Japanese Hermeneutics

Japanese Hermeneutics: Current Debates on Aesthetics and Interpretation

Copyright Date: 2002
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    Japanese Hermeneutics
    Book Description:

    Japanese Hermeneuticsprovides a forum for the most current international debates on the role played by interpretative models in the articulation of cultural discourses on Japan. It presents the thinking of esteemed Western philosophers, aestheticians, and art and literary historians, and introduces to English-reading audiences some of Japan's most distinguished scholars, whose work has received limited or no exposure in the United States.

    In the first part, "Hermeneutics and Japan," contributors examine the difficulties inherent in articulating "otherness" without falling into the trap of essentialization and while relying on Western epistemology for explanation and interpretation. In the second part, "Japan's Aesthetic Hermeneutics," they explore the role of aesthetics in shaping discourses on art and nature in Japan. The essays in the final section of the book, "Japan's Literary Hermeneutics," rethink the notion of "Japanese literature" in light of recent findings on the ideological implications of canon formations and transformations within Japan's prominent literary circles.

    Contributors:Amagasaki Akira, Haga Toru, Hamashita Masahiro, Inaga Shigemi, Kambayashi Tsunemichi, Thomas LaMarre, John C. Maraldo, Michael F. Marra, Mark Meli, Ohashi Ryosuke, Otabe Tanehisa, Graham Parkes, J. Thomas Rimer, Sasaki Ken'ichi, Haruo Shirane, Suzuki Sadami, Stefan Tanaka, Gianni Vattimo.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6310-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    Michael F. Marra

    This book contains revised versions of papers originally presented during an international conference that I organized at the University of California, Los Angeles: “Japanese Hermeneutics: Current Debates on Aesthetics and Interpretation.” The immediate purpose of the December 13–15, 1998, conference was to introduce to an audience in the United States leading Japanese aestheticians, philosophers, and art and literary historians who were thoroughly familiar with European academic thought (especially German, French, and British) but who had limited or no exposure to the American academic scene. The Japanese scholars included aestheticians Amagasaki Akira, Hamashita Masahiro, Kambayashi Tsunemichi, Otabe Tanehisa, and Sasaki...

    • 1 Method, Hermeneutics, Truth
      (pp. 9-16)
      Gianni Vattimo

      I propose that we do not consider the purely fortuitous fact of our discussing, here, among Western and Japanese scholars, the theme of hermeneutics and criticism. I would like to remind you of Richard Rorty’s treatment of hermeneutics in hisPhilosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Rorty defines hermeneutics in contrast to epistemology, following Thomas Kuhn’s distinction between “normal” and “revolutionary” science. Normal science is the practice of solving problems within the framework of a given paradigm, that is,

      against the background of a consensus about what counts as a good explanation of the phenomena and about what it would...

    • 2 Poetics of Intransitivity
      (pp. 17-24)
      Sasaki Ken’ichi

      To begin, I should explain the subject of this essay in terms of the general theme of this volume, that is to say, explain what kind of hermeneutics we will be concerned with here. The aim of this essay is not the interpretation of a particular text or hermeneutics as the simple execution of interpretation; rather, since it takes as its subject matter not a text but a theory, our task can be described as a metatheoretical interpretation: It concerns, therefore, philosophical hermeneutics. More precisely, I will take up a traditional idea in Japanese poetics and interpret it in relation...

    • 3 The Hermeneutic Approach to Japanese Modernity: “Art-Way,” “Iki,” and “Cut-Continuance”
      (pp. 25-35)
      Ōhashi Ryōsuke

      Because Japan has modernized and Europeanized itself in the past 140 years, “Europeanness”—that which is intrinsic to “Europe”—has become one of the elements that form “Japaneseness.” Europeanness and Japaneseness no longer stand in dichotomous contrast. A hermeneutics of “Japaneseness” requires first the perception of Europeanness as the “other in itself” for the Japanese self.

      Kuki Shūzō’sThe Structure of “Iki”offers an excellent example of this hermeneutics of Japaneseness. Kuki understands“iki”as “a remarkable expression of the specific mode of ethnic existence of Japanese folk.” According to Kuki, the hermeneutic study of“iki”should be a “hermeneutics...

    • 4 Frame and Link: A Philosophy of Japanese Composition
      (pp. 36-43)
      Amagasaki Akira

      I would like to begin by recalling a conversation with a European aesthetician about the structuralist analysis of poetry. Listening to his reasoning, I gradually came to feel uneasy. It took me awhile to realize that his premises about poetry were completely different from mine. He held that parallel structures are among the most distinctive feature of poetry, while for me—and for most Japanese readers—repetition is not a priority in poetry. We must remember that the major form of Japanese poetry,tanka, has thirty-one syllables in five verses, the upper strophe of which has three lines with five,...

