Visions of a place beyond time: Nishida Kitarō's historical world and the problem of overcoming modernity

Cunningham, Eric Paul.   University of Oregon ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  2004. 3120617.

Abstract (summary)

Since the end of World War II, the historical philosophy of Japanese thinker Nishida Kitarō has been the subject of ongoing academic controversy. Scholarly opinion concerning Nishida's historical philosophy seems to be divided into two main camps. The first consists mostly of intellectual historians, who criticize Nishida's work for its evident support of Japanese militarism during the 1930s and 1940s. The second consists largely of religious scholars, who either excuse Nishida's historical work as the product of the author's imperfect understanding of history, or attribute its nationalist rhetoric to the pressures of a political climate that gave Nishida little choice but to endorse his government's aggressive policies.

This dissertation maintains that neither of these views promotes an adequate understanding of the importance of Nishida's work to the study of intellectual history. By confining the critique of Nishida's historical philosophy within a modernist debate whose object seems to be assessing Nishida's guilt or innocence, the standard arguments prevent us from evaluating Nishida's various anti-modern historical positions in terms of their validity as a basis for postmodernism. This dissertation offers an original interpretive framework for reading Nishida's historical philosophy specifically in terms of its postmodern qualities, a framework herein referred to as the “psychedelic paradigm.”

Informed by the eschatological theories of psychedelic thinker Terence McKenna, and a variety of sources from the genre of psychedelic literature, this paradigm articulates a comprehensive system of historical dialectics. Inasmuch as it describes the historical process up to and including the theoretical end of history, the paradigm explains not only the presence of the phenomenon we call modernity, but its antitheses as well, specifically, the various social and cultural phenomena that have challenged modern consciousness throughout the twentieth century. Because these phenomena include not only the anti-modernism of wartime Japan, but also a range of other postmodern expressions, e.g., psychedelic consciousness, new-age spiritualism, and even global terrorism, the psychedelic paradigm provides a fruitful and inclusive methodology for examining the specific issue of Nishida's historical philosophy, as well as the broader question in which it is embedded, namely, the historical problem of transcending the modern world.

Indexing (details)

Asian history
0332: Asian History
0422: Philosophy
0578: History
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Social sciences; Historical world; Japan; Modernity; Nishida Kitaro
Visions of a place beyond time: Nishida Kitarō's historical world and the problem of overcoming modernity
Cunningham, Eric Paul
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 65/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Hanes, Jeffrey
University of Oregon
University location
United States -- Oregon
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL