This paper attempts to address the universal nature of the international relations theory. Specifically, I examine Nishida Kitarō’s cultural theory. This is necessary because recent years have witnessed extensive discussions on Western and non-Western international relations in association with the international relations theory. Accordingly, I examine whether Japan has its own international relations theory. Nishida Kitarō, who is a prominent Japanese philosopher and a proponent of constructivism in the international relations theory, examined changes in the Japanese identity under the conditions set by wartime international relations.
First, I address two questions by examining a cultural theory proposed by Nishida Kitarō that is associated with wartime conditions. One pertains to whether Japan is considered a Western or a non-Western country. The second is whether Japan wants to become a Western or a non-Western country. Further, I clarify how these questions are reflected in the cultural theory by Nishida. The starting point of my interest in Nishida’s cultural theory is the origins of Oriental philosophy, which encourages one “to see a thing without a form, to hear a silent voice.” Nishida aimed to provide philosophical grounds for the roots of this Oriental culture. He compared European and Oriental cultures and considered the later development of the Japanese culture.
Second, I clarify the universality of Nishida’s culture theory. The “culture idea” put forward by Nishida is not necessarily related to any specific wartime policy, and it garnered criticism after the war. Most of these critiques occurred within Japan. However, these critiques do not diminish the value of Nishida’s cultural theory. From the 1990s onward, Nishida’s philosophy came to be evaluated by European philosophers.
Finally, I inspect the problem posed by Nishida’s culture theory. The culture idea of Nishida, for example, Keijijyōgakuteki tachiba kara mita tōzai kodai no bunka keitai, Nihonbunka no mondai and Sekai shinchitsujo no genri, was elucidated before the war, and some parts of the idea are not applicable to the present-day global community. Hence, I elucidate the part that will become problematic in the future when Nishida’s culture theory becomes universal. In addition, I reinterpret Nishida’s cultural theory in the context of current international relations. In Japan, many books and papers regarding international relations are written in Japanese, which is telling. Japan’s international relations theories suggest the possibility of ideas originating and spreading from a Japanese perspective. At the same time, I clarify that Japan’s international theory can promote other countries’ international relations, as well.