages in J. Bussanich (1988), and in P. Hadot (1988).
28 See R. Okano (2007) 107-110. Hegel construes the generation of Plotinian intellect by the self-reversion of the One, despite his reference to v21.7-11 that describes the genesis of the inchoate intellect and its reversion to the One. (G. W. F. Hegel 1996. 181).
29 Nishida, who construes that Plotinian Intellect is generated by the self-contemplation of the One, states in discussing the One, “I think that when self-awareness that the self knows the self is considered, being comes out from such nothingness” (nkz 14.358).
30 Referring to v21.7-11 mentioned in note 27, Beierwaltes writes as follows; “Es entsteht nicht zunächst “Etwas”, das sich dann in sich selbst zurück- oder auf das Eine selbst denkend hinwendet, sondern das Entstehen ist zugleich die Hinwendung auf sich selbst und den Ursprung. Hervorgang und Rückgang sind in der Eine, durch diesen Hervor- und Rückgang allererst entstehenden ὑπόστασις identisch” (W. Beierwaltes 1967, 16).
31 “The soul is in Intellect and body in the soul (cf. iii93.2-4, iii711.34, v59.29-30, Plato Timaeus 36d9-e1), and Intellect in something else” (v59.31). “The intelligible place (τόπος) is in the One” (vi735.41). According to Nishida’s statement, “Plotinus says that intelligible things are enveloped in the One. The One is space of intelligible things” (nkz 3.381).
32 In Nishida’s latter philosophy, the reciprocal simultaneousness of seeing and acting is called ‘action-intuition’ and described from the point of action of our subjective self which shoulders the historical world.
33 On Tanabe’s criticism of Nishida and their mutually influential relationship, see H. Mine (2012).
34 Since Nishida does not indicate his source when he uses the noesis-noema notion, it is difficult to confirm philologically from which knowledge it derives. Even though it is introduced from Husserl’s phenomenology, the use of the term is based on Nishida’s own interpretation (Y. Itabashi 2004, 164).
35 Nishida calls also “the objective logic” the Western logic of being or the logic of subject (in opposition to predicate), which is opposed to his own logic of place.
36 Nishida states, “Plotinus does not seem to think that the ultimate indeterminate matter is directly connected to the One, but it is important” (nkz 10.366-367).
37 In the mid-twentieth century, there was still an opinion that the notion of intelligible matter is inconsistent with the normal doctrine of Plotinus, according to which matter is the end of the procession from the One (Ph. Merlan 1953, 125). Heinemann too, thought that Plotinus denied intelligible matter in ii53 (F. Heinemann 1921, 164, 174-176).
38 Plotinus says also in ii45.28-37 that “the indeterminate movement and otherness” that are the principle of intelligible matter are generated firstly from the One, and then, they are determined (that is, formed) when they turn towards the One. We can regard “the movement and otherness” as intelligible matter in the role of reception of form (cf. Rist, J. M. 1971, 82).
40 Cf. note 24.
41 See Okano 2007 on the validity of establishment of knowledge from the Plotinian One.
42 However in Plotinus as well, the One is that from which the activity of thinking and living proceeds. We are united with such a principle in our union with the One, and thereafter we descend to the lower realms again. As far as the Plotinian One is “the productive power of all things (δύναμις πάντων)” (e.g. v17.9-10, iii810.1, v41.36, 2.38), also the union with the One must have a dynamical aspect.
43 Though ‘the union’ with the absolute asserted in An Inquiry into the Good is maintained also in The Essence of Religion (nkz 11.85) written in 1914, Nishida manifests, as we will observe later, a different religious notion from the union of God and humans in his last complete article, where he denies “our becoming or approaching the gods and Buddha in one and the same direction” (10.329).
