Not-Knowing is the most Intimate: Exploring a non-Metaphorical Epistemology in Japanese Aesthetics

Yi Chen

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[Extract] If one can accept Donald Keene’s pioneering definition of “Japanese Aesthetics” as “suggestion”, “irregularity”, “simplicity” and “perishability”, while at the same time considering its paradoxical combination with other extremes such as vulgarity and flamboyance, the most intriguing question becomes how such keen aesthetic sensibility towards refinement in fact cuts across the traditional demarcations of Truth, Beauty and Good that matches the three quintessential philosophical domains: epistemology, ethics and aesthetics. Moreover, if one
does not simply accept the ongoing reconstruction of Japanese Aesthetics through traditional Western aesthetic concepts and categories, but carefully examines the quintessential Japanese aesthetic paradigms on their own
terms and merits, for example in the compelling austerity of haiku or Zen-garden compositions that has in turn inspired Western aesthetics of the twentieth century, then one must confront the challenging task of establishing
an embodied epistemology that would allow us to experience and express the knowledge of this aesthetic, i.e. the knowledge of “Not-knowing”, best articulated in the 12th century Zen kōan (Book of Equanimity no. 20):
“Not-knowing is the most intimate”.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Conference on Japanese Philosophy : The Kyoto School and After - Kyushu University Nishijin Plaza, Fukuoka, Japan
Duration: 7 Oct 20169 Oct 2016


ConferenceInternational Conference on Japanese Philosophy
Internet address


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