Works of phenomenology often contain statements which are critical of science. Husserl's The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology is just one example. In such works, the Galilean mathematical view of nature comes under criticism, and the form of truth asserted by modern science, as well as the universal validity of all concepts are brought into question. Phenomenology attempts to become a transcendental phenomenology by epocheing (suspending judgment on) all concepts of modern western science and philosophy i.e. space, time, causality, matter as extension, mathematical laws, substantiation of the mind, subject-object-schema, determinism, etc. In the process, it uncovers and thematizes the life-world as the forgotten basis of the meaning of these concepts. Namely, it turns to a particular life-world which is nevertheless the premise (or horizon) of the universal validity advocated by modern science. Husserl, however, emphasized the historical aspects of the life-world, and paid scant attention to that of inter-cultural comparison. This led to a teleological interpretation of history with a western-centred tendency that became the focus of much controversy, notwithstanding his proposals for a transcendental phenomenology. However, the theorization of the life-world as the basis of modern science is in itself something that calls for more consideration to be given to the issue of cultural comparison. For, at the very least, it is an idea found in Spengler's Faustion Man, Scheler's Intellectual Sociology, M. Weber's Ethos, which underpins western rationality, and as far back as Nietzsche's Perspectivism.
An example of a phenomenological criticism of science which developed the issue of cultural comparison between western and non-western thinking can be seen in the thought of Watsuji Tetsuro, one of the first scholars of phenomenology in Japan. Examples are evident in such representative works as Climate and Culture (Fudo), Ethics (Rinrigaku), and The History of Japanese Ethical Thought (Nihon rinri shisoshi). These works are generally considered to belong to the field of cultural science. However, in Ethics, for example, Watsuji begins with an explanation of the spatial and temporal character of human Being, and his idea of space and time is worthy of note for two reasons: it is based on his confrontation with phenomenology, and it alludes to the natural scientific understanding of space and time. This inevitably gave rise to an attempt to reach a fresh understanding of the concepts of causality, nature, the body, relationship between subjectivity and objectivity, determinism, etc..
Theory of Space
Watsuji tries to comprehend space as something "subjective", but in his case it is made to relate to the state of "man"(ningen) as "human-relationship" in the two-ply structure of individual and society.1 [The Japanese word "ningen" means human beings (nin) and the relationship (gen) between or among them: translator's note.] Accordingly, he comprehends space as something which extends by means of transportation and communications, something which is formed by streets, that which causes the reciprocal interaction of people. He discusses the concept of spatiality as indicated by the expression "radiate into the mundane world" (seken ni hiromaru), which is a spatiality with a non-natural [i.e., non-scientific] human meaning conveyed by the terms "inside" (uchi) and "outside" (soto). At the same time, however, space is not something which can be reduced definitively to a (non-spatial) "connection of meaning," as has been asserted by certain sociologists; at the basis of human Being is a (subjective) spatiality.
Watsuji retraces the history of the modern understanding of space, taking into account this life-worldly, subjective spatiality. In the historical changes in the perception of space -- from Descartes' space as extension to Spinoza's space as a modus of God, and later Kant's space as the a priori mode of the cognizant subject -- he acknowledges the significance of the subjectivist transition in the understanding of space. At the same time, however, he recognises the limitations of this transition in that it remains in an exclusively contemplative theoretical dimension, so that consequently only the static relationship between man and nature can be observed. In contrast, in German idealism -- represented by Hegel -- the moment of the practical subject comes to the fore, bringing about the perception of space as objectification by the subject. Since Hegel's idealism signifies an understanding of the subjectivity of space, Watsuji views it favourably, though he still claims that the radiation of the subject itself and the true spatiality of the subject have not been understood. He believes that the question still remains within the limitation of the relationship between "man and nature," and the problem has not yet shifted towards the "practical relationship between man and man."
