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Comparative Philosophy

On Tanabe's Logic of Species

Makoto Ozaki

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ABSTRACT: Tanabe Hajime (1885-1962), another pole of the so-called Kyoto-School of Philosophy of modern Japan, attempts to construct a dialectical, triadic logic of genus, species and individual as a creative synthesis between Eastern and Western philosophy. Although the formal pattern of his method is influenced by the Hegelian dialectic, the way of his thinking is rather prevailed by Kantian dualism. This makes a sharp contrast to his mentor Nishida Kitaro, whose logic of Topos or Place qua Absolute Nothingness is criticized as all-embracing and static in character by him. The difference between them might be parallel to that of Greek and Latin theology concerning the Trinity. Tanabe never presupposes any preexistent entity as the primordial One in the eternal dimension, but rather maintains the individuality as the free subjective agent in the field of history. The dichotomy between the universal and the individual is overcome in and through the mediation of the third term — the species — as the negatively self-realized, specific form of the genus. The species, however, turns out to be the self-estrangement, when it loses the perpetually negative mediation of the free subjective activity of the individual.

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The species-like substrative being, in its function of negative mediation, is necessary for an individual subject to arise in accordance with the universal genus. The substratum retains its self-identity in the form of continuum, though it contains the negatively opposed moment within itself. The self-identity is no other than the balance between the continuum and the moment of negative opposition. That is, the substratum as matter is the self-negating mediation to a spiritual subject. Spirit cannot manifest itself without the negativity matter has. The substrative continuity of matter is the mediator to the subjective action of the individual person, and functions as the expedient being or means for it. The universal genus is to be actualized only through the mediation of the individual practical subject, and the individual must negatively mediate its own egoity, i. e. , radical evil hidden in the bottom of itself, tending to cling to its self-identity, to be purified through repentance. This is the self-realization of the principle of the mutual identification of Pathos and Nous. The Pathos corresponds to the species-like substratum, and the sin and evil involved in that substratum is to be purified through its active subjectification. The individual does not disappear into the universality, but rather the universality is to be realized in the individual through the mediation of a particular species as the material substrative being. Hence, the radical evil, pertaining to the material substratum of the individual, as well as to the socio-political entity like a nation-state, in which a number of individuals are generated, is negatively mediated to its purification on the level of universality by the individual free subjective activity. This is Tanabe's dialectic which displays its triadic structure in the historical dimension in the form of genus, species, and individual. In contrast to Plotinus and Hegel, in whose theories of emanation the logic of self-identity prevails, in Tanabe's dialectical logic the subjective activity of the individual plays a central role in the negatively converting unification of the three parties, i.e. , genus, species, and individual. According to Tanabe, both genus and species take the specific form as the form that is to be seen. He says, "the universal genus as the principle of Nothingness is the same as the species in its determined content on the level of being". The genus is realized only in the individual, and species-like substratum, as required for its mediation, perpetually rises up to the level of the universal genus and degenerates into the self-alienated state, i.e. , the species, from that higher level, and vice versa. Whenever the species-like substratum degenerates from the rising up to the universal genus, it anew rises up again in action. The substrative nature of species lies in genus. The species is nothing but the appearance as the expedient being which is characterized by contradiction and degeneration, and hence must be converted into the active subjectivity of the individual. The substrative being of the species occurs in accordance with the action of the individual subject, and entertains its universality of the genus up to which it has been risen. Therefore, for Tanabe, the species is unable to realize the universality by itself, but rather always depends upon the subjective action of the individual. Only through the mediation of the action of the individual, the genus-like universality can be realized in the form of species. Solely to the extent that the genus is realized, both the genus and the species are the same in content. When the species remains the same level as before, i. e. , the realization of genus in species, it degenerates into the self-alienation from that realization. Here is the duality of species: one is the self-realization of the genus, i.e. , Eidos, and the other is the self-alienation, i.e. , matter or material being. This is the result of the self-disruption and self-contradiction the species inherently has. Therefore, the political state as the species-like substratum is not directly regarded as the genus itself, that is, not absolute in itself, but, on the contrary, it stands between the genus and the individual as the balanced being between them. This is what is called 'the expedient being" on the level of appearance as contrasted to substance. In this regard, Tanabe accuses Hegel of making the political state into the God on earth in terms of the comprehensive logic of self-identification.

W. R. Inge says, "Form is essentially activity and movement". Tanabe, however, makes a distinction between activity and movement in that activity occurs in the realm of individuality, while movement takes place in the domain of species. In other words, the subjective activity arises in the dimension of Nothingness, and the movement pertains to the substrative level of being. Whereas the movement means that what originally was one returns to its original oneness through disruption, the subjective activity of the individual attempts to unify that movement which has once been disrupted with itself. The substratum which serves as the mediation of the subjective activity in its function of movement is no other than the species as being. On the other hand, the subject of the activity of the individual stands on the ground of Nothingness. Here Nothingness is the universal principle as Absolute Nothingness. Tanabe stresses the subjective action of the individual from the standpoint of history, while in Platonic Ideas or Forms emphasis is not so much placed upon historical individuality as him. In Platonism the phenomenal world emanates from the eternal side through the Ideas or Forms in a one-sided way. Therefore it may be said that the Trinity, as interpreted in terms of Platonism, remains in the eternal dimension of the Son of God and does not fully develop its Incarnational significance of the human person Jesus as the historical individual.

