A Philosophical and Idea-Historical Examination of the Cultivation of the Self in Kiyozawa Manshi (2 August 2022 Tuesday)


"This dissertation identifies and situates in their idea-historical context the various modes of self-cultivation encountered in the oeuvre of the Shin (浄土真宗) Buddhist philosopher Kiyozawa Manshi 清沢満之 (1863-1903) and examines philosophically the systematic role they play in his answer to the question of the self. In the first part, I reconstruct the development of Kiyozawa’s practical philosophy of self-cultivation from his earlier to his later writings. After distinguishing a Western philosophical, Buddhist, and Confucian mode of self-cultivation – each of which fulfils its own specific role in Kiyozawa’s practical philosophy – I consider whether they are ultimately congruent with one another. As they are, the three modes are incompatible: Epictetus, the Western philosopher Kiyozawa values most, accepts the existence of the soul, while Buddhism denies it. I argue that Confucianism offers Kiyozawa a much-needed middle path between the two, and that it is precisely the dialectical tension among the three modes that allow them to remain in balance. Since Kiyozawa in his later writings establishes a clear link between self-cultivation and freedom, the thread that runs through the chapters of the first part to tie them together is an investigation into the development of what I describe as Kiyozawa’s ‘liberalism.’ The second part offers an examination of Kiyozawa’s metaphysics and logic, without which a systematic interpretation of Kiyozawa’s practical philosophy cannot be said to be complete. I there demonstrate that Kiyozawa in his early and middle to later works not only answers the question of the self in two mutually-exclusive ways, but also unfolds two antithetical visions of universal development. Finally, I consider the relationship between the so-called ‘fundamental contradiction’ and Kiyozawa’s practical philosophy, arguing that the fundamental contradiction can function as the basis for the interpretation of Kiyozawa as an existentialist."

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