From this philosophical summary, he moves on to an investigation of the phenomenology-centred theory of space. Watsuji's treatment of the theory of space in phenomenology touches upon not only philosophy, but also the new theory of space found in 20th century science. This is because phenomenology's theory of space was a criticism of the Newtonian absolute space, or "homogeneous space." The idea of homogeneous space had been a never doubted premise in the philosophical understanding of space throughout the history in which the "subjectivization of space" of which Watsuji speaks took place. However, in the course of scientific history, from Mach at the end of the 19th century to the theory of relativity at the beginning of the 20th century, it had been repudiated. The first person cited by Watsuji as having denied absolute space is F. Brentano, and Watsuji notes his view that immediate space and the nature of the matter existing within it were inseparable (that, in that respect, he had revived the ancient view of space). This is related to his observation of the criticism by A. Marty, Brentano's disciple, of Kant's theory of space as an a priori form of intuition. At the same time, Watsuji sees both [Brentano and Marty] as heading in the direction of the objectivisation of space. On the other hand, Watsuji considers Bergson's view, which treats indivisible continuous space as fundamental, as something which inquired into the repudiation of homogeneous space in the direction of the subjectivisation of space. However, he deals with this only briefly, as something which remained at the Kantian stage.
Next, Watsuji appraises Heidegger as having opened the way towards the understanding of subjective space, through his idea of "dealing with tools." On the other hand, this idea is criticised as treating space only in relation to the isolated subject. Watsuji criticised Heidegger, because Heidegger's concept of tools, no less than the [natural scientific] concept of homogenous space, presupposes [but fails to thematize] "human-relationships" such as the organization of labour or exchange of perspectives among men.
In conclusion, Watsuji says that the true origin of space must be found regressively in actual [bodily] movement in the origin of extension, in other words not in the givenness to the immediate (Theoretical) consciousness but in the intersubjective practice which precedes such a [theoretical] consciousness. The spatiality of human Being is subjective, not objective. "Environmental space," "perspectival space," and "homogeneous space" come into being as abstractions of "distension," which is a subjective spatiality. However, this subjectivity must be understood strictly in the context of relationships.
Theory of Time
Here too, drawing on examples of transportation and communication, Watsuji defines the temporality of human Being, and indicates the way towards an understanding of a subjective temporality.2 The action of the subject entails something which is "beforehand and already" and "anticipation", indicating the fundamental nature of temporality. The conclusion of this idea is to found time on the basis of the authenticity [Eigentlichkeit] or properness of man -- on the basis of his own origin, i.e. the community. Human Being has a unified structure of past, present, and future [as a coming]. This structural unity, in which human Being originates in the past and "returns [i.e. comes back] to itself in presence [i.e. in the present]," attaining both the opposition of self and other and at the same time the unity of self and other, shows the temporality of human Being. The temporal nature evident in all areas of human life and society Watsuji terms "natural time." First of all, he regards this in itself as something which has already become abstracted to a certain point. From here, he observes two directions: One that leads towards physical time, which is a further abstraction, and another that leads back to concrete, subjective time.
Moving from this standpoint to a review of philosophical history, Watsuji focuses on Aristotle's definition of time as "a number of movements arranged [by the criteria of] before and after." If we interpret this as "a series of nows," it becomes modern scientific time, which is the same as Newtonian absolute time. In other words, it becomes the spatialised time criticised by Bergson for the reason that it precludes us from comprehending time as "pure duration." However, another interpretation of Aristotle is possible, and that is as the subjectivization of time. Watsuji traces a series of ways in which the subjectivity of time is understood, citing Plotinos, Augustinus, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. Furthermore, from the repudiation of homogeneous time which had been premised by Kant, a new dimension of the subjectivity of time is seen to unfold, which leads him to investigate also Brentano, Marty, Bergson, Husserl and Heidegger.
Brentano, besides explaining the inseparability of intuition of time and the nature of things [in time], also tried to define original time through the structure of the representation of past, present and future produced from the present point. Marty, in opposition to Kant, treated the modes of judgment as temporality. Accordingly, it is claimed that the law of contradiction also exists in temporality. Bergson points to the structure of time as elan vital. Husserl attempts to clarify the structure of time consciousness by the intentionality of consciousness, and so advanced even further along the path opened up by Brentano. This fundamental stance of Husserl's is considered by Watsuji to have come to a halt at a receptive, contemplative/theoretical attitude of consciousness. Heidegger's was the philosophy which went beyond that boundary. Its theme, in accordance with the existential analysis of Dasein, is "care/concern" (Sorge), the attitude before the distinction is made between theory and practice, and it is on the basis of this theme that the mode of original time is explained. The past has its foundation in Dasein's state of being projected, the future in its projecting, while the present is a fall or deterioration into "they" [das Man]. However, through an awareness that it is a being directed towards death, Dasein is said to return [i.e.come back] to the authenticity or properness of the self.
