Miki Kiyoshi (1897–1945)

views updated


Miki Kiyoshi, a Japanese philosopher of history and leading intellectual in the stormy years before World War II, was born in Isseimura, Hyogo prefecture. He was a student of Nishida Kitarō and of Hatano Seiichi at Kyoto University. He developed an early interest in the philosophy of history and studied in Germany (19221924) under Heinrich Rickert and Martin Heidegger, absorbing also some socialist ideas. In 1927 he accepted a chair of philosophy at Hōsei University, Tokyo, but he had been rejected as a teacher by his alma mater for dubious reasonshe had a love affair with a widow, in his day a more than sufficient reason to be excluded from a state university. Feeling resentment, and moved by the social climate of the time, he became Japan's first spokesman for philosophical Marxism. His essays on historical materialism (19271930) created a stir in academic circles and in the general public. His Marxism, however, was strongly colored by Heidegger's Anthropologie and by Blaise Pascal's conception of man, two views he had studied as a youth. His later works are not at all Marxist. In 1930 he was briefly imprisoned for contributing money to leftist causes; as a result he had to give up his teaching career and make a living as a social critic. During the crucial years before World War II, as ultranationalism became pervasive, Miki at first held to liberal principles without compromise. In 1936, he joined the Shōwa Research Society, which was led by Prince Konoe Fumimaru and which strove to moderate though not to oppose the mounting militarist trend. As the Shōwa became more and more nationalistic, Miki, though liberal at heart, had to compromise. For opposing Japan's entry into World War II and for aiding prosecuted leftists, he was returned to prison toward the war's end, and there he died.

Miki's best works are Rekishi tetsugaku (Philosophy of history; Tokyo, 1932) and Kōsōryoku no ronri (The logic of the power of imagination; Tokyo, 1939). In the first work Miki's starting-point is the subjective existential and sensible experience of life. From this he proceeds to formulate the structure of "history-in-the-making." Fundamental experience of life, he says, creates selfhood, the historical subject that is the only maker of history, since in selfhood there are not subjective and objective factors, but only lived experience. Kōsōryoku no ronri reflects Miki's use of Immanuel Kant's Einbildungskraft ("imaginative power") as it was revived by Heidegger and also reveals the evolution of Miki's thought away from the logos as social rationality that dominated Rekishi tetsugaku and toward a major role for pathos, the subjective inspiration that in Japan led to ultranationalist feelings. Miki was perhaps hinting that rationality was losing ground to ultranationalist passion. At any rate, for Orientals, the logic of the imagination, with its creation of myths and of what Miki calls "forms" of technocultural systems, is said to have some advantages, such as artistic inventiveness and creativity, over conceptual knowledge and usual logic. Miki uses terms borrowed from his master Nishida, the originator of the Oriental "logic of field."

See also Hatano Seiichi; Heidegger, Martin; Historical Materialism; Japanese Philosophy; Kant, Immanuel; Marxist Philosophy; Nishida Kitarō; Pascal, Blaise; Rickert, Heinrich.


For works in Japanese, see Miki Kiyoshi Choshaku-shū (Miki Kiyoshi's collected works), 16 vols. (Tokyo, 19451951), and Miyagawa Tōru, Miki Kiyoshi (Tokyo, 1958). For works in English see Gino K. Piovesana, "Miki Kiyoshi: Representative Thinker of an Anguished Generation," in Studies in Japanese Culture, edited by Joseph Roggendorf (Tokyo: Sophia University, 1963), pp. 141161.

Gino K. Piovesana, S.J. (1967)