The duality of the species corresponds to the difference between Eidos and matter. On the one hand, the species is the same as the genus in content in terms of the self-realization of the genus, and hence corresponds to Eidos; on the other hand, it corresponds to matter as the self-alienation of the genus. Hegel's absolutization of the political state as the earthly God corresponds to the species as Eidos, i. e. , the self-realization of the genus in the specific form. Even if so, however, due to the duality of the species, if the species is not continuously mediated by the individual action in negation, it loses its universality once realized, is self-alienated or estranged from the genus, and falls back into the level of being from that of Nothingness. Nevertheless, in spite of its degeneration, the species still clings to its being as self-identical throughout, and may come to presume its own self-absolutization arogantly enough. This is the immediate and direct self-identification of the genus and the species, as a result of disregarding their distinction. Even if so, it might be difficult to distinguish between the genus and the species, for both of them are identical to each other in its realized content. This may be the reason why Tanabe at first regarded the political state as the self-manifestation of the Absolute, corresponding to the Christ as the self-revelation of God. He, however, later on came to realize the fact that the species has the duality on account of its negative character, and that the political state does not directly belong to the class of genus, but is rather just an expedient appearance of the genus in terms of its nature of "being mediated". Furthermore, he made a progress to the point that radical evil is hidden even in the political state due to its species-like materiality, and it is necessary for the state to repent the hidden evil for its conversion and purification. This is because Tanabe is influenced by Kant, who, together with Max Scheler, declares that the human history has begun with sin and evil.

Although it seems that in Tanabe's Logic of Species. i. e. , the triadic logic of genus, species, and individual, as well as the dialectic of absolute mediation between them, each of the three parties or poles reciprocally works out on the same level and at the same time, it is actually not the case. As already having been clarified in his debate with Takahashi Satomi concerning the logic in question, for Tanabe, the three poles are not equally coordinated with each other, but rather the priority is given to the moment of perishing or negation, and the species plays the role of self-negation. When the species bears the moment of perishing or negation, it becomes central in the reciprocal mediation of the three poles or parties in the trinity. This, however, seems contradictory to the statement that the action of the individual bears the centrality of mediation. How is to resolve this contradiction? The problem should be resolved in terms of the relationship between subject and object. That is, whereas the individual stands on the side of active subject, the species is situated in the objective and inactive side which is to be negated by the subjective action of the individual. This is parallel to A. N. Whitehead's concept of actual entity, which has the double structure of subject and object or superject; the superject as the past entity which is negated by the present subjective immediacy of activity, but is immortal in its objectivity. Anyway, each of the three poles or parties does not mutually and simultaneously mediate to each other, but, on the contrary, one of them becomes central in the mediation.

This problem may also be similar to Augustine's interpretation of the Trinity, in which the Father of God is prior to the other two members as the source or cause of them, though the three Persons are in coordination with each other. In Latin theology, One is presupposed to the Three in spite of the Trinity, and even Karl Barth in modern times interprets the Three Persons as the different modes of being of the One substantial God with the Sabellian tendency towards modalism, though he claims the reciprocal equality of the three Persons in terms of the perichoresis. On the other hand, the Eastern Cappadocian theology starts from the three individual substances (hypostases), which are preserved in the common essence (ousia) as the single species, and hence tends to result in the doctrine of three Gods. As compared to Tanabe, however, whether they start from One or Three, they commonly lack the moment of self-negation within, but presoppse from the outset the self-identical being, which is devoid of the moment of self-negating conversion in action; this is the fundamental difference.

Moreover, Tanabe never admits the existence of the supreme One (Goodness) of Plato, that unifies a multiplicity of the eternal Ideas or Forms, or the One of Plotinus as the ultimate reality from which everything in the world emanates, with the exclusion of the emanation theory. For Tanabe, there is no One that is antecedent to and beyond the Three in the very beginning. Quite contrary to this, he does not presuppose any original or primal substance prior to all things in the world, even though it is described as non-being or super-being. This is because Tanabe's dialectic inherits and develops the Buddhist notion of Emptiness, i.e. , Absolute Nothingness, as the logic of negation. Viewed from the standpoint of Emptiness, there is nothing which is presupposed as being from the outset, but rather non-substantiality of Emptiness, or pure negativity, which is the reverse of the co-dependent origination of phenomena in the world, is pervasive as a whole.