Watsuji acknowledges the extreme form of the subjectivization of time in Heidegger's thought, but concludes at the same time that this time is time for the individual, not time for man as "human relationship." And death should not be simply an individual, personal event, but rather something which entails human relationship. Heidegger's theory of time can be evaluated as an investigation into time within the depths of consciousness, life and being, but once again he is impeded at every turn. To get from this point to the human relationship, to Being-with-Others, we must restore the original spatiality of man, and to this end we must deal with the spatiality and temporality found in human Being.
The Belonging-together of Spatiality and Temporality
According to Watsuji, the totalistic oneness of man as both an opposition of self and other and as an inseparable unit of self and other, is based on the interdependent belonging-together of spatiality and temporality. Moreover, he claims that this totalistic oneness of "human relationship" is characterised by a "subjective nothingness"3 at the level of its deepest foundation. In other words, this may be called the "negation of negation." From this viewpoint, Hegel's determination of the "spirit" as the negation of negation is accorded an affirmative valuation.
In his Philosophy of Nature, Hegel said that when the determination of space, i.e. "negation of itself," is consciously posited, it is time, and for that reason, time is the truth of space. This, according to Watsuji, signifies the reciprocal belonging-together of spatiality and temporality, and is the condition which eventually makes possible the coming into existence of the spirit, which is defined as the negation of negation. It is only by virtue of such a determination of time and space that it is possible to say that "the subject returns to itself through the opposition of self and other" and that "in the opposition of self and other, the self and other are one."
As has been shown, Watsuji's inquiries into the theories of space and time stand in repudiation of Newtonian absolute space and absolute time. While basically supporting the subjective understanding of time and space of the phenomenologists, he ultimately points out the one-sidedness of this understanding. Consequently, his view comes rather to support that of an outdated Hegel. It is only natural, therefore, that his theory is considered by some to be an outrageous anachronism. It is well-known that Hegel's theory of time has been treated by Heidegger as a typical example of a vulgar theory of time.4 Indeed, in Philosophy of Nature, Hegel too sometimes appears to have accepted the homogeneity of time. In Logic, however, the fact that he considers teleology as a circulation of goal-means-object (product) is highly significant from the point of view of the theory of time.5 For the nature of this circulation overlaps with Heidegger's so-called hermeneutical circle. We can therefore acknowledge the existence in Hegel too of an anti-Newtonian understanding of time.
In this paper, I attempt to seek the contemporary significance of Watsuji's concepts as a theory of science. In that case, there should be a positive significance in acknowledging a concurrence between the anti-Newtonian understanding of time and space of philosophers such as Brentano, Marty, etc., and anti-Newtonian scientists such as Mach. To take this even further, it should also become possible to bring the "irreversible time" of thermodynamics closer to the subjective time of the phenomenologists, Bergson, etc. The irreversible nature of time defined on the basis of the rule of entropy multiplication is the premise of life theory which has developed on the basis of the contemporary concept of "fluctuation and self-organization of the self."
Contemporary systems theory is also grappling with the theory of thermodynamics, endeavouring to develop something new. It is interesting when we consider the numerous analogies (isomorphism) between the understanding of man as defined in social systems theory (for example, that of N. Luhmann), and that defined in Watsuji's Ethics. Both depend on Husserl's concept of intersubjectivity. Both suppose that there exists such a relationship (in Watsuji's case, "human relationship") which makes possible and regulates individual activities from somewhere beyond decision-making-subjects, and that such a relationship functions through the expectation of role-taking (persona) by each member. Further, Watsuji, when drawing up a concrete description of ethical organization, tried to build it upon the concept of "emptiness," and this we can certainly place alongside Luhmann's attempt to form a social system on the concept of "contingency". Both adopt a resistant stance towards the substantialization of the relation itself. Such comparison may seem rash, but if we wish to take up the issue of systems theory, it must be recalled for example how J. Habermas's systems theory was hailed as the only comprehensive social theory of the 20th century. This appraisal carries special weight in view of the fact that Habermas was fundamentally opposed to Parsons and Luhmann.
Thus, an attempt to bring Luhmann's systems theory closer to Watsuji's "Ethics" is also advantageous in attempting to find the universal meaning of the latter as a part of 20th century thought. Watsuji's "Ethics" is frequently considered to be an attempt to express the thinking of early modern Japan. In fact, such an interpretation may even be regarded as the orthodox one. When we look at his ethics, which attributed a higher value to the ethical organization which begins with the family and extends as far as the nation, rather than to the individual, this view indeed cannot be said to be wholly mistaken. However, what tends to be overlooked is that Watsuji himself aimed to construct a universal ethics which would be understood by the whole of mankind; it was certainly not his intention to construct a peculiarly Japanese ethics. And if we acknowledge that his ethics did not confine themselves to a narrow basis, but rather continually utilised academic research findings in other areas of social science -- from Marx, Toennies, Scheler, Simmel to Malinowski -- this attempt to contrast Watsuji's work with contemporary systems theory cannot be accused of being misplaced.
This social systems theory calls for its own theoretical underpinning under a common principle which prevails in nature and society. However, that very fact brings to mind the earlier German idealism, especially Hegel's system. Thus, the fact that Watsuji, even at the risk of being labelled an anachronism, sought in Hegel a model for his own reciprocal belonging-together of spatiality and temporality has a multi-layered meaning. The fact that Watsuji ventured to begin his "Ethics" from the theory of spatiality and temporality -- and that too began in the context of a criticism of Newton -- naturally resulted in drawing his "Ethics" closer to the Hegelian system. Consequently, the following issue arises: that the revision of the understanding of space and time is something which entails at the same time a change in causality, matter, mind, subject-object-schema, etc. Any consideration of Watsuji's "Ethics" must therefore begin afresh from that point.
The denial of Newtonian absolute space and absolute time forced a sweeping change in the mechanical method of interpretation based on causality. This is something essential to bear in mind in our understanding of a work such as Climate and Culture. This work is sometimes incorrectly interpreted as being a thesis on geographical determinism. "It is impossible to understand land not shaped by man, or man not shaped by land. If we try to understand the land, we will discover the workings of man accumulated within it. Similarly, if we try to understand man, we will discover the character of the land branded on him."6
For example, when discussing Greece, in which the origins of western culture lay, Watsuji acknowledges that its "pastoral landscape," consisting of crystal clear air, bright sunlight, absence of shadow, and dry climate with little rain, was the premise which gave rise to that Greek culture brimming with fighting spirit and creative energy, that Greek culture which perceived nature as an object which should be controlled exclusively by the rational thought and technical power of man. However, that such climatic characteristics were able to give rise to Greek culture complemented another stage of Greek history, i.e., the shaping influence of man.
When man was aware of his control over obedient nature, and when he began to form his own life as ruler of nature, in such a way did the climatic character become the character of the Greek spirit.7
We should say that, as the Greeks became Greeks, the Greek landscape too came to express itself as the Greek landscape.8
Consequently, it would not be surprising if today, in that fine Greek land, "the broad daylight of former times no longer exists."9
Certainly, the expression "landscape" may be said to express a subtle relationship with what exists around it. (The German translation of Climate and Culture, in recognition of this, does not use the title Klima [Climate], but Fudo -- Wind und Erde [Fudo -- Wind and Earth, "wind and earth" being a literal translation of "fudo"]. Watsuji tries to grasp the relationship between man and nature (environment) without having recourse to the "natural scientific" method, namely, the law of causality. For that very reason, it is significant that, in relating his own law, he not only refers to Herder, who is the pioneer of the theory of landscape, but also could not succeed without referring to Heidegger. (It is worth noting also his generally favourable reference to Hegel's Philosophy of History -- excepting his criticism of the latter's western-centred view of history.) Consequently, Watsuji goes so far as to view the natural environment as not following the explanatory method based on subject-object-schema or causality, but conforming to ex-sistere10, i.e. to man's subjective, existential Being, or to a tool-relationship, i.e. an "in-order-to" relationship. Moreover, the emphasis on the spatiality of human Being begins to be felt here. The idea of linking subjectivity to human relationship and, moreover, linking human relationship to landscape, even by the same methods of phenomenology, was not to be found in Heidegger. And the investigation of a new method which arose from this phenomenology, in Watsuji's case -- who had the advantage of a sensibility which was that of a poet, and strangely enough, also that of a geographer -- was most productive.
What I would like to note here in particular is the way of functioning of the natural scientific intellect, and how it has been grasped afresh in the context of the theory of landscape. By contrasting the completely opposite attitudes of endurance in the face of nature in monsoon regions and struggle against nature in desert regions, attention is drawn to nature's obedience in respect of man in pastoral regions (the west) ant its link with the formation of rational thought. In this way, Watsuji, by inquiring into the landscape characteristics from which came western sciences, which advocate universal validity, gauges the relativization of those characteristics, and attempts to establish their distance from himself. In his endeavour, we can, in spite of some objections in respect of individual points -- in fact these exist in no small number -- observe an example of an attempt at a reexamination of the hermeneutic of scientific intellect, i.e. a reexamination which places the latter back into the life-world. And that, too, is a reexamination from a comparative cultural perspective. Therefore, no matter how many dubious statements may appear in Watsuji's Climate and Culture, it is far more important to discern its merits. Indeed, that its merits outweigh its failings already accounts for the book's exceptional popularity as a piece of writing on thought which appeared in modern Japan.
The theme of the shift of the concept of causality and the subject-object-schema is one which, while being philosophical, also touches on natural science; in the case of Watsuji, this theme overlaps with the theme of the history of Japanese thought. Here, I will deal with the section of The History of Japanese Ethical Thought which discusses ancient Japanese myths.
Watsuji classifies gods into four categories: 1. Gods who are worshipped; 2. Gods who are worshipped and also worship; 3. Gods who only worship; and 4. Cursing gods who demand to be worshipped. Most gods who were active in the era of the gods, including the Sun-Goddess Amaterasu-omikami, belonged to the second category: in other words, gods who were worshipped at shrines, while also acting as mediators by worshipping an [higher] undetermined god. This can be regarded as the typical Japanese god. "The essence of the gods exist in the fact that they preside over rites. The power of these sites to perform charms is reflected noematically in the gods of mountains and rivers; noetically, they are gods in the form of people who preside over rites."11
The Japanese gods were not understood noematically as absolute being. Or at least, that was not their only aspect. They were also a noetical function which made possible the appearance of absolute being. Therefore, they were closely linked to rites [where absolute being appear]. For this reason, it is explained, the emperor, who is the consolidator of these rites, came to be bestowed with authority as a living god, even though he does not possess super-human or supernatural abilities. The description of the unclear nature of the Japanese gods then goes on to the following stage:
However, that mystery itself, infinitely deep, as a hidden power with absolutely no determinations, while making gods appear as gods, did not ultimately make itself appear as a god. This is the point which requires the greatest attention as regards the definition of a god in mythological legend. While the ultimate is the origin of all gods, it is not in itself a god. In other words, the origin of the gods does not become something which exists as a god; it is the sacred "emptiness." This means that the Japanese people did not grasp the original oneness objectively [as an object] There is no denying the fact that, as a stage in the development of religion, this is still primitive. Nevertheless, as an attitude towards the absolute, it is indeed correct.12
Watsuji goes on to say that it is through the rites of the god as "emptiness" that the self-awareness of the race as a "living totalistic oneness" arises. Yuasa Yasuo points out that this way of thinking is not peculiar to Japanese ancient myth, as Watsuji claims, but is a general characteristic found in all ancient or primitive religions, and that Watsuji's description contains an element that lends support to an ideology that claims supremacy for the ancient myths.13 However, it must be added that Yuasa does not deny that the concept [of the ultimate origin of the gods in emptiness] is especially pronounced in Japanese myth. Be that as it may, I am not going to settle this issue here. Rather, I wish to point out that calling attention to the relationship between this point and the question of Watsuji's war responsibility has significant meaning from the point of view of the theme of this paper.
As mentioned above, Watsuji's description of the ancient Japanese gods was stated in the context of bestowing a privileged position on the gods regarding their dealings with the absolute, and this clearly reveals the nationalistic aspect of his thinking. This, coupled with his consistent defence of the emperor system, is an issue which developed into that of his war responsibility. However, it also has another aspect. Strange as it may sound, if we transpose Watsuji's understanding of Japanese myth and the emperor system into another set of vectors, it shows a close resemblance to certain critical theories of Japanese society, such as that in Maruyama Masao's essay written immediately after Japan's defeat in World War 2, Logic and Psychology of Supranationalism. In that essay, Maruyama says that once the supranationalistic system which acted tyrannically during the war period collapsed, it became plain that it was a system in which no-one, at any level, was conscious of having wielded authority, in short an "irresponsible system." Maruyama was obviously opposed to such a system, but the principle of that social structure was firmly rooted in Japanese tradition; enduring even beyond the war, it may even be considered to have been behind the astonishing economic growth which took place under "post-war democracy." (Today, this is being questioned once again in the context of economic friction, but that belongs to an entirely different issue.) In this case, an understanding of Japan's ancient myths and the emperor system such as that advocated by Watsuji may rather be perceived as a theoretical underpinning to the [postwar] "symbolic emperor system." Already before the outbreak of the war, Watsuji criticised the Meiji system of modern state ideology, which linked the emperor system, authorized originally by mythological religious tradition and, in that sense, something which bore the role of cultural symbol, with the military ethic of loyalty. In this sense, he can be said to have substantially prepared the ethical groundwork for the postwar symbolic emperor system. It may be said therefore that, in respect of the issue of war responsibility, he had prepared for himself an effective alibi.
The fact that Watsuji expressed a comparative cultural viewpoint in Climate and Culture, and that in that work he particularly lauded the special quality of Japanese culture, led to his being drawn into the question of war responsibility. At the same time, however, it is possible to see it as having been necessary for the preservation of the firm autonomy of an intellectual belonging to a non-western bloc that stood in confrontation with western culture. Nevertheless, even taking into account his myth interpretation and defence of the emperor system, the fact that Watsuji could not complete his theory without introducing the concepts of Hegel or the phenomenologist school may be said open up still another range of issues.
To take one example, in the case of myth interpretation it should be noted that he ventured to use the phenomenological terminology of noesis and noema. By so doing, the ambiguous -- ambiguous in terms of subject-object-schema -- image of gods, gods who are both worshipped and who worship, is linked to phenomenological thought, which rejects the subject-object-schema and mechanical causality. Therefore, as I have already pointed out, it also relates to the new way of understanding space, time, and matter in 20th century science. We cannot ignore the significance of this.
Watsuji's scientific viewpoint was critical of modern science in the Newtonian sense, but it did not descend to a high-handed or anarchistic disregard or criticism. We could go so far as to say that it was, as was clear in Climate and Culture, a viewpoint which prepared a theory of science in a new form. (We could even say that in the present time, in which landscape theory has become a part of geography, this is now quite clearly the case.) This fact has advanced my study in the present paper, resting in particular on the idea of the possibility of the development of the theory of science from the point of view of comparative culture. Contemporary social systems theory which has parallels with Watsuji -- but which, for example, descends into the dull functionalism of Luhmann, -- makes it increasingly clear just how necessary is the perspective which was opened to the abundant phenomenon of life such as that acquired by Watsuji, even if grounds may be found to criticise him as "traditionalist," "conservative," or "nationalist." In this sense, it is possible to acknowledge a positive meaning within Watsuji's thought as a contemporary theory of science.
Back To The Sektion Page
N e x t