Hartshorne and Nishida Re-envisioning the Absolute

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Hartshorne and Nishida Re-envisioning the Absolute ABSTRACT: This paper is a comparative study of Hartshorne's neoclassical reconsideration of the notion of the Absolute based on his Whiteheadian vision of the divine relativity, and Nishida's attempt at redefining the same notion against the background of what he calls the philosophy of "place" (Jpn., basho) of absolute Nothingness or Buddhist Emptiness. By reconsidering the notion of the Absolute, Hartshorne has come up with the standpoint of "Surrelativism," and Nishida's attempt has resulted in the standpoint of "absolute dialectic as guided by the principle of the self-identity of absolute contradictions." What I intend to do in this paper is study comparatively Charles Hartshorne's neo-classical re-consideration of the notion of the Absolute based upon his Whiteheadian vision of the "divine relativity" and Nishida Kitaro's attempt at re-defining the same notion against the background of what he calls the philosophy of the "place" (Jpn., basho) of absolute Nothingness or Buddhist Emptiness. By reconsidering the notion of the Absolute Hartshorne has come up with the standpoint of "Surrelativism" in his Divine Relativity (1948). And Nishida's attempt at redefining the same notion has resulted in the standpoint of "absolute dialectic as guided by the principle of the self-identity of absolute contradictories" in his "The Logic of Place and the Religious Worldview" (written in 1945; published posthumously in 1946). Hartshorne belongs, as leader, to the second generation of Whiteheadian process-relational thought in North America. By contrast, Nishida is the founder of what is usually called the Kyoto School of philosophy in Japan; deeply inspired by Zen, Nishida vigorously engaged in a wholehearted, laborious encounter with the West philosophically throughout his career. But what I can commonly perceive in the two philosophers is a noticeable philosophical phenomenon: namely, the notion of the Absolute has undergone a profoundly significant process of self-transcendence/self-transformation in either of the two philosophical systems in such a way that one now begins to identify one's own position as "panentheism." Hartshorne and Nishida both negate and transcend the traditional notion of the Absolute as "transcendence"; in this sense, they both tend to be radically affirmative of the "immanence of the Absolute." And yet at this very juncture they both decidedly deny the linkage of their respective standpoints with that of Spinoza's "pantheism." Hence, panentheism. But how so? In what follows let me try to answer and elucidate this question as much as I can. For I perceive

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