Kyoto in Davos.

The Question of the Human from a Cross Cultural Vantage Point.

The asynchronous part of the conference takes place from the 27th of August 2020 until the 9th of September 2020. The synchronous part of the conference takes place on the 10th, 11th, and 12th of September 2020 for 3 hours zoom sessions.

The time frame for the synchronous part is scheduled as follows: US Eastern Time 8-11 am – Europe 2-5 pm – Hong Kong 8-11 pm – Japan 9-12 pm

See below for the program and details of the panels!

18. August 2020  radmin

International Online Conference

The international conference, “Kyoto in Davos,” returns to the well-known 1929 Davos disputation between Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945) and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) that focused on the central question of Kantian philosophy “Was ist der Mensch?” and considers what directions the debate might have taken had Nishida Kitarō (1870- 1945) – or any of the other members of the Kyoto School or thinker from Japan – been present.

With this question, Kant outlined the field of philosophy in its “cosmopolitan importance.” And while Kant’s cosmopolitanism was progressive and an expression of the best of the Enlightenment, such a cosmopolitanism cannot but appear to us today as Eurocentric. It has become essential to critically reflect on the cultural bias of our understanding of the human. Max Scheler, in his 1928 book, The Human Place in the Cosmos, explicitly begins from the point of view of a “well-educated European” and thus from a clearly stated cultural bias. Returning to the Davos disputation, we ask to what degree the debate between Cassirer and Heidegger was dominated by a Eurocentric bias and how the philosophical account of the human would have unfolded had a culturally other voice been part of the debate.

Thus, the conference seeks to imagine a counter-factual confrontation (Auseinandersetzung) between Cassirer, Heidegger, Nishida, and other Japanese philosophers and to rethink, both historically and systematically, the nature of the human: What role does culture and religion play in Philosophical Anthropology? And to what extent does the plurality of cultures and religions contradict the perspective of universalism largely assumed by Philosophical Anthropology today? And how can other philosophical traditions broaden our understanding of the human and challenge the dominant models of essentialism, naturalism, culturalism, and existentialism?

Within this framing of the question, we suggest furthering the discussion at Davos in the following ways:

»Kyoto in Davos« contributes to the East-West-dialogue in two directions: On the one hand, it opens up the disputation in Davos towards the East and questions the underlying Eurocentrism of the debate; in particular, regarding philosophical anthropology. Resorting to non-European traditions will allow to decenter the disputation by questioning Kant’s »question of man« from a point of view that is not aligned with Western anthropocentrism. Taking into account that non-anthropocentric point of view has far-reaching consequences which need to be addressed carefully. Nishida’s thinking can be considered resulting from such a point of view.

On the other hand, we think Davos will allow us to point the direction in which we can assess and appropriate the works of Nishida anew once we hold fully account of the disputation as lined out by Michel Friedman in The Parting of Ways in which he not only puts on display how the analytic continental divide came about but in which he also sets out to determine pathways into philosophizing in the 21st century.

For Friedman, the important disagreement at Davos was between Heidegger and the logical positivist Rudolf Carnap. In the conclusion of his book, he suggests that their works present two starkly opposed future possibilities siding either with Carnap or with Heidegger. Both options are, however, unsatisfactory, and in what seems to be a promissory note for future research, Friedman concludes by suggesting that Cassirer’s philosophy may offer a way beyond the current stalemate of Carnap vs. Heidegger. Cassirer is portrayed as an attractive, though problematic middle ground, since he bridges between both sides.

While Friedman’s path into the future points back to a re-reading of Kant since he ultimately connects the analytic continental divide to divergent interpretations of Kant, the present conference suggests a detour, i.e. via Japan: It suggests re-reading the work of Nishida as providing a middle ground between Carnap and Heidegger in a strikingly similar way as Cassirer’s work does. This comes to the fore once we place Nishida’s philosophical endeavor in between Neo-Kantianism, on the one hand, and Lebensphilosophie (the philosophy of life), on the other.

The general questions regarding the historical and systematic contextualization of the Davos Disputations are the following ones:

I. Panel: Davos in its Historical and Systematic Setting

Returning to the Davos disputation, we ask to what degree the debate between Cassirer and Heidegger was dominated by an Eurocentric bias and how the debate would have unfolded had a culturally other voice been part of the debate. Max Scheler, in his 1928 book, The Human Place in the Cosmos, explicitly begins from the point of view of a “well-educated European” and thus from a clearly stated cultural bias. It has become essential to critically reflect on the cultural bias of our understanding of the human.  Does the cultural bias impact on the horizon in which Friedman located the Davos debate, namely that of logicism and Lebensphilosophie? Can the Japanese voice be located in this same horizon? And what role do culture and religion play in Philosophical Anthropology? What are the parallels in Japanese and German philosophical history from the 1910s to the 1930s? What role do neo-Kantianism and Lebensphilosophie play in Germany and Japan at the beginning of the 20th century? To what extent does the plurality of cultures and religions contradict the perspective of universalism largely assumed by Philosophical Anthropology today, as well as Naturalism, Existentialism or Lebensphilosophie?

