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Nishida Kitarō

(1870-1945). The most important philosopher of modern Japan. Nishida's active life spans some 40 years, during which he strove to assimilate Western philosophy and methodology and to create his own distinctive philosophy based largely upon the eastern religious, especially Buddhist, tradition. Born in 1870 near the city of Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture to a prominent family. He entered Tokyo University, graduating in 1894. He enjoyed a lifelong relationship with prominent philospher and exponent of Buddhism D.T. Suzuki. In his works, he sought to derive the individual reality of everything, whether a thing or a self, from the self-identity of "absolute Nothingness." He also formulated such concepts as "pure experience" and "absolute free will," which were influenced by his studies of Henri Bergson and a range of Neo-Kantian philosophers. His most famous works include Zen no kenkyū (1911; tr A study of Good, 1960), Jikaku ni okeru chokkan to hansei (1917, Intuition and Reflection in Self-Consciousness), Hataraku mono kara miru mono e (1927, From the Acting to the Seeing), Mu no jikakuteki gentei (1932, The Self-Conscious Determination of Nothingness), Tetsugaku no kompon mondai (2 vol, 1933-34; tr Fundamental Problems of Philosophy, 1970), and Testugaku rombunshū (7 vols, 1937-46, Philosophical Essays). (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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