    • 5 The Eloquent Stillness of Stone: Rock in the Dry Landscape Garden
      (pp. 44-59)
      Graham Parkes

      Japanese studies in the West have often been intoxicated by exoticism to the point of uncritical adulation of their subject, while the corresponding enterprise in Japan has frequently taken the form ofNihonjinron, beginning as discussions of what it means to be Japanese but then degenerating into “theories of Japanese uniqueness.” Some of the writing on Japanese gardens has tended to overemphasize their uniqueness in terms of generalized oppositions of the “Western gardens are this” versus “Japanese gardens are not-this” variety. Recent scholarship on Japan in the United States, however, has sometimes overreacted to the silliness of theNihonjinronliterature...

    • 6 Motoori Norinaga’s Hermeneutic of Mono no Aware: The Link between Ideal and Tradition
      (pp. 60-75)
      Mark Meli

      The term“mono no aware”has been often used by both Japanese and Westerners to exemplify an important aspect of what is seen as a traditional Japanese aesthetic consciousness, orbi-ishiki. In the spoken language, the component“aware”depicts sorrow or misery;“mono no”attributes this“aware”to the things of the world, taken either in the particular or more usually the abstract sense. This literal sorrow or misery of things is taken often to signify a sad, fleeting beauty that is conspicuous in traditional Japanese cultural expressions. Thus regarded,mono no awareis easily connected to the Buddhist notion...

    • 7 Between Individual and Communal, Subject and Object, Self and Other: Mediating Watsuji Tetsurō’s Hermeneutics
      (pp. 76-86)
      John C. Maraldo

      The philosopher Watsuji Tetsurō (1889–1960) pioneered not only the critical reception of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger in Japan as well as the philosophical study of early Indian Buddhism and of the medieval Zen master Dōgen but also the discipline of hermeneutics. It was Watsuji’s development of hermeneutics that enabled him to make truly original contributions to the philosophy of climate and culture and to ethical theory. An account of Watsuji’s hermeneutical method will in turn enable us, in an age of deep suspicions, to move beyond the prejudices of his texts.¹

      Recent critical scholarship has taken Watsuji’s works on...

    • 8 Nishi Amane on Aesthetics: A Japanese Version of Utilitarian Aesthetics
      (pp. 89-96)
      Hamashita Masahiro

      Nishi Amane’s (1829–1897) great accomplishment in establishing the fundamentals of Western learning in modern Japan suggests many interesting questions, ranging from the translation of technical terms of Western learning and to the transition from feudalistic, traditional Confucian ways of thinking to those of Western practical ways. In this essay on Nishi’s modern aesthetics I will confine myself to two issues: first, Nishi’s studies of aesthetics and the development of the words he used to translate the term “aesthetics” and, second, how the terminology for aesthetics reflects Nishi’s mental attitude toward a Western set of ideas.

      In the East Asian...

    • 9 Hegel in Tokyo: Ernest Fenollosa and His 1882 Lecture on the Truth of Art
      (pp. 97-108)
      J. Thomas Rimer

      From a vantage point at the dawn of a new century, the larger contours of the development of a modern Japanese art, which began more than a hundred years ago, now seem possible to discern. Certainly from the 1890s on, with the beginning of instruction at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (Tokyo Bijutsu Gakkō) in 1889 and the development of various exhibition systems, the creation of museums, and the establishment of other art-related groups and organizations, the ebb and flow of various forces—artistic, political, and cultural—were at last to find a framework to repair to or rebel...

    • 10 Ōgai, Schelling, and Aesthetics
      (pp. 109-114)
      Kambayashi Tsunemichi

      The east tower of Yakushiji Temple in Nishinokyō is known as one of the most beautiful pagodas in Nara. Its rhythmical elegant figure has been praised as “frozen music.” This romantic expression, however, originally derives from Schelling’sPhilosophie der Kunst,¹ in which the German philosopher symbolically defines architecture in general as music in space. Who was the first to use such a poetic expression to praise the elegance of the East Tower of Yakushiji Temple? Despite the lack of documentary evidence, people in Japan have attributed the phrase to E. F. Fenollosa, who taught economics and political science, as well...

    • 11 Cognitive Gaps in the Recognition of Masters and Masterpieces in the Formative Years of Japanese Art History, 1880–1900: Historiography in Conflict
      (pp. 115-126)
      Inaga Shigemi

      Because it is a Western product, the concept of art history was alien to the East Asian cultural sphere in the nineteenth century. Art history as an institution was not a native Japanese construct but a new category imported from the West. Neither spontaneous nor indigenous, the art history of Japan was conceived by imitating and duplicating Western models. During the Meiji era (1867–1911), in reaction to Western influences, the young empire made major efforts to implant the legal and social apparatuses necessary for implementing a westernized constitutional monarchy. It was in accordance with this general consolidation of Japan’s...

