Existenz Menu
An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts
ISSN 1932-1066

Volume 13, No.1, Spring 2018

Perspectives on Japan, Existentiality,
and Religion


Index and Editor's Introduction

Reminiscences of Japan
Gerhard G. Knauss | Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany

In diary format, Gerhard Knauss recollects the circumstances leading to his acceptance of a teaching position at Tohoku Daigaku University right in the aftermath of World War II. The narrative recounts first-person experiences related to the cultural differences between and similarities of Germany and Japan in their coming to terms with a lost war. The relevance and impact of German cultural and intellectual life and industrial production, and the interference by the Allied powers are rendered in a manner that adds additional insight to officially recorded historical accounts.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Japanese culture; German-Japanese relations; Second Word War; Tohoku University; Heidelberg University; politics in academe.


Subject-Object Division in Jaspers, Schopenhauer, and Nishida
Gerhard G. Knauss | Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany

For Karl Jaspers the subject-object division of consciousness is the primal phenomenon of human consciousness. The essay addresses how Jaspers' concept of the encompassing could be further developed to overcome a logical challenge that arises in relation to this divide. Drawing on Schopenhauer, Kant, and Nishida the essay sheds light onto the ontological and epistemological presuppositions related to the fundamental two-fold nature of the division of consciousness: oneness and multifariousness as well as unity and generality. The prerequisite for a subject-object division is a state of pure experience, the understanding of which may very well be outside a conceptual grasp.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Nishida, Kitarō; Schopenhauer, Arthur; consciousness; subject-object-division; dichotomy; oneness; logic of the encompassing; pure experience; epistemology.


Toward a Holistic Interpretation of Karl Jaspers' Philosophy
Endre Kiss | Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest, Hungary

Of three typological characteristics that can be found in Karl Jaspers' thought, the first is the sequence of thorough transformations, if not revaluations, by which he changed existential thought. Jaspers separates into two parts the existential complex that traditionally has not only been unified but also constituted existential thought par excellence through its unity. By way of juxtaposing philosophical creation of meaning to existentiality, Jaspers goes beyond the boundaries of the fundamental self-identification of existential thought, for it is a trait of existential thought that it does not accept an assignment of extraneous meaning; in this respect the existential point of departure constitutes also a negative determination that heralds a provocative negation of any and all attempts for providing extraneous meaning. The second characteristic of Jaspers’ philosophy that could hardly be integrated into existing philosophical typologies consists in the relation between science and philosophy. What is at stake here is not an exclusive primacy of philosophy at the expense of science. Both sides of the relation between science and philosophy are of a unique quality in the twentieth century, with equal relevance given to both. Additionally to the distinctive primacy of philosophy that is conspicuous, also the simultaneous and completely transparent normativity claim of this primacy is conspicuous. The third typological characteristic I would call perspectivism. At this juncture it ought to be already clear that this characteristic provisionally only shares the name with Friedrich Nietzsche's fundamental concept of philosophical perspectivism. This perspectival quality of Jaspers consists in the fact that his incessantly dynamic thinking opens up immediate new directions for reflection and inquiry. In the context of unfolding a thought process there are always new perspectives that open up, which Jaspers thematizes immediately, and builds on them with fruitful generousness.

Keywords: Nietzsche, Friedrich; perspectivism; existentiality; meaning, creation of; scientism; epistemology; legitimating of semantics; philosophical typology.


Transcendence and Immanence, West and East: A Case Study of Japanese Divinity
Tomoko Iwasawa | Reitaku University in Chiba, Japan

This essay discusses the psychosomatic aspect of Japanese religiosity by first providing an etymological analysis of kami (the Japanese notion of divinity) and then, by analyzing how kami is symbolized in a contemporary Japanese Shinto festival, The Great Pillar Festival of the Suwa Shrine. The study shows that the Japanese kami at no point refers to a transcendent, extra-cosmic, eternal God of Logos, but rather refers to an intra-cosmic divine essence that gives constant dynamism to all beings in the world, exerting itself only by way of residing in materiality. As such, the Japanese notion of divinity is inescapably a combination of the material and the spiritual, being surprisingly indifferent to the Western philosophical tradition of the mind-body dualism. By means of evaluating from a Jaspersian perspective this kind of Japanese divinity that is in no regard based on the concept of Transcendence, the essay explores the question whether this absence signifies an earlier stage of consciousness or whether there is a different way to interpret this disparity between Transcendence and Immanence, West and East.

