Living – in between – Cultures

Downscaling Intercultural Aesthetics to Daily Life
  • Henk Oosterling
Part of the Einstein Meets Margritte: An Interdisciplinary Reflection on Science, Nature, Art, Human Action and Society book series (EMMA, volume 9)

Rotkoff undoubtedly read Sun Tzu's The Art of War, written over 2,000 years ago. War is an art. Japanese got acquainted with Sun Tzu's text in the fifth century, when envoys visited China to acquire new insights in skills and to purchase tools and techniques. After the introduction of Buddhism the warrior class, bushi, started to write haiku as a meditative stylization of the now here experience, the core element of Zen: emptiness (mu, Sanskrit: sunyata) and the suchness of things (son-omama, konomama; Sanskrit: tathata). During the pacification of Japan after 1600, Yamaga Soko forged martial skills into a Zen Buddhist based, self-disciplining practice: The way (do) of the samurai class.2 While walking the bushido in peace time the samurai handled both sword and pen — bu to bun — to write and paint. And when their time had come to kill themselves so as to appease conflicting loyalties or pay their debts to their clan, before cutting (kiri) their bellies (hara) open, performing seppuku, some even wrote down their final haiku. The long trajectory from Japanized Chinese knowledge via meditative verse to the briefings of an Iraqi-based American Colonel with a Jewish background is highly intercultural, because of the temporal and spatial transformations that are presupposed in this process of cross cultural adaptation and cultivation.


Japanese Culture Invisible Supplement Flower Arrangement Final Instance Pure Immanence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    See B. Woodward,State of Denial. Bush at War, Part III. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006, pp. 98, 102, 211Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sun Tzu,The Art of War (Transl. S. B. Griffith). Oxford University Press, London, 1963, p. 174Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    F. Fukuyama,The End of History and the Last Man. Free Press, New York, 1992Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See also G. Lelli, ‘Transculturality: A Problematic Concept. Aesthetics between the Islam and the West’, in G. Marchiano & R. Milani (eds.), Frontiers of Transculturality in Contemporary Aesthetics. Trauben, Turin, 2001, p. 465Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    H. Oosterling,Radicale middelmatigheid. Boom, Amsterdam, 2000. Scholar
  6. 6.
    The word ‘Interesse’ is German for ‘interest’. It also means ‘to be interested in’. In a philosophical context this connotation is used in a literal sense: being (esse) in between (inter)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    M. C. Taylor,Tears. SUNY Press, Albany, 1990, p. 141Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See L. Apostel,Atheïstische spiritualiteit. VUB Press, Brussel, 1998Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See H. Kimmerle,Philosophien der Differenz. Eine Einführung. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg, 2000Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For further elaboration see H. Oosterling, ‘From Interests to Inter-esse: Jean-Luc Nancy on Deglobalization and Sovereignty’,SubStance, 106, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2005, pp. 81–103Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    On this topic there is an indirect relation between French existentialists like Sartre and Camus and thinkers of difference. This existentialist tone resonates in texts of Japanese thinkers like Kuki and D.T. Suzuki. However an aesthetics of existence cannot be explained by applying the crypto-metaphysical opposition betweenessentia andexistentia. See T. Botz-Bornstein,Place and Dream. Japan and the Virtual. Rodopi, Amsterdam, 2004, pp. 31, 48, 68Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    In fact Heidegger reworked Japanese aesthetics implicitly without any reference. See for this philosophical imperialisms: R. May,Ex Oriente Lux. Heideggers Werk unter ostasiatischen Einfluss. Steiner, Stuttgart, 1989; see for a comparative discussion: Botz-Bornstein, op. cit., pp. 26–51Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Between 1997 and 2002 this was a research program of the Center for Philosophy & Arts (CFK) based at the Department of Philosophy of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. See for national and international symposia and
  14. 14.