    • 12 Nature—the Naturalization of Experience as National
      (pp. 127-141)
      Stefan Tanaka

      The use of nature is a powerful device for authorizing the veracity of one’s position. What is “natural” is accepted as timeless and passed on. Yet nature is not singular, nor is it unchanging. Many years ago, Arthur O. Lovejoy cataloged the multiplicity of meanings he found in the word “nature” and noted its tendency “to slip more or less insensibly from one connotation to another, and thus in the end to pass from one ethical or aesthetic standard to its very antithesis, while nominally professing the same principles.”¹ It is in this slippage—the reliance on a principle of...

    • 13 Coincidentia Oppositorum: Ōnishi Yoshinori’s Greek Genealogies of Japan
      (pp. 142-152)
      Michael F. Marra

      When we look at the history of Japanese aesthetics beginning from the early writings of Okakura Tenshin (1862–1913), we are faced with the presence of a hermeneutical technique that became a widespread “leitmotif” among aestheticians building up a distinctive “Japanese” subjectivity. We might call this technique “comparison and reduction” because it implies a comparison of local realities with the West and a consequent reduction of the “otherness” of such realities to a foreign “Other.” The move is paradoxical inasmuch as it claims to establish notions of “distinctness” by creating images of Japan that are actually a miniaturized version of...

    • 14 Representations of “Japaneseness” in Modern Japanese Aesthetics: An Introduction to the Critique of Comparative Reason
      (pp. 153-162)
      Otabe Tanehisa

      The task of this essay is to clarify how in the past fifty years Japanese aestheticians have pursued “Japanese aesthetic qualities” as their subject matter. As is well known, scholarly study in modern Japan mainly took the shape of “imported learning.” The same has been true in the study of aesthetics. In general, the basic attitude of Japanese aestheticians has been “outward.” I do not mean to argue, however, that Japanese scholars of aesthetics have simply imported Western theories. While adopting Western hermeneutical strategies, they have also published comparative studies on Eastern/Western arts and art theories. These two different movements—...

    • 15 Constructing “Japanese Literature”: Global and Ethnic Nationalism
      (pp. 165-175)
      Haruo Shirane

      Japanese literature, especially classical Japanese literature, is thought by those both in and outside Japan to be the unique product of a nation called Japan, while the texts of Japanese literature are thought to embody the cultural characteristics of the “people” of Japan. Japanese literature as we know it today, however, has been deeply influenced by non-Japanese cultures, particularly that of China up until the late nineteenth century, and by Europe from the late nineteenth century onward. Furthermore, the two key notions of “nation”(kokka)and “literature”(bungaku)that lie behind today’s notion ofkokubungaku, or what is now more...

    • 16 What Is Bungaku? The Reformulation of the Concept of “Literature” in Early Twentieth-Century Japan
      (pp. 176-188)
      Suzuki Sadami

      This essay seeks, first, to clarify what is meant by the termbungaku, or literature, in the context of modern Japanese letters. In particular, it seeks to examine the shift in the meaning of this key term from an earlier, broader and more general definition to one that is more narrowly focused on literature as a form of high, or fine, creative, linguistic act. The process of redefining the meaning ofbungakubegan through the efforts of a few scholars of Western civilization, novelists and literary critics beginning in the mid-1880s. During the 1890s and early 1900s, conceptual conflicts over...

    • 17 Primitive Vision: Heidegger’s Hermeneutics and Man’yōshū
      (pp. 189-205)
      Thomas LaMarre

      Acts of seeing abound in the songs ofMan’yōshū, particularly in the earliest songs of this collection, which is often celebrated as the oldest anthology of Japanese verse (compiled around 759). There are so many evocations of vision, so many different kinds of seeing, and a range of different characters for acts of seeing that become entwined with verbs, nouns, and adjectives to form a series of visual refrains that catch the imagination, even in translation: “gazing to recall fondly”(mitsutsu shinobu), “fair to behold”(mireba sayakeshi), or “never tire of seeing”(miredo akanu). In this song by the legendary...

    • 18 Saitō Mokichi’s Poetics of Shasei
      (pp. 206-214)
      Haga Tōru

      This is the famous definition of the word“shasei”given by Saitō Mokichi (1882–1953). The words are all unusual and resist any easy misappropriation. Was this a sort of incantation? No, this was a definition the poet dared to put forward in 1920, at the age of thirty-eight, after many years of experience and reflection on the creation oftanka. It is, therefore, difficult to understand, still unique and spellbinding, endowed with the power of an inner impulse the poet could not contain. Still stressing his belief in“shasei,”he continues his discussion in the following passage, even using...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 215-240)
    (pp. 241-244)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 245-252)