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Graduate Institute Lecture, 8/5

Originally Posted on admin, August 2, 2009

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Graduate Institute Lecture, 8/5: Asia’s Most Influential Philosopher

Who:     Michael Bybee

What:    Graduate Institute Summer Lecture

Title:      “Nishida Kitarō”

Where:   Junior Common Room, Peterson Student Center
               St. John’s College

When:     Wednesday, August 5, 3:00 p.m.

Details:   This lecture is free of charge, open to the public, and followed by a question-and-answer period.

Japan’s greatest philosopher and arguably the greatest philosopher of the 20th Century, Nishida Kitarō (1870-1945) attended the University of Tokyo just when the Meiji Restoration and “the opening of Japan” allowed Japan’s academic elite to adopt and adapt Occidental ideas and disciplines.  Nishida majored in a strange new discipline called “tetsugaku” (a word coined to translate “philosophy”), enabling him to blend newly imported Occidental concepts and methods with traditional Buddhist approaches and apply the results creatively to traditional issues in Asian thought.

While a professor at the University of Kyoto, Nishida developed the logic of basho--(“place,” “situation,” or “topos”) as an alternative to or amplification of (1) Nagarjuna’s notion of sunya (emptiness, nothingness), (2) Dōgen’s notion of jisetsu (“circumstances,” “occasion,” “situation”), and (3) traditional Aristotelian, Kantian, and Hegelian logics and metaphysics.  Nishida founded “the Kyoto School” of philosophy and remains Asia’s single most influential modern philosopher.

St. John’s tutor Michael Bybee will informally trace the historical development of one Buddhist enigma (how time and causality, paticcasamuppada, relate), explain briefly Nishida’s notion of basho, and show how Nishida applied basho to dissolve this problem. 

Michael Bybee has been a tutor at the college since 1996. He holds a doctorate in philosophy and has taught philosophy, English, and rhetoric on college campuses in California, Idaho, and Oregon.