44 We might be able to say that the simultaneousness of our activity and that of the One can be seen in Plotinus too. F. M. Schroeder (1996, 350) indicates as follows. “The restlessness of the soul, its wanting always to express what it has and thus distance itself from its having and its intuition, belongs to the very structure of the Plotinian universe.... Thus the Soul, even at the moment of its union (sunousia) with the One, proclaims (angellonta) that union (vi9.7.22-23). In so doing, it becomes the reflective and declarative instrument of the One which, as we know from v3.14.18-19, bestows speech”.
45 Cf. note 32.
46 Nishida is influenced also by Augustine’s theory of time that regards the past, the present and the future as the present about the past, the present about the present and the present about the future respectively (Confessiones., xi, 20, 26, cf. nkz 3.318, 5.31, 105, 144, 7.242).
47 Nishida compares the self-awareness determination of absolute nothingness to “an infinite circle, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere” (nkz 5.148. cf. Pensées de Pascal, Fragment 72), and states that the present determines the present itself everywhere as the self-determination of the eternal now (nkz 5.153) and our self exists where the present determines the present itself (5.146, 207). According to him, also the connection of the “I” and “you” is thought as continuity of discontinuity (cf, 5, 185).
48 The term byōjōtei (in another pronunciation, heijōtei) derives from Zen. In nkz 10.336, Nishida refers to the word of Nanquan Puyuan (748-835): “Your ordinary mind (byōjōsin),―that is the Way” (R. H. Blyth 2002. 147). In the same context and in 10.353, he refers also to the word of Linji Yixuan (?-866/67): “Followers of the Way, as to buddhadharma, no effort is necessary. You have only to be ordinary, with nothing to do—defecating, urinating, wearing clothes, eating food, and lying down when tired. Fools laugh at me, but the wise understand” (T. Y. Kirchner 2009. 11-12).
49 A German translation of The logic of place and the Religious World View is included in K. Nishida (1999). An explanatory list of concepts of Nishida’s philosophy is added at the end of this book.
50 O’Meara regards the mystical experience stated at the beginning of iv8 as what is “habituel” and writes: “ce serait plutôt l’expérience de l’état primaire de l’âme, rendue discontinue par le rapport qui existe entre l’âme et le corps” (D. O’Meara 1974, 244). However, in so far as this consciousness becomes intermittent because of the relation with body, the converse would be also true and we might say that our awakening to the consciousness of this state is an exceptional and temporary experience. Hadot refers to Porphyry’s statement that Plotinus had mystical experiences four times while Porphyry stayed with him (Vita Plotini 23.1-27) and describes these experiences as “expériences ponctuelles, relativement rares, qui ont un commencement et une fin” (P. Hadot 1987, 6).
If the One has always its external activity and emanates its power, we might be able to say that our descent from the One is natural and it has even a positive aspect, because “beauty, righteousness and virtue” are generated through the contact with the One (vi99.19).
51 Nishida refers to “the circular movement” of the soul in Plotinus (3.371, cf. 11.440).
52 Nishida refers to Plotinus’ “escape in solitude to the solitary” (vi911.51).
53 I wish to acknowledge the helpful suggestions and remarks of Prof. J. Dillon of Trinity College Dublin on the whole description of this paper, and of Prof. Kiyoshi Sakai of Gakushuin University and Dr. Ching-yuen Cheung of the Chinese University of Hong Kong especially on Nishida’s philosophy.
M. Yusa (1995) 295-296.
Cf. J. W. M. Krummel (2010).
Cf. R. Ōhashi (1994) 240.
Cf. C. A. Rigsby (2010).
Cf. M. Fujita (1994).
Cf. K. Nishida (1987).
Cf. G. J. P. O’Daly (1973) 92-94; (1974) 167-169.
See R. Okano (2007) 107-110. Hegel construes the generation of Plotinian intellect by the self-reversion of the One, despite his reference to v21.7-11 that describes the genesis of the inchoate intellect and its reversion to the One. (G. W. F. Hegel 1996. 181).
Cf. P. Hadot (1988) 66-7, 340-5; (1987) 24-27; (1980) 245; G. J. P. O’Daly (1974) 164-169.