In Tanabe the mutual identity of progress and return in its double movement is contracted into the eternal now as the instant present of time by the individual in the form of having already attained as having not yet attained eternity, and this is infinitely to be repeated. In this respect, there is some room left for criticism of his view of history as being devoid of a teleological perspective regarding the lines and directions of history. In other words, in Tanabe's view of history it appears that there are many distinct points in isolation in history, without integrating them into any coherent purpose. On the other hand, the ancient Chinese philosophers Lao-zu and Zhuang-zi present the ontological principle of time in the formula that whenever something ends, another begins again. This signifies the infinitely cyclic and repetitive time. Here one may find out some common underlying factor between them and Neo-Platonism with regard to ultimate reality; the ultimate reality as the primordially indeterminate and absolute beginning or root origin of the phenomenal world. In relation to Neo-Platonism, Tanabe's concept of species as matter is highly significant, for the problem of evil and sin is inevitably connected with the existence of matter vis—vis spirit. Human beings are composed of spirit and matter, and matter is regarded as being at the lower level than spirit, according to Plotinus and other Neo-Platonists. This is also true in the case of some form of Buddhism, according to which human beings are corrupted into the infinitely cyclic worlds of death and life on account of their bodily existence. According to Tanabe, the reason why Plato's idea of matter is called "necessity" is that human existence is always involved in contradiction and consequently has the necessity of conversion into the opposite side, e. g. , death; the individual, which is limited by matter or body, is unavoidably accompanied by changes of destiny such as death and life, arising and perishing, etc. This means that being bound up with matter or body is seen as evil or badness. There is, however, no evil or badness without goodness. Evil necessarily lurks behind goodness, as the half of it. Evil is the positive possibility of willful action. Even though the individual will attempts to do something good, nonetheless, it quite often fails to do so and hardly escape from the tendency to corrupt into doing evil. This is because while the individual arises from its free subjective activity in accordance with the genus, it degenerates into the self-alienation by losing the authentic mediation. This evil, which is ontologically substratum as matter, is nothing but species. Here it is obvious that in Tanabe's triadic dialectic the species is conceived of as substratum, i. e. , material space. This is based upon Tanabe's interpretation of Plato's idea of Space or Place as Necessity, the Matrix of Becoming in the Timaeus. Tanabe, however, differs from Plato in taking evil as the positive principle of the individual freedom, and this is due to the fact that in ancient times the concept of individual existence was not fully developed.

Human beings can degenerate into even below the level of animals and nature by means of their abuse of freedom. For this reason, Tanabe establishes the reality of evil as the principle of negation, which is inherent in the personal will itself. For him, evil is not appearance, but reality. He takes evil and sin seriously enough in connection with history, for history is the temporal field whereby the struggle to overcome evil is to be performed.

For Neo-Platonism, matter is defined as pure indetermination, non-being, pure potentiality, pure negativity, and even evil. For Plato, matter is the principle of evil as the errant or variable cause which entails unbalanced and inharmonic effects, while at the same time it exists everlastingly as substratum or Space or Place, which is the mediating element between the eternal Ideas or Forms and the actual entities in his cosmology. Therefore, Fichte conceives of inertia as materiality, evil, and original sin, and Schelling regards matter as "Nature in God" or the principle of darkness, along with the line of this thought. Tanabe sees the affinity between Plotinus and Hegel; for Hegel, freedom is another name of reason without arbitrariness, and its fault and corruption are ascribed to nature as the self-alienation of the Spirit. In other words, the qualitatively negative opposition which both the individual and the particular retain in regard to the universal genus is resolved into the self-identity of reason, and is simply seen as a quantitative restrictions of the latter. In short, he does not exceed the immanent logic of emanation in the end. There is no freedom to revolt against God, but rather everything is affirmed and deified as the self-manifestation of God without the actively self-negating conversion borne by the individual subject. God, however, does not directly operate in the world, but only through the mediation of the second God, i. e. , the Logos. The Logos is the creative activity of God, the intelligent agency which determines the possibilities for the world and gives to it the pattern and direction as the order. The intellectual forms or archetypes of all things had already been made from all the eternity in the mind of God as the primal ideas or eternal paradigms. These possible forms of being correspond to A. N. Whitehead's concept of the eternal object as pure potential which participates or ingresses into the finite actual entities to provide the definiteness of form. This mediating function of the Logos or the intellectual forms or archetypes bears a resemblance to Tanabe's concept of the species as a specific form, which mediates between the genus and the individual. The intellectual forms or archetypes are universal as well as particular in character, for the concept of species has the duality of the realization of the genus and the self-alienation from it. The genus as such has no form, but comes into being in a specific form through the mediation of the individual action. When the genus manifests itself in the actual world, it takes the form of definiteness, by which actuality arises as a definite form in novelty. This definite form is nothing but the species, in and through which the universality of genus is negatively self-determined and realized in actuality. Hence, the species is both eternal and temporal, universal and particular, and this bears the function of mediation between genus and individual.

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