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Top>People>The antiphilosophical form of a great philosopher in his 80s


Gen Kida

Gen Kida [Profile]

The antiphilosophical form of a great philosopher in his 80s

Gen Kida, Philosopher
Professor Emeritus at Chuo University

In the wonderful 1980s, along with the emergence of the term new-academism, a new wave of knowledge took the critical and ideological world by storm.
Professor Kida's antiphilosophy became widely known in that era. The monthly publication Modern Ideology, dealing in studies such as Modern French ideology, structuralism and post-structuralism, which challenges modern Western thinking, published Kida's Merleau-Ponty's World, a seven year study concluded in 1982, questioning the results of Martin Heidegger's research.
This produced shockwaves much in the same way as the late Keisaburo Maruyama's study into Ferdinand de Saussure, Maruyama Language Theory.
At the time, both were professors in Chuo University's Faculty of Letters. Although in different fields, Kida specializing in philosophy and Maruyama in French literature, the reputation, even though unwanted, of Chuo University's Faculty of Letters grew. There was even a kind of cult following outside of the university with large numbers of fake students attending lectures.

According to Professor Kida: "I was 16 when we lost the war. I worked for street hawkers or on the black-market. I used to load up a three-wheel truck with goods from burnt out army warehouses in Kawasaki, and flee just before the military police started shooting at me. It was quite good business."
Even Bakusho Mondai (a famous Japanese comic duo) was taken aback with the philospher's background on NHK's Bakusho Mondai's Japanese Education - Bakumon Gakumon (broadcast in April, 2008). The professor constantly appeared relaxed and unphased, despite Bakusho Mondai's canny ability to provoke, while talking on topics ranging from his wild youth to philosophy.
A book titled The Black-Marketeer Philosopher relates his talent as a carrier and black-marketer.
His father, a high-ranking government official who had been interned in Siberia, miraculously returned to Japan in the autumn of 1947.
"It really was touch and go back then, he said. "If my father had returned any later, I probably would have left school to join the black-market or yakuza. There would have been no turning back if that had happened."
That statement brings a huge sense of relief, even now.

"I want to read Heidegger's Being and Time," he had thought. This desire was the beginning of Kida's philosophy research. But it was to be a long journey. He started reading Heidegger in 1950, but it wasn't until 1983 when Heidegger was published in Iwanami's 20th Century Ideologist Collection. This was his first book on Heidegger, and it took 33 years in the making.
While referring to Immanuel Kant and the 10 years it took Kant to write Antinomy of Pure Reason, fellow Faculty of Letters professor, Akira Suda (philosophy), wrote (about Professor Kida): "Surprisingly long sustainability, and unbelievable perseverance and ambition. The professor is always telling us that philosophy takes time.More than anything else, the history behind his form of ideology gives us encouragement." ("Sending Professor Kida off, "Faculty of Letters Philosophy Department Journal, 1999).
Let us also mention that at Tohoku University, he taught himself German in his first year, Greek in his second year, and Latin in his third year. Then, he learned French in his first year of graduate school.
Thorough and determined, maybe these were the roots of his calm appearance.

So what actually is this antiphilosophy being preached by Heidegger's leading researcher? The following is from the prologue of History of Antiphilosophy:
"Thinkers of this century assume philosophy contains the fundamental principles of cultural formation in the cultural region know as the West. Their aim is to critically overcome this style of thinking unique to the West. This is one of the ways I try to summarize the basic intention of modern ideologists aiming to criticize or dismantle philosophy into the concept of antiphilosophy."
This resonates along with Beckett and Co.'s antitheater and Robbe-Grillet's antinovel.
The title of the NHK program was also extreme: "Destroy Philosophy - The Great Philosopher as Philosophy's Destroyer."
Socrates was a genuine cynic. Plato's theory of ideas is behind Europe's way of thinking. Descartes' reasoning seems like something out of the bible, totally different from what Japanese would see as reason. Antiphilosophy from Nietzsche onwards bears the same sensitivity as the Japanese people. Heidegger was a great, yet undesirable man.A Guide to Antiphilosophy turns philosophy from the Ancient Greeks to the 20th century on its head and seeks to shatter the boundaries of Western thinking.
Just as Nanao Shiono felt when he said(upon reading Professor Kida's book), "I finally understood what it meant when people say that Japanese don't understand Western philosophy," this book is indeed easy to read and one that leads to understanding.

Does modern civilization have a future? Is philosophy useful? This is how the philosopher in his 80s responded, in his ever calm manner, when posed these questions by Bakusho Mondai.
"No, it doesn't. I'll be dead when that day comes, though. I feel sorry for you all."

Gen Kida, Philosopher
Professor Emeritus at Chuo University
Born in 1928 in Yamagata Prefecture. Graduated from Tohoku University. Became a full-time lecturer at Chuo University in 1960, assistant professor in 1963, and professor in 1972, before retiring in 1999 after 39 years at Chuo University. He is now a professor emeritus at the university. As chairman of the reading club, he would read original works once a week for 33 years and provide guidance to his juniors.
Among his published works are specialist titles such as Phenomenology, Merleau-Ponty's Theory, and Heidegger's Theory. Other works include Everything Learnt from Hideo Kobayashi, Piano Playing Nietzsche, numerous essays, and book reviews.