The Politics of Pure Experience

Individual and State in An Inquiry into the Good




Nishida Kitarō, pure experience, Miyake Setsurei, Nitobe Inazō, Meiji Period, nationalism, imperialism, self-realization


In this contribution, I shall attempt to clearly work out the political implications of Nishida Kitaro’s theory of pure experience in An Inquiry into the Good. This effort comes in response to the multitude of vastly different claims about the political meaning and dangers of Nishida’s early philosophy. Is it an implicit foundation for Japanese nationalism and the seeds of the controversial political philosophy he would work out later? Or is it a subtle attempt to critique the nationalist philosophy and educational policies surrounding Nishida while he was writing in the Meiji era? Or, perhaps most obviously, is this work unconnected with any and all political matters (including those that Nishida would face later on in his life)? In this paper, I shall argue that, although there is good reason to endorse any of these claims, ultimately a balanced assessment will find that Nishida’s early philosophy was indeed apolitical in nature, and that attempts to claim the contrary inevitably either go beyond textual evidence or miss key elements of his thought. Yet, as I shall further argue, being apolitical hardly means that Nishida’s work has no political consequences. Instead, for better or worse, the defining characteristic of Nishida’s early political philosophy is its capacity to allow readers to transcend such political issues.


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How to Cite

Stone, R. (2023). The Politics of Pure Experience: Individual and State in An Inquiry into the Good. Asian Studies, 11(3), 177–202.