    See A. C. Danto,The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art. Columbia University Press, New York, 1986, p. 209;The State of the Art. Prentice Hall, New York, 1987, p. 208Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    See H. Oosterling, ‘Sens(a)ble Intermediality and Interesse. Towards on Ontology of the In-Between’,Intermédialités, No. 1, Spring 2003, pp. 29–46. CRI Montreal.
  16. 16.
    This redirection can be situated in between two exhibitions in Centre Pompidou: Lyotard,Les Immateriaux (1985) and R. Krauss,L'Informe (1996). See for the latter: Y.-A. Bois & R. E. Kraus,Formless. A User's Guide. Zone books, New York, 1997. See further: H. Oosterling, ‘ICTheology or local interesse? Desacralizing Derrida's chora’, in L. Nagl (ed.),Essays zu Jacques Derrida and Gianni Vattimo, Religion. Peter Lang. Europäischer Verlag der Wissenschaften, New York, 2001, pp. 109–130Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See T.M. Raysor (ed.),Coleridge's Miscellaneous Criticism. Folcroft Press, London, 1936, p. 33Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    See D. Higgins,The Poetics and Theory of the Intermedia. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 1984Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    F. J. Albersmeier,Theater, Film und Literatur in Frankreich. Medienwechsel und Intermedialität. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1992; P. Zima (ed.),Literatur intermedial. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1995; J. M ü ller, Intermedialit ä t. Formen moderner kultureller Kommunikation. Nodus Publikationen, M ü nster, 1996. Henk Oosterling & Ewa Plonovska-Ziarek (eds.), Intermedialities. Philosophy, Art, Politics. Rowland & Littlefield, Lanham, 2008Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    M ü ller, op. cit., p. 83 [my translation]Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    M ü ller, op. cit., p. 89 [my translation]Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    P. Wagner (ed.),Icons — Texts — Iconotexts. Essays on Ekphrasis and Intermediality. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, 1996, p. 17Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    U. Link-Heer & V. Roloff (eds.),Luis Bu ñ uel. Film — Literatur — Intermedialit ä t. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1994, p. 4 [my translation]Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    V. Roloff, ‘Einleitung: Bu ñ uels reflektierte Intermedialit ä t’, in Link-Heer & Roloff, op. cit., p. 6Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    V. Borsò, ‘Luis Bu ñ uel: Film, Intermedialit ä t und Moderne’, in Link-Heer & Roloff, op. cit., p. 160 [my translation]Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    See G. Deleuze,Francis Bacon. Logique du la sensation. Éditions de la différence, La Vue le Texte, Paris, 1981, p. 27; G. Deleuze, F. Guattari,Qu'est-ce que la philosophie ? Éditions de Minuit, Paris, 1991, p. 200Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Botz-Bornstein, op. cit., p. 48Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    H. Szeemann (Hrgs.),Der Hang zum Gesamtkunstwerk. Europ ä ische Utopien seit 1800. Verlag Sauerl ä nder, Aarau und Frankfurt a/M, 1983, p. 16Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    See the concluding remarks of W. Benjamin,The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, (1935).
  30. 30.
