Religion and nothingness: the Kyoto School

Course Dates: 09/10/20 - 30/10/20
Time: 15:00 - 17:00
Location: Online

Thinking of God as ‘Absolute’ and as ‘Nothing’ is key to the inter-faith dialogue of Zen Buddhism and Christian theology promoted by Kyoto School thinkers Nishida and Nishitani. In what sense is God ‘Nothing’?

This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.


What is the course about?

In thinking about the nature of religion, NISHIDA Kitaro and NISHITANI Keiji drew on the Buddhist concept of ‘nothingness’ (mu, emptiness, shunyata). In a parallel examination of Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism, they developed a conception of God as the ‘Absolute’, ‘All’, ‘One’ or ‘Nothing’. This conception will be examined across Christian theology and Zen Buddhist philosophy.

“ … we always encounter the absolute in our own self-negation, reflecting the paradox of God ... the self always encounters the absolute as the paradox of God himself – that is, as the self-negation of the absolute one.” NISHIDA Kitaro, ‘Nothingness and the Religious Worldview’ (1949).

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

• The background to the Kyoto School in Japanese and European philosophy, in particular the thinking of NISHIDA Kitaro in ‘Nothingness and the Religious Worldview’ and NISHITANI Keiji in ‘Religion and Nothingness’.

• The conception of God as the Absolute or One in Christian and Greek thought in contrast to the absolute as emptiness/nothingness in Buddhist thought

• The question of the ‘nothingness’ of God and the figure of Christ.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

Discuss, simply, the meaning of 'nothingness' (in the Kyoto School) and its relevance to their conception of God.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This is an introductory course that assumes no specific philosophical learning or ability other than an interest in thinking philosophically. A willingness to engage in thinking-through and discussing ideas will be of benefit.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The course will run in a seminar format with brief tutor presentations followed by Q&A and open discussion. There may be some small-group formats for discussion based on topics arising from short readings.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

No other costs. Participants may wish to take notes with pen & paper, laptop or tablet according to their preference.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

You might be interested in HP100 - Chinese philosophy, HP112 - Japanese philosophy, or HP032 - The oneness of time and being: explore the Zen philosophy of Eihei Dogen.

Tutor Biographies
John Goff Tutor Website

From reading Philosophy at a young age to the formal study of Cognitive Science, Philosophy & Psychology at the Universities of London and Sussex - after a prior career in video-arts - John Goff has been presenting philosophy courses to adults since the early 2000s. He uses a cross-disciplinary, seminar-based approach in his courses, drawing on Philosophy, Psychology and the wider Humanities & Social Sciences with an emphasis on the intersection of contemporary and classical European and Asian philosophical thought. He is the author of several works of philosophical fiction concerning artificial minds and organisms and alternative-human worlds including the novel 'The Last Days of the Most Hidden Man' and the novellas 'Eidopolis', 'Agents of Erasure' and 'Jupiter|Saturn'. His academic writings can be found on his page at ''.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.

This course has now started

Course Code: HP167

Started Fri, day, 09 Oct - 30 Oct '20

Duration: 4 sessions (over 4 weeks)

Full fee: £79.00
Senior fee: £63.00
Concession: £48.00

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.