Japanese Thought That Emphasizes a Qualified Form of Seeing

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By Robert Hanna and Otto Paans:

"We can also find a long tradition in Japanese thought that emphasizes a ‘qualified form of seeing’.

For example, it’s salient in Nishi Amane’s philosophical aesthetics, in Ōnishi Yoshinori’s account of the notion of aware,115and also later on in the work of Kitarō Nishida. Notably, Nishida based an important tenet of his philosophy of the notion of ‘pure experience’116 and later on, developed it into the notion of ‘object logic’. Concisely put, according to Nishida we erroneously revert to an ‘object logic’ or fragmented world-picture once we suppress or deform our innate abilities for real seeing. Thinking about discrete, manipulable objects leads, according to Nishida, to a distorted world hypothesis—or distorted root-metaphor—about how the world actually functions. This distortion stems from the fact that we’ve turned our back on our abilities to comprehend the world as a unity.


  • Aware’ is the Japanese word for a special kind of aesthetic perception. Although it’s a homonym of the English term ‘aware’, and even overlaps in meaning with the English word slightly, it expresses an importantly different concept.
  • Nishida borrowed and adapted the notion of ‘pure experience’ from William James, and it forms the backbone of much of his early thinking, although he also refined and reworked it over the years. See, e.g., K. Nishida, An Inquiry Into the Good, trans. C. Ives and A. Masao, New Haven, CT, Yale Univ. Press, 1990, pp. 3–10. See also W. James, ‘A World of Pure Experience’, Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 1, 1904, pp. 533–543.
  • Nishida’s views on ‘object logic’ are presented in K. Nishida, Last Writings: Nothingness and the Religious Worldview, Honolulu, HI, Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1993.118 J. W. Heisig, Much Ado About Nothingness: Essays on Nishida and Tanabe, Nayoga, Chisokudō Publications, 2016, p. 17.