  1. Esther Oluffa Pedersen (Roskilde University): Who Won the Davos Debate and Why Does it matter? – anInvestigation into the Focus on Either Cassirer or Heidegger as the Philosopher of the Future.
  2. Michel Dalissier (Kanazawa University): Debate the Debate: Heidegger and Cassirer in Davos.
  3. Higaki Tatsuya (Osaka University): The Present-ness of Present in Nishida and Kuki.
  4. Eric Nelson (The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology): Kazunobu Kanokogi, Heidegger, and the Spirit of Life-Philosophy.
  5. Ingmar Meland (Norwegian University of Science and Technology): Spontaneity, Thrownness, and theOntology of Production – Cassirer, Heidegger and Nishida on Human Creativity.
  6. Tobias Endres (Braunschweig University): Cassirer’s Genealogical Cultural Anthropology.
II. Panel: Rethinking Human’s Finiteness and Existence

The conference seeks to imagine a counter-factual confrontation (Auseinandersetzung) between Cassirer, Heidegger, Nishida, and other Japanese philosophers and to rethink basic concepts both historically and systematically. Do Cassirer and Heidegger give the definite, even if opposite accounts of human’s finiteness and existence? Is there a cultural bias? What do Nishida and others contribute to these concepts?

  1. Francesca Greco (Hildesheim University): Self-Contradictory Human Existence: Nishida in Davos.
  2. Hans Peter Liederbach (Kwansei Gakuin University): Making Sense of Death: Watsuji and Heidegger on the Finitude of Thought.
  3. Emanuel Seitz (Clermont Ferrand): Das Nichts vom Sein. Annihilation bei Heidegger und der Kyoto-Schule.
  4. John Maraldo (University of North Florida): Endlichkeit bei Nishida, Heidegger und Cassirer.
  5. Tak-lap Yeung (Freie Universität): A debate over human finitude and infinitude between the contemporary Western and Eastern philosophy: Heidegger, Cassirer, Nishida and Mou.
  6. Rossella Lupacchini (Università di Bologna): Cassirer and Nishida on the Philosophical Foundations ofMathematics.
III. Panel: Rethinking the Concepts of Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity

The third panel concerns »subjectivity« and »intersubjectivity« and related concepts such as autonomy and the social. What kind of relation can we establish between Nishida, Cassirer and Heidegger in regard to these concepts?

  1. Jan Strassheim (Keio University): The “scandal of intersubjectivity” and the transcendent Other in Schutz and Nishida.
  2. Dennis Stromback (Independent Scholar): The Quest for the Self-Aware Individual within the Kyoto School: The Logical Tensions between Nishida, Miki, and Nishitani on Subjectivity  and the Direction of Social History.
  3. Gregory Moss (Chinese University of Hong Kong): The Legacy of Classical German Philosophy in Keiji Nishitani, Shizuteru Ueda, and Hajime Tanabe.
  4. John Krummel (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY): Lask, Heidegger, and Nishida: From Meaning as Object to Horizon and Place.
  5. Sascha Freyberg (Venice University): Nishida, Marx, and Humanism.
IV. Panel: The Question of the Human from an Intercultural Vantage Point

Finally, the conference focuses on the central question of Kantian philosophy “Was ist der Mensch?” and considers the impact Nishida and other Japanese thinkers have on answering this question. Did they consider this question, at all? What can the Kyoto School and other streams contribute to philosophical anthropology? What are the repercussions of the multi-cultural view of the human? Can we translate Kant’s question of the human from Western to Eastern tradition, from the past to the present? Are there limits to understanding? How do the limits of linguistic or cultural translation offer us new systematic insights into the question concerning the human?

  1. Steve Lofts (The King’s University College): Cassirer, Heidegger, and Miki: The Ladder of the Imagination.
  2. Takushi Odagiri (Duke University): Nishida and Miki: A Philosophical Interlocution
  3. Fernando Wirtz (Tübingen University): Miki and the Problem of Humanism.
  4. Sebastian Hüsch (Aix-Marseille Université): From despair to authentic existence. Kierkegaard’santhropology of despair in the light of Nishitani’s thought.
  5. Wawrzyn Warkocki (East China Normal University): Ethics as Anthropology in the Philosophy of WatsujiTetsurō.
  6. Domenico Schneider (Braunschweig University): Cassirer’s and Heidegger’s Interpretation of the Kantian Doctrine of Schematism – Outlook on an Intercultural Philosophy