Journal of Nishida Philosophy Association
Online ISSN : 2434-2270
Print ISSN : 2188-1995
The present encountering words
Liberating the eternal essence
[in Japanese]
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2020 Volume 16 Pages 42-57

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Abstract

  What is the “eternal now” in the context of Kuki’s philosophy? In responding to this problem, two lines of approach are possible. The first of these is to ask about the nature of the “eternal now” established within “recurring time.” Here, the “eternal now” that constitutes our problematic is the instant in which a given matter is repeated indefinitely, maintaining its oneness — an instant that Kuki considers a metaphysical and mystical experience. The second approach is to ask about the nature of the “eternal now” revealed at the root of contingency. According to Kuki, this “eternal now” is a “élan vital” that underlies our normal experience of the flow of time, making our reality possible. In the present when we encounter contingency, we perceive a “élan vital” when we know that the reality is “what it is.”   In this paper, after analyzing these two “eternal nows,” I clarify their mutual relationship from the problematic of poetic language, and of rhyme in particular. For Kuki, poetry expresses the present as qualitative time, and rhyme is considered particularly excellent for such expression. Rhyme, rather than merely a form of wordplay based on a coincidence of sound, is something in which we feel astonishment, through our experience of this coincidence of sounds and words, that words have been given as “what it is.” Then, as this astonishment becomes more profound with the repetition of this oneness of rhyme and rhythm, we become able to approach the living heartbeat underlying our present, which is to say the “eternal now.” For Kuki, rhyme is a way to connect the contingent present when we encounter words not with an ephemeral moment, but with an eternity that transcends time.

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