On (the) nothing

Heidegger and Nishida

John Krummel

pp. 239-268

Two major twentieth century philosophers, of East and West, for whom the nothing is a significant concept are Nishida Kitarō and Martin Heidegger. Nishida’s basic concept is the absolute nothing (zettai mu) upon which the being of all is predicated. Heidegger, on the other hand, thematizes the nothing (Nichts) as the ulterior aspect of being. Both are responding to Western metaphysics that tends to substantialize being and dichotomize the real. Ironically, however, while Nishida regarded Heidegger as still trapped within the confines of Western metaphysics with its tendency to objectify, Heidegger’s impression of Nishida was that he is too Western, that is, metaphysical. Yet neither was too familiar with the other’s philosophical work as a whole. I thus compare and assess Nishida’s and Heidegger’s discussions of the nothing in their attempts to undermine traditional metaphysics while examining lingering assumptions about the Nishida–Heidegger relationship. Neither Nishida nor Heidegger means by “nothing” a literal nothing, but rather that which permits beings in their relative determinacy to be what they are and wherein or whereby we find ourselves always already in our comportment to beings. Nishida characterizes this as a place (basho) that negates itself to give rise to, or make room for, beings. For Heidegger, being as an event (Ereignis) that clears room for beings, releasing each into its own, is not a being, hence nothing. We may also contrast them on the basis of the language they employ in discussing the nothing. Yet each seemed to have had an intuitive grasp of an un/ground, foundational to experience and being. And in fact their paths cross in their respective critiques of Western substantialism, where they offer as an alterantive to that substantialist ontology, in different ways, what I call anontology.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11007-017-9419-3

Full citation:

Krummel, J. (2018). On (the) nothing: Heidegger and Nishida. Continental Philosophy Review 51 (2), pp. 239-268.

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