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AN ANALYSIS OF RHETORIC AND TOTAL EXERTION IN DOGEN: A CRITIQUE OF “THE REASON OF WORDS AND LETTERS”

by Phelan, Timothy Kerney

Abstract

Hee-Jin Kim’s article “The Reason of Words and Letters: Dogen and Koan Language” revolutionized the study of Dogen and the way we understand his language. Its biggest contribution is the proposal that Dogen viewed language itself as a path to realization. This model successfully integrates discriminating thought into a world-view of enlightenment, greatly deepening our view of Dogen as a unique and genius thinker. Kim does not, however, delve into Dogen’s rhetorical side, and rather claims that the intention of his writing was primarily rational. I argue that Dogen’s “realizational” view of language was applied by him in a specific rhetorical manner which Dale Wright dubs “direct pointing”. Through examining multiple Dogen passages, I show that direct pointing is an underappreciated aspect of his writing. Understanding this rhetorical dimension of Dogen adds new depth to his realizational view of language and opens new possibilities for interpretation of his writing. In addition, Kim outlines Dogen’s core principle of total exertion in his article. He does this mostly through route philosophical explanation and few examples. I argue that a better understanding of total exertion is possible through using it as a lens to look at different texts. This method is essential for penetrating some of Dogen’s more complicated and strange koan interpretations- themselves often being koans- and poetic imagery. In addition, I find that new understandings of total exertion itself arise through analyzing its essence in metaphor and imagery. For example, one can comprehend total exertion as “activity without remainder” or as an absence of “hindrance”. Overall, Kim’s article is foundational in understanding Dogen, but there is still more to be uncovered in his language and thought.

Note

The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Includes bibliographical references.

Administrative Notes

The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Copyright
Copyright restrictions apply.
Publisher
Colorado College
PID
coccc:17667
Digital Origin
born digital
Extent
25 pages
Thesis
Senior Thesis -- Colorado College
Thesis Advisor
Gardiner, David
Department/Program
Religion
Degree Name
Bachelor of Arts
Degree Type
bachelor
Degree Grantor
Colorado College
Date Issued
2016-05