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LUCIP Lecture Series with Yoko Arisaka

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Liberation or Domination? The Double-Edge of Universalism in Modern Japanese Philosophy

The Leiden University Centre for Intercultural Philosophy is proud to present the lecture by

Dr. Yoko Arisaka

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, modern Japanese philosophy emerged as a response against the encroaching civilizational and intellectual domination by Europe and America. Against the Hegelian developmental ontology in which the non-European civilizations were located as “behind” and Europe represented the realization of truth, the modern Japanese philosophers used Nishida’s ontology of Absolute Nothingness in order to offer a “more encompassing” universalism that would transcend the merely Eurocentric notion of universalism. Although Japan was never officially colonized, these philosophical attempts by the Kyoto School thinkers could be seen as the earliest prototype of a sustained decolonial critique. On the other hand, this universalism of Absolute Nothingness that was meant to transcend “Western” imperialism was then used as theoretical underpinnings of the colonial expansion by the Japanese Imperial Army. In the name of liberation from the West, the universalism of Absolute Nothingness became a tool of domination by the Japanese for the colonized in East Asia. In this presentation, I will refer to Nishida’s theory of Nations in his “Principles of the New World Order” (1943) in order to articulate the double-edged nature of universalism at work.

Dr. Yoko Arisaka
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