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Keiji, Nishitani, Graham Parkes, Setsuko Aihara. The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism
1990, SUNY Press
, Contributed by: Quentin Pharr
Publisher’s Note:
In May of this year I had the opportunity to give several talks on the topic of nihilism. Initially I intended to focus on the three themes of Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, and Buddhism. When I was twenty, the fig­ures of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky burned a lasting impression deep into my soul-as I suppose they may still do to many young people even today-and the tremors I experienced at that time have con­tinued to make my heart tremble ever since. The final theme, of Buddhist "emptiness," came to capture my interest more gradu­ally. The connections among these three topics are not merely arbi­trary or external. The nihilism that Dostoevsky plumbed so deeply has important connections with that of Nietzsche, as a number of critics have pointed out; and Nietzsche considers what he calls Eu­ropean nihilism to be the European form of Buddhism. Even though there may be in Nietzsche a radical misunderstanding of the spirit of Buddhism, the fact that he considered it in relation to ni­hilism shows how well attuned he was to the real issue. It was con­siderations such as these that inclined me toward these three themes in my discussion of nihilism.

Comment: This text is an excellent overview of both some of the themes within Nishitani's work as well as European conceptions of nihilism and its overcoming. In general, some appreciation of Nietzsche and aspects of Buddhism will help students navigate this book. But, it is largely expository, so it will often inform readers of what they need in the course of reading. This text will primarily be for students who are looking for an overall perspective on nihilism - especially, a Japanese one.

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