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Author(s): Glen T. Martin

Review by: Glen T. Martin
Source: The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Mar., 1992), pp. 613-615
Published by: Philosophy Education Society Inc.
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Thus, the matter out of which a composite comes to be survives in the

composite potentially, but is actually destroyed (p. 241). "The preex
isting matter survives in a product potentially, in the sense that its
essential properties (as well as some nonessential properties) survive
to modify the higher construct. Since these properties are accidental
to the nature of the higher body, there is room for composites to be
vertical unities, definable with reference to their form alone" (p. 241).
In this way Gill both solves the paradox of unity and gives us good
reason to adopt her vision of the Aristotelian cosmos.
Gill's book, which contains an Index Locorum and a very useful
General Index, makes a significant contribution to understanding Ar
istotle's theory of composite substance. All Aristotelian scholars as
well as those interested in ancient Greek philosophy will benefit from
reading it.?Thomas Upton, Gannon University.

Keiji, Nishitani. The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism. Translated by Gra

ham Parkes, with Setsuko Aihara. Albany: State University of New
York Press, 1990. xxxiv + 240 pp. $14.95?Nishitani was a Japanese
student attending Heidegger's Freiburg lectures on Nietzsche's ni
hilism in the late 1930s. As a young thinker he absorbed western
philosophy and literature, focusing especially on the growing tide of
nineteenth- and twentieth-century voices expressing the collapse of
traditional Western values and the advent of nihilism. Recognizing
that the phenomenon of nihilism encompasses our human situation
in a way that transcends any particular cultural tradition, the self
overcoming of nihilism became fundamental to his lifetime philo
sophical project. A progressively deepening understanding of the
role of the Mah?y?na Buddhist tradition in comprehending the pos
sibility of a breakthrough beyond nihilism culminated in the 1961
publication of what may be Nishitani's magnum opus: Religion and
Nothingness (English translation by Jan Van Bragt, 1982).
The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism, first published in Japan in 1949,
is not only important for understanding Religion and Nothingness, it
is also of intrinsic philosophical interest in its own right, containing
as it does sophisticated and insightful interpretations of a number of
European philosophers and their relation to nihilism. The breaking
into history of nihilism, in which "the value system which supports
life has broken down" (p. 3), is, for Nishitani, inseparable from the
question of "the essence of human being" in which "the being of the
self is revealed to the self itself as something groundless" (p. 3). This
is why nihilism cannot be treated through traditional philosophical
contemplation or a "standpoint of observation," but rather must in
volve the standpoint of "passionate Existence" (p. 7). Hence, "the
disclosure of nothingness at the deepest transcendent ground of history
and the self makes a metaphysics of history from the standpoint of
Existence possible" (p. 7).
After having discussed the problem of "Nihilism as Existence,"
Nishitani discusses the collapse of Hegelian absolute idealism as

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reflected in the critiques of Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Feuer

bach, each giving voice in a different way to a "deep crisis of the
European spirit" (p. 13). Nishitani recognizes not only the struggle
with nihilism "from the standpoint of passionate Existence" in Kier
kegaard, Nietzsche, Max Stirner, Dostoevsky, Heidegger, and others,
but the book as a whole articulates a sense of stages or levels of insight
in this struggle (expressed in various ways by these thinkers) which
points towards the possibility of nihilism's self-overcoming in the
realization of a new mode of human existence.
Chapters 3 through 5, the largest portion of the book, deal with
the question of nihilism and its overcoming in Nietzsche. Although
the present writer disagrees on some fundamental issues, Nishi
tani's interpretation of Nietzsche is both provocative and profound,
the more remarkable as it differs significantly from Heidegger's
interpretation. Nietzsche's themes of amor fati and eternal re
currence are examined as pointers to "the emergence of new pos
sibilities for humanity" (p. 47), of a "new religion" of Dionysus
which has resonances with Zen Buddhism or with the standpoint
of the "God-less desert of divinity" of Meister Eckhart (p. 48).
Chapter Five treats the theme of "Nihilism and Existence" by cen
tering on interpretation of the "stages of Existence" as expressed
in Zarathustra's well-known opening discourse on "The Three Me
tamorphoses of the Spirit."
The essays on Max Stirner (chapter 6) and "Nihilism in Russia"
(Chapter 7) are also masterful. Chapter 7 is largely an interpretation
of the whole of Dostoevsky's work; it sees the essential dynamic of
his mature work as originating inNotes from Underground, where the
nothingness of nihilism is encountered in a unique way and where,
finally, "rationalism is broken through to a dimension where the inner
and outer are one" (p. 153).
Chapter Eight, "Nihilism as Philosophy: Martin Heidegger," argues
that the "passionate Existence" of a Nietzsche or a Kierkegaard is
realized uniquely in Heidegger's appropriation of the Kantian critical
project to set up philosophy as a rigorous "science" in that Heidegger
makes ontology, for the first time, "existential" (p. 158). The essay
continues with an insightful and incisive exposition of Heidegger's
philosophy, centering primarily on Being and Time. Heidegger ul
timately sees both "authentic self-being" and the "totality of beings"
as "grounded ontologically in the same abysmal ground" which is
identical with genuine "freedom" (p. 171).
The concluding chapter, "The Meaning of Nihilism for Japan," re
iterates in a new context the identity of the problem of nihilism with
the problem of being human, but also expresses more fully the need
for Buddhist thought to play a role in the struggle to think through
and beyond nihilism. It is precisely this theme which will culminate
twelve years later in Religion and Nothingness.
This translation of some of Nishitani's early work, with its extensive
and informative notes and introduction, is important not only for
understanding Nishitani, and not only for the light it sheds on
nineteenth- and twentieth-century European thought, but also for

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contributing, as perhaps all good philosophy should, to our under

standing of what it means to be a human being.?Glen T. Martin,
Radford University.

KiTCHER, Philip, and Salmon, Wesley, eds. Scientific Explanation. Min

neapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. xiv + 528 pp. $35.00?
The essays in this volume grew out of a seminar examining the pos
sibility of the emergence of a new consensus in the philosophy of
science. While that issue is not resolved, we are presented with the
most thorough examination of problems associated with the deductive
nomological model of explanation (DN) and its variants since the pub
lication of Hempel's Aspects of Scientific Explanation and other Essays
in the Philosophy of Science (1965). The discussion begins with Wesley
Salmon's monograph-length review of the past forty years of work in
the tradition initiated by Hempel and Oppenheim in their ground
breaking article "Studies in the Logic of Explanation" (Philosophy of
Science, 15 [1948]: 135-75). As one of the major players in the debates,
Salmon's personal account is informative; it provides a useful intro
duction to the topic and covers the recent history of work on expla
nation in a manner that allows the uninitiated to follow the arguments
and intricacies of the essays that follow. A main theme in Salmon's
essay, as in much of his work, is the relation between the theory of
explanation and the concept of causation. Given that the notion of
causal laws plays a dominant role in DN explanations, this discussion
is most welcome. Causation is also a clear concern of many of the
other papers. The resolution of some of the tensions between Salm
on's approach to causation, and the various roles of explanation in
the philosophy of science, is, in fact, one of the main objectives of the
extended concluding piece by Philip Kitcher. For Kitcher, explana
tions serve as unifying mechanisms for theories within different dis
ciplines. Unification in turn also serves as a criterion for choosing
between competing theories. The interplay between, on the one hand,
Salmon's attention to the problems deriving from Hempel's initial
formulation of DN and, on the other hand, Kitcher's concerns with
Salmon's conceptualization of causation, produces one of the more
fascinating dialectics of the volume. By attending to their dialogue,
we see just how far the theory of explanation has come in the last
forty years and yet how slow progress can be when fundamental prob
lems are deeply entrenched. Causation continues to bedevil us. With
one exception, the remaining contributors to this volume seem to con
firm that judgment. Matti Sintonen, Paul Humphreys, David Papi
neau, Nancy Cartwright, James Woodward, and Merilee Salmon ex
plore the many facets of causation as it applies to clarifying our
explanatory objectives. Peter Railton is an exception. In his paper
Railton reminds us that behind the epistemological and pragmatic
concerns of most of the other contributors, Wesley Salmon included,
there lies a set of metaphysical concerns. A thorough analysis of

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