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Transcendence, ground, and the problem of nihilism


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Allison, Robert J.




Doctor of Philosophy in Religious Studies


Iwamura, Jane N.
Hall, Eric
Chu, William


The following dissertation will focus on the problem of the relation amongst TRANSCENDENCE, GROUND, and NIHILISM. It will do so by, first, discussing the origin of METAPHYSICS, and then, the way in which meta-ethical systems manifest themselves in a triadic form. After having established the relation amongst these concepts, we will then discuss the problem of nihilism and its relation to both transcendence and ground. Next, we will endeavor to show that nihilism, initially in the work of Nietzsche, posits the death of transcendence, and hence of ground, resulting in the demise of metaphysics.

The work of Keiji Nishitani will then be developed in relation to nihilism. Nishitani’s thought will first be developed in general terms before turning to his analysis of nihilism. We will develop Nishitani’s Buddhist-inspired approach to the problem of nihilism and the ways in which Nishitani synthesized the work of specific European thinkers into a unique, Buddhist-inspired analysis. To better understand Nishitani’s thought, forays into the thought of both Nagarjuna and Nishida will be undertaken.

To conclude, a discussion of the consequences of nihilism, the attempt to overcome it, and the prospects of that overcoming will be developed. The conclusion will delineate both Nietzsche and Nishitani’s attempts to overcome nihilism, an overcoming that is grounded in each thinker’s understanding of nihilism. The dissertation will conclude with a “pessimistic” suggestion that nihilism, as it manifests itself today, is the sort for which an overcoming is unlikely. Hence, the final section will be one that moves toward an embrace and appropriation of nihilism.

The hope is that the following chapters will succeed in introducing what we consider to be the most important religious and philosophic problem today, that is, the problem of nihilism. Moreover, we hope to contribute to the noble art of teaching the concept of the triad. As will be developed below, a triadic approach to a given meta-ethical system of thought contributes a useful heuristic device. Those who have employed a triadic framework in their classrooms have found that it facilitates the organization and assessment of otherwise disparate knowledge.

Degree Granter

University of the West



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