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Nihilism as Egoism | Keiji Nishitani

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Highly regarded in the history of Japanese philosophy, Keiji Nishitani (1900-1990) was one of the foremost Eastern minds grappling with the challenge of Western nihilism and its relation to the Buddhist concept of sunyata (emptiness/voidness). At the center of his philosophy lies what he called “the abyss of nihility” the absence of any meaningful relationship between the human being and the indifferent, impersonal world into which it is randomly cast. Rather than ignore this abyss, Nishitani sought to go deeper into it. As he once put it, “the fundamental problem of my life has always been, put simply, the overcoming of nihilism through nihilism.”

In the 19205 Nishitani studied philosophy at Kyoto University, where he made this “abyss of nihility” the cornerstone of his thinking. There he would become affiliated With the Kyoto School tradition (examined in James Heisig’s pioneering 2001 study “Philosophers of N othingness”) and began to conceive of a syncretic, comparative philosophy that would bring together elements from Mahayana Buddhism, the mystical philosophy of German theologian Meister Eckhart, the Zen writings of Dogen and Nietzschean nihilism.

This essay is a decidedly sympathetic discussion by Nishitani on the often-overlooked nihilist dimension of Max Stirner’s project.


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