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Toshihiko Izutsu and Oriental Religious Thought

Panel Chair: Yoshitsugu Sawai | Thursday, August 27, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

This panel aims at reconsidering the characteristics of Toshihiko Izutsu’s “Oriental Philosophy” from the historical perspectives of religions. Izutsu (1914-93) was famous world-wide as a Japanese scholar of Islamic philosophy as well as an Oriental philosopher. He was familiar not only with Semitic thought but also with a wide range of Oriental thought. Through his creative “reading” of classic texts of Oriental thought, he attempted to elucidate the structure of an “Oriental Philosophy,” concerned with manifold layers of being and consciousness, in order to integrate Oriental traditions of thought into an organic unity. In this panel, we will clarify the characteristics of his philosophical reflections, especially his semantic understanding of Oriental philosophical texts, and use them to reexamine theoretical issues in the contemporary study of religions.

Masaru Ikezawa

Confucianism, Daoism, and Toshihiko Izutsu: Comments on "Rectifying Names" and "Being Arises from Non-being"

The basic strategy of Izutsu's "Oriental Philosophy," according to the present presenter's understanding, was not to assume a coherent unity of "Oriental Philosophy" as a substantial entity, but to classify various Oriental thoughts systematically and to find out some common features in them, in order to present alternative ways of thinking which were radically different from the Modern (the modern Western ways of thinking). It is really amazing for Izutsu to have foreseen contemporary globalization accurately, and to have begun to overcome the Modern by re-interpreting local cultures in 1970s, because that is exactly the task of the present generation. In this presentation will be discussed the contemporary potentialities of a couple of Chinese religious thoughts, such as the Confucian idea of "Rectifying Names" and the Daoist idea of "Being Arises from Non-being," which Izutsu referred to.

Juan José López Pazos

Language and Its Meaning in Izutsu’s Oriental Philosophy

If we want to understand Izutsu’s “Oriental Philosophy,” we must pay special attention to his research into languange and the way Izutsu uses the concept of “language” itself. As we can see from Izutsu’s words “Existence is LANGUAGE,” “God is LANGUAGE,” language stands in the middle of Izutsu’s thought. Izutsu said that the semantic articulation function in language is the one that creates all things. Even more, all things are nothing more than words (LANGUAGE). This concept of LANGUAGE Izutsu uses differs and transcends the concept of “language” or “word” usually found in general linguistics. Izutsu’s works are already important not only in the philosophy of language field, but also in Oriental thought studies. That is why within this presentation I would like to explain the meaning of language in Izutsu’s philosophy and also clarify the special understanding of the concept of LANGUAGE in Izutsu’s “Oriental thought.”

Masahiro Shimoda

Some Reflections on Izutsu’s Metaphysics of Consciousness: Focusing on His Interpretation of the Buddhist Philosophy of the Treatise of the Awakening of the Faith of the Mahayana

It seems to be far from serendipitous that the last subject Izutsu Toshihiko was engaged with was the philosophy of the Awakening of the Faith of the Mahayana, one of the representative Buddhist treatises regarded to have appeared around the sixth century at the culminating stage of the intellectual history of Buddhism in India. The basic approach to this treatise taken by Izutsu is that of the premise of the inseparable relationship between existence and consciousness, which is mediated by language. This approach was distinctively effective in understanding the Buddhist philosophy both of India and East Asia, crossing the boundaries of the structure of language inherited from Sanskrit and Chinese. I will shed new light on the final work written by this profound thinker that discusses the possibility of opening up a new horizon of metaphysics of consciousness transcending the perimeter of the language of Western philosophy.

Yoshitsugu Sawai

Izutsu’s Semantic Perspectives of Indian Philosophy

The purpose of this presentation is to explore how Toshihiko Izutsu interpreted Indian philosophy from his semantic perspectives. From his viewpoint of “Oriental Philosophy,” he semantically attempted to interpret such Indian philosophical texts as the Upaniṣads, Śaṅkara’s Commentaries on the Upaniṣadic texts, and the Buddhist sūtras of the Mādhyamika and Yogācāra traditions. What he emphasized as an important characteristic of Indian Philosophy is that Indian thinkers opened the dimension of depth-consciousness as their experiential facts on the basis of their metaphysical experiences, while observing the multi-layered structure of reality. In Indian philosophical traditions, Izutsu argues, there exists a one-to-one correspondence of the manifold layers of objective reality with those of subjective consciousness. Through his reinterpretation of Indian philosophy, he developed a structural theory of “Oriental Philosophy,” characterized by a multi-layered correlation of human consciousness with reality. This presentation will clarify the characteristics of his Oriental philosophical perspectives on Indian philosophy.

Gregory D. Alles


Gregory D. Alles will respond to the papers presented in this panel.


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