Keywords: Japanese kami; Suwa Shrine; Great Pillar Festival; Existenz; Jaspers, Karl; transcendence; immanence; mind-body dualism; psychosomatic existence; the encompassing.


Boundaries of an Idea
Noreen Khawaja | Yale University

This essay examines the stakes and scope of my argument in Religion of Existence. I outline a broad arc for thinking about the post-existential legacy of authenticity, and respond to four scholarly essays taking up particular themes of my book. Here I discuss what it means to get an author right in a work framed as a study of a concept, consider questions of inclusion and hermeneutics, and reflect on existentialists use of "the moment" as a frame for ontological and ethical inquiry.

The session is viewable at YouTube.

Keywords: Pietism; conversion; existentialism; asceticism; cruel optimism; sin; author function; the moment.


Kierkegaard and Asceticism
Antony Aumann | Northern Michigan University

In The Religion of Existence, Noreen Khawaja suggests that Kierkegaard is an ascetic thinker. By this, she means that he regards religious striving as (1) requiring ceaseless renewal and (2) being an end in itself rather than a means to some further end. I raise challenges to both claims in Khawaja's proposal. I argue that the first claim stands in tension with Kierkegaard's contention that his infinitely demanding account of religious existence is meant merely as a corrective. The second claim, I maintain, does not fit well with his assertion that eternal salvation is at stake in religious striving.

Keywords: Kierkegaard, Søren; asceticism; existentialism; religion; correctives; rhetoric; Pelagianism; afterlife; eternity.


The Religion of Co-Existence: Buber and Jaspers on the Mutuality of Authenticity
Sara L. H. Shady | Bethel University

Noreen Khawaja's The Religion of Existence traces the influence of a Protestant Pietist view of personal conversion through the work of Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, and Jean-Paul Sartre. I critique Khawaja's study on the basis that it is limited, for she traces only one aspect of Pietism (personal conversion) through only one set of existentialists (Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Sartre). Her strong analysis of existentialism can be expanded by exploring how existentialism has also been dramatically impacted by Pietism's emphasis on bearing witness to one's conversion through a never-ending responsibility to love one's neighbor. The work of both Martin Buber and Karl Jaspers, which emphasizes the mutuality of authenticity, is particularly ripe for extending Khawaja's study in this direction.

Keywords: Buber, Martin; Jaspers, Karl; existentialism; Pietism; authenticity; secularism; Christianity; communication; mutuality.


Sin as Alienation: On Khawaja's Interpretation of Kierkegaard
Dawn Eschenauer Chow | University of Chicago

Noreen Khawaja's The Religion of Existence offers an interpretation of Søren Kierkegaard's account of sin and despair as an account of alienation and our struggle to overcome it. I argue that Khawaja's interpretation of Kierkegaard is incompatible with Kierkegaard's insistence that sin must necessarily be the sinner's own fault—a result of the sinner's own free choice. I consider two possible ways of harmonizing Khawaja's account with this claim, one proposing a fictive acceptance of fault for what is not actually one's fault, and one based on the claim that sin presupposes sin-consciousness, but argue that neither constitutes a satisfactory solution. I conclude that while alienation does constitute sin for Kierkegaard, it does so for a different reason than Khawaja proposes.

Keywords: Khawaja, Noreen; Kierkegaard, Søren; alienation; sin; despair; blame; responsibility; freedom; choice; Christianity.


The Role of Conversion in The Religion of Existence
Ryan S. Kemp | Wheaton College

There are two notions of conversion at play for the existentialists. One involves the kind of continual decision that Noreen Khawaja associates with authenticity: affirming an already present identity. The other involves a radical change in character: transforming from one sort of person to another. I argue that Khawaja pays insufficient attention to the second notion and that this may have implications for her development of the first.

Keywords: Kierkegaard, Søren; Khawaja, Noreen; conversion; existentialism; virtue formation; authenticity.



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