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Nature - Japanese Culture

by Barnhill, David L. last modified Sep 20, 2010 07:41 PM

Here are some key points to keep in mind when thinking about how the traditional Japanese view of nature differs from the Western.

Keep in mind two distinctions

1. Nature-culture. What is the relationship between them? Look for ways traditional Japanese views differ from conventional Western views.

2. Is-ought (also, descriptive-prescriptive; descriptive-normative). Modern Western philosophy has argued that these are not connected: you can’t derive an “ought” (e.g., ethical principle) from a description of the way the world “is.” In East Asian, the “ought” of morality, spirituality, and aesthetics is closely related to the basic character of reality.

 

The natural world (“objective”) and experience of nature (“subjective) are not wholly distinct.

The Japanese don’t divide the world into “objective” and “subjective” as does the West.
Certain things or moments have an “objective” emotional quality to seasons and moments. The feeling is part of the scene.
The goal is to realize, experience, and appreciate the feeling-tone of a scene

Is and ought, descriptive and prescriptive are integrated..

Nature and culture are integrated and imply each other.

 

The true nature of nature

In religious traditions, a key distinction is between realizing one’s true nature and failing to do that, acting contrary to it.

The goal is to realize one’s true nature and act upon it. This takes discipline, and it is what a Sage is able to accomplish. 

The way a sage acts and feels (rather than her beliefs) is a model for the rest of us.

Thus, is and ought, descriptive and prescriptive are integrated.

Plants, animals, and scenes also have a true nature. Some manifest their true nature more than others: a pine tree on a cliff; bonsai. This may require the “discipline” of a Japanese gardener training, say, a pine tree. A sensitive person values and cherishes those things that manifest their true nature more than others.

 

Some people (e.g. poets) and poems have authoritative experiences of nature.

They show us how something ought to be experienced, because they have realized its true nature.
A Poet is able to realize the aesthetic and spiritual truths, speak of it in a way that articulates that truth and catalyzes experience in reader.
This too takes discipline.
Those that are most culturally advanced (poets) are most advanced in experiencing nature.
We look to culture (poetry) to help us experience nature more truly and deeply.
Thus, culture (literary art) is central to our realization of the natural.

Is and ought, descriptive and prescriptive are integrated.

Nature and culture are integrated and imply each other.

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by Barnhill, David L. last modified Sep 20, 2010 07:41 PM