    M. Foucault,Histoire de la sexualité 2. L'usage des plaisirs. Édition Gallimard, Paris, 1984, pp. 16–17Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    G. Deleuze,Pure Immanence. Essays on a Life. Zone Books, New York, 2001, p. 29Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    See J.-F. Lyotard,Les TRANSformateurs DUchamp. Galilée, Paris, 1977, p. 13Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Lyotard, op. cit., p. 35Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    C. Tomkins,Duchamp. A Biography. Henry Holt, New York, 1996, p. 429Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    See M. Hamashita, ‘Taste and Novelty from the Viewpoint of Modernity in Japan’, in G. Marchiano & R. Milani, op. cit., p. 501Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    ‘These like all other basic categories will be referred to in their non-translatable form, because these being multilayered don't allow a simple translation,’ R. Ohashi states inKire. Das ‘SchÖne’ in Japan. Philosophisch- ä sthetische Reflexionen zu Geschichte und Moderne. Dument, KÖln, 1994, p. 161 [my translation]Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    R. Wilkinson, ‘Aesthetic Virtues in the Context of Nirvanic Values’, in G. Marchiano & R. Milani, op. cit., p. 98Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Wilkinson, op. cit., p. 92Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    D. T. Suzuki,Zen and Japanese Culture. Bollinger Series, Princeton, 1970, p. 24Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Ohashi, op. cit., p. 74 [my translation]Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Suzuki, op. cit., p. 258Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Botz-Bornstein, op. cit., p. 48Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Kiru means to cut with a sword and metaphorically ‘to end’.Kiri indicates a limit or end,kire a slice. In combinations likeomoi kiru this cutting of thinking (omoi) means ‘to decide’ or as inhara kiri cutting the belly (hara)Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Ohashi, op. cit., p. 16 [my translation]Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ohashi, op. cit., p. 66 [my translation]Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Ohashi, op. cit., p. 75 [my translation]Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Ohashi, op. cit., p. 36 [my translation]Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    M. Abe,Zen and Western Thought. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1985, p. 233Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    See T. Deshimaru,Zen & Arts Martiaux. Editions Seghers, Paris, 1977, pp. 31, 145Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Ohashi, op. cit., p. 80 [my translation]Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    To give one example, the different ‘schools’ (ryu) in karate are the result of adaptingkata to the specific physical and mental qualities of the master, who after first having learnt the style of hissensei and having protected his master's school, develops his ownryu. This threefold development is calledshu ha ri Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Ohashi, op. cit., p. 104 [my translation]Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    M.-H. Kim, ‘Aesthetics Disinterestedness in East-Asian Way of Thinking’, in G. Marchiano & R. Milani, op. cit., p. 485Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    K. Nishitani,The Self-Overcoming of Nihilism. SUNY Press, New York, 1990, p. 180Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Ohashi, op. cit., p. 156 [my translation]Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    See I. Arata, ‘Ma: Japanese Time-Space’, inThe Japanese Architect. International Edition of Shinkenchiku. no. 262, Feb. 1979, pp. 69–80Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    See Ch. Buci-Glucksmann,Der kartographische Blick der Kunst. Merve, Berlin, 1997, p. 166 [my translation]. See for an extensive exploration of ma: H. Oosterling, ‘A Culture of the Inter. Japanese Notions of Ma and Basho’, in Sensus communis in Multi- and Intercultural perspective. On the Possibility of Common Judgements in Arts and Politics. H. Kimmerle & H. Oosterling (eds.), KÖnigshausen & Neumann, W ü rzburg, Part 7; Botz-Bornstein, op. cit., pp. 109–124Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    See S. Ueda, ‘Nishida, Nationalism, and the Question of Nationalism’, in J. C. Maraldo & J. W. Heisig,Rude Awakenings. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1995, p. 102Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    See K. Nishida,An Inquiry into the Good. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1990. See also: R. Elberfeld,Kitaro Nishida (1870–1945). Das Verstehen der Kulturen. Moderne japanische Philosophie und die Frage nach der Interkulturalit ä t. Amsterdam, 1999, pp. 107–109Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    In Japanese ‘experience’ is eitherkeiken or taiken, respectively ‘Erfahrung’ and ‘Erlebnis’. See Y. Yuasa,The Body. Towards an Eastern Mind-Body theory. SUNY Press, Albany, 1987, p. 49Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Yuasa, op. cit., p. 39Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Botz-Bornstein, op. cit., p. 29Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Botz-Bornstein, op. cit., p. 35Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Botz-Bornstein, op. cit., p. 48Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Abe, op. cit., p. 233Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Suzuki, op. cit., p. 13Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    T. Deshimaru,Zen and Arts Martiaux. Paris, 1977, p. 34 [my translation]Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    See the works of the American-based Tibetan Buddhist ChÖgyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939–1987),Cutting through Spiritual Materialism (1973) andShambhala. The Sacred Path of the Warrior (1984)Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Deshimaru, op. cit., p. 31 [my translation]Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Ohashi thematizes this even more profoundly, when he concludes that Japanese culture is the result of an ongoing process of importing and adapting other cultures like China, Korea, Europe and recently the USA: ‘For the Japanese European influences were no longer an alien world, they became their own world’ (141) [my translation]Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    See for an extensive account: H. Oosterling, ‘Scheinheiligkeit oder die Heiligkeit des Scheins. Subjektkritische Besch ä ftigungen mit Japan’, inDas Multiversum der Kulturen. H. Kimmerle (Hrgs.), Rodopi Elementa, Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 103–120Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    See E. Roudinesco,Jacques Lacan. Esquisse d’une vie, histoire d’un système de pensée. Fayard, Paris, 1993, p. 456. See H. Oosterling, ‘Radikale Mediokrit ä t oder revolution ä re Akte? Über fundamentals Inter-esse’, in E. Vogt, H.J. Silverman (Hrgs.), Über Zizek. Turia + Kant, Vienna, pp. 42–62Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    See J.-F. Lyotard, Que peindre? Adami, Arakawa, Buren. Editions de la différence, Paris, 1987, p. 108 [my translation]Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    J.-F. Lyotard,The Inhuman. Reflections on Time. Polity Press, Cambridge, 1991, p. 45Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Idem, p. 140Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    J.-F. Lyotard,Moralités Postmodernes. Galilée, Paris, 1993, p. 204 [my translation]Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    M. Yoneyama, ‘Creative Chora and Aesthetic of Place’, in G. Marchiano & R. Milani, op. cit., pp. 105–110Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    K. K. Inada, ‘The Aesthetics of Oriential Emptiness’, in G. Marchiano & R. Milani, op. cit., p. 74Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    M. C. Taylor, ‘On Deconstruction Theology: A Symposium on Erring: A Postmodern A/ Theology’,Journal of the American Academy of Religion, LIV/3, 1986, p. 553Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Botz-Bornstein, op. cit., p. 46Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    N. R. Glass,Working Emptiness. Towards a Third Reading of Emptiness In Buddhism and Postmodern Thought. Scholars Press, Atlanta, 1995, p. 94Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Yoneyama, op. cit., p. 106Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    See E. Giaccardi, ‘Transcultural Vision and Epistemological Shift: From Aesthetics to High-Tech Society’, in G. Marchiano & R. Milani, op. cit., p. 507Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    ‘Trans’ indicates disappearance as a result of excess. See J. Baudrillard,La Transparance du Mal. Galilée, Paris, 1990, pp. 22–42Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    G. Deleuze,Pure Immanence. Essays on A Life. Zone Books, New York, 2001, p. 26Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    See for a critical comment, J. de Mul, ‘Transhumanism. The Convergence of Evolution, Humanism and Information Technology’, in, Connecting Art & Technology.
  87. 87.
    Deleuze, op. cit., p. 29Google Scholar
  88. 88.
    Apostel, op. cit., p. 24Google Scholar
  89. 89.
    Apostel, op. cit., p. 123Google Scholar
  90. 90.
    In Belgian academic research two trajectories are relevant: W. Desmond,Being and the Between (1995) enEthics and the Between (2001); for a social-therapeutic approach, L. Beyers,Conflict en inter-esse. VUB Press, Brussel, 1994Google Scholar
  91. 91.
    Wilkinson, op. cit., p. 101. However, for Japanese this is not obvious. In his after word to Ohashi's book onkire the translator warns the reader for an ecological interpretation of the Japanese mix of nature and technique. Ohashi, op. cit., p. 164Google Scholar
  92. 92.
    ‘Mental ecology’ is an option. It is in the cooperative oeuvre of Deleuze and Guattari that we find enough material to expand the idea that ecology has different dimensions: physical, social and mental. See F. Guattari,Les trois ecologies (1989)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henk Oosterling

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations