Who is Hajime Tanabe?June 25, 2021
He was a Japanese philosopher and scientist who lived from February 3, 1885 to April 29, 1962.
One of the philosophers of the school of philosophy known as the Kyoto School, Tanabe studied at the University of Tokyo and worked as a lecturer at Kyoto University after graduating from there. He stayed in Germany in the 1920s and worked with Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. After returning to Japan, he became a professor.
Tanabe believes that if we want to philosophize, it is impossible for us to do so without confessing. But what do we have to confess and how do we do it? To answer these questions, we must look for Tanabe’s philosophy in the roots of philosophical currents in both Europe and Japan. Tanabe, as its roots in Europe, BC. It goes back to the Greek philosopher Socrates, who lived in the 5th century. Socrates is important to Tanabe because he frankly admitted that he knew nothing. According to the story, the oracle of Delphi said that Socrates was the wisest man in Athens, and Socrates, convinced of his own ignorance, attempted to prove the oracle’s wrong. After talking to countless people in Athens, he is convinced that he is indeed the wisest person in Athens, because he is the only one who admits that he knows nothing.
Tanabe’s Japanese roots go back to the philosophy of Buddhist monk Shinran, a member of the Pure Realm school of Buddhism. Shinran’s novelty is his view that it is impossible for us to reach Enlightenment by our own power. Shinran argues instead that we should admit our own ignorance and limitations, and only then can we reach what Tanabe and Shinran call the cult, or “other power.” In the context of Pure Land Buddhism, the other power is that of Buddha Amitabha. In the context of Tanabe’s philosophy, confession leads to the recognition of “absolute nothingness” and ultimately to self-awareness and wisdom.
For Tanabe, then, philosophy is not to discuss the finer points of logic, or to argue or defend anything, or even really an “intellectual” discipline. For Tanabe it is much more fundamental; It is the process of relating to our own being in the deepest possible way. This is an idea that was shaped partly as a result of his Martin Heidegger readings.
Tanabe believes we can only rediscover our true being through confession. This discovery is a process that he defines in direct religious terms as death and resurrection. This death and resurrection is the rebirth of the mind through the “other power” and its transition from the limited view of the “self” to the perspective of enlightenment. However, this transition is not just a preparation for philosophy, on the contrary, it is philosophy itself, whose roots go back to skepticism and “to surrender ourselves to the grace of the other power”.
In other words, philosophy is not an activity in which we are engaged, but something that happens when we let go of our selves and access our true selves—a phenomenon that Tanabe calls “action without an acting subject.”
Tanabe writes that uninterrupted confession is the “final result” of recognizing our own limits. In other words, Tanabe is asking us not to find new answers to old philosophical problems, but to reevaluate the nature of philosophy.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook