Nothingness and Desire

An East-West Philosophical Antiphony

James W. Heisig

Honolulu: University of Hawai' Press, 2013.. vi+200 pages.

[Also available as a Kindle eBook]
The six lectures that make up this book were delivered in March 2011 at London University’s School of Oriental and Asian Studies as the “Jordan Lectureship on Comparative Religions.” They revolve around the intersection of the two, nothingness and desire, as they apply to a re-examination of the questions of self, God, morality, property, and the East-West philosophical divide.
   Rather than attempt to harmonize philosophies East and West into a single chorus, the book is designed as a kind of “philosophical antiphony.” Through the simple call-and-response of a few representative voices, the author tries to join the choir on both sides of the antiphony in order to relate the questions at hand to larger problems that press on the human community. As problems like the technological devastation of the natural world, the shrinking of elected governance through the expanding powers of financial institutions, and the expropriation of alternate cultures of health and education spread freely through traditional civilizations across the world, these lectures argue that religious and philosophical responses cannot afford to remain territorial in outlook.

“Nothingness and Desire” offers a valuably direct immersion in East-West philosophical exchange and its real potential for tacking pressing political problems (beyond the platitudes that sometimes afflict inter-religious dialogue). It is valuable, too, for the quality of the insights into human life that emerge in the course of the analysis.

Christopher Harding, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Prologue available for download in PDF format.

Errata in 1st printing.