The Logic of Nothingness

A Study Of Nishida Kitarō

Robert J. J. Wargo

Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2005. xi+241 pages.

The writings of Nishida Kitarō, whose name has become almost synonymous with Japanese philosophy, continue to attract attention around the world. Yet studies of his thought in Western languages have tended to overlook two key areas: first, the influence of the generation of Japanese philosophers who preceded Nishida; and second, the logic of basho (place), the cornerstone of Nishida’s mature philosophical system.

The Logic of Nothingness addresses both of these topics. Robert Wargo argues that the overriding concern of Nishida’s mature philosophy, the attempt to give a reasonable account of reality that includes the reasonableness of that account itself—or what Wargo calls “the problem of completeness”—has its origins in Inoue Enryō’s and Inoue Tetsujirō’s preoccupation with “the problem of standpoints.” A translation of one of Nishida’s most demanding texts, included here as an appendix, demonstrates the value of Wargo’s insightful analysis of the logic of basho as an aid to deciphering the philosopher’s early work.

Wargo actually makes sense of Nishida’s notoriously difficult way of thinking. His is the rare gift of presenting Nishida’s often tangled and meandering path of argumentation. Just as important, he thinks along with Nishida, showing where his questions came from and precisely how he went about answering them.… The comparisons and contrasts with Nishida’s predecessors, the two Inoues, with Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant, as well as with Wittgenstein and Quine, are relevant and illuminating


John Maraldo, University of North Florida

The outstanding accomplishment of the book is that it takes us beyond Nishida Kitarõ, the major thinker who founded an influential school of philosophy in twentieth-century Japan, into the heart of his philosophical project itself. In time, we find ourselves thinking along with the master. In the final analysis, Wargo’s study is not a study about Nishida as much as it is a study in Nishida. Readers who work through these pages will find themselves sharing in the birth of one of the most important movements in the intellectual history of Japan.

Thomas P. Kasulis, University of Ohio State