Home Psychology Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy in early Twentieth-Century German Thought
Heidegger’s poetic and anti-modernistic thinking of being has frequently been taken as a resource for intercultural philosophy even as his actual openness to the possibility of a Chinese or other varieties of non-Western philosophy is limited and has been uncritically exaggerated.77 It is correct that Heidegger engaged at times with a few select elements of Asian thought and culture—from Daoism and Zen Buddhism—and adopted them for his own ontological purposes. Still, Heidegger consistently denied that any thinking that does not stem from the lineage of the Greek origin and share in the fateful destiny of Occidental metaphysics culminating in modernity should be properly called philosophy. Heidegger’s argumentation has been decisive for thinkers such as Levinas, Derrida, and Rorty. They contest, reverse, and pluralize Heidegger’s history of being and yet fail to overcome the disavowal of non-Western philosophizing.
The understanding of philosophy as proceeding from Greece has been associated with historical thinking, as it is articulated in historically oriented thinkers, particularly Hegel and Heidegger. Does then a commitment to the historicity and specificity of philosophy commit one to it being an essentially Western endeavor? This is not the case in another group of German historical thinkers. Plessner contended that Dilthey, who in numerous ways is an intermediate between Hegel and Heidegger, unlocked new possibilities for thinking and “a new responsibility” by relativizing “the reactive absolutizing of European value systems.”78 The art of interpretively understanding the other described by Dilthey has an ethical and political dimension insofar as it calls for releasing the other by abandoning or challenging power over the other.79
Dilthey and Misch identified multiple origins and lineages of philosophy that emerge and unfold in relation to the feeling, expression, and interpretation of life. Heidegger described philosophy as the primordial possibility of Dasein, of human existence as “thrown” in the world, and yet there is only in the end Occidental philosophy. Philosophy is born of a fundamental mood and attunement in Dilthey, an insight adopted by Heidegger in the 1920s. Dilthey analyzed a broader array of existential moods and dispositions than Heidegger’s focus on anxiety in Being and Time or extreme boredom in “What is Metaphysics?” In Dilthey’s approach, the “feeling of life” and life’s dispositional mood can be altered as it is expressed—and intensified or deflected—in wonder or doubt, reverence or anxiety, enthusiasm or boredom. This feeling of life finds its expression not only in classically conceived Greek discourses concerning ontology and metaphysics but also in religion, poetry, ethics, politics, and other forms of self-reflective historical life.
Misch explicitly extended this point further by demonstrating the multiple origins of philosophy within the Greek context, which have religious, poetic, and ethical dimensions as well as ontological ones, as well as in other cultural matrices such as those of ancient India and China. In contrast to thinkers such as Heidegger and his successors, who take history to entail an exclusive dynamic and potential that now afflicts the entire globe while remaining a primarily Occidental question, Misch interpreted philosophy historically as both a local— through the exemplary philosophical adventures of ancient Greece, India, and China—and as a global and existentially human phenomenon.
The hermeneutical attentiveness and receptiveness to the thing and object in Dilthey and Misch encourages the articulation of the historical fabric of life as intrinsically heterogeneous and irreducible in its unfathomability to one perspective or model; no matter how dynamically it is conceived or whether it is conceived according to the “event” of being. The Daoist transition between perspectives to the meontological event of the emptiness of non-being, a topic we will return to in Heidegger and Chan Buddhism in Chapter 8, indicates the limits of the priority of ontology, no matter how radically it might be thought through the event of being, in Western philosophizing.80
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