Nothingness and Desire: A Philosophical Antiphony
200pp. July 2013
Nothingness and Desire: A Philosophical Antiphony
Author: Heisig, James W.;
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 Lectures on Comparative Religion. They revolve around the intersection of two ideas, 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 East and West philosophies into a single chorus, Heisig undertakes what he calls a “philosophical antiphony.” Through the simple call-and-response of a few representative voices, Heisig tries to join the choir on both sides of the antiphony to relate the questions at hand to larger problems that press on the human community. He argues that 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, religious and philosophical responses can no longer afford to remain territorial in outlook. Although the lectures often stress the importance of practice, their principal preoccupation is with seeing the things of life more clearly. Heisig explains:

“By that I mean not just looking more closely at objects that come into my line of view from day to day, but seeing them as mirrors in which I can see myself reflected. Things do not just reveal parts of the world to me; they also tell me something of how I see what I see, and who it is that does the seeing. To listen to what things have to say to me, I need to break with the habit of thinking simply that it is I who mirror inside of myself the world outside and process what I have captured to make my way through life. Only when this habit has been broken will I be able to start seeing through the reflections, to scrape the tain off the mirror, as it were, so that it becomes a window to the things of life as they are, with only a pale reflection of myself left on the pane. Everything seen through the looking glass, myself included, becomes an image on which reality has stamped itself. This, I am persuaded, is the closest we can come to a ground for thinking reasonably and acting as true-to-life as we can.”

Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture Series
“Many readers already know Heisig through his ground-breaking critical studies and translations of Japanese philosophy. Others admire him for his efforts at interreligious dialogue and his personal activities related to global justice, education for the disenfranchised, and ecological sustainability. In this book, Heisig engages his extraordinary grasp of philosophical resources, eastern and western, Buddhist and Christian, to address the global crises we face today.” —Thomas P. Kasulis, The Ohio State University

“From his vast scholarly range, Heisig adroitly addresses contemporary issues while simultaneously connecting those issues with a much-needed historical perspective. He possesses the uncommon attribute of being firmly grounded both existentially and intellectually in Eastern and Western cultures.” — Jason Wirth, Seattle University

“For those who think that philosophers of nothingness have nothing to do with desire, thisis the book to read. Laced with subtle philosophical arguments and sparkling with keeninsights and refreshing metaphors, this text vividly conveys the author’s concern with the way the world of the mind and body is going, and demands with calm eloquence our full attention. Here is a deeply compassionate thinker at the height of his powers.” —Graham Parkes, University College Cork
Author: Heisig, James W.;
James W. Heisig is a permanent fellow of the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture in Nagoya, Japan.