Aida and Ma: The Creativity of Nothingness

Shogo Tanaka shares the contribution of Japanese psychiatrist Bin Kimura to the study of aida, arguing that the origin of one’s subjective experience doesn't solely arise from within the body; rather, it emerges in the space, aida, between the body and the surrounding environment.

Subjectivity and intersubjectivity on nothingness

Nick: One thing I remembered reading or learning is aida or ma is like the space between musical notes. And without the space between the notes, the music wouldn't be meaningful, it wouldn't be dynamic, it wouldn't be beautiful, it wouldn't be powerful.

So the idea that a gap or nothingness is something creative is really interesting. And in your paper, you reference a Japanese phenomenological psychiatrist, Bin Kimura, so would you like to talk about him and his contribution to aida?

Shogo: Well, yes. Bin Kimura used to be one of the leading figure in the field of phenomenological psychopathology since 1970s. Unfortunately, he passed away two years ago, but in his later years, since 2000, he was much oriented to philosophy.

So probably we can say that he started his career as a psychiatrist, but he died as a philosopher. And I like Kimura’s work on aida. So let me talk about a bit on his work on aida. I like his idea because he was a very unique phenomenologist who described not only pathological symptoms based on aida but also more fundamental phenomenon such as the origin of our subjective experience or our intersubjective experience.

Well, according to his view, the origin of our subjectivity is in aida; aida means in between. And aida of one's body, well, according to him, the origin of a subjective experience is in aida of one's own body and the surrounding environment —not really coming from within the body, but it is in between the body and the surrounding environment.

And you can have the same sort of subjective experience because your body is anchored in a certain environment and the body can keep the same tendency of actions. For example, you may repeat particular emotional experiences when you're singing in a choir being surrounded by the same people or just singing in the same church or in the same hall.

And intersubjective experiences are given in the same manner; when you are embedded within a certain interpersonal environment, you can share senses of mood with others such as vibrant or cohesive or calm or dull, and so on.

So Kimura’s focus is always on the creativity of nothingness that I referred to earlier. He is one to try to base the notions of subjectivity and intersubjectivity on nothingness. And I think his view is continuous to the tradition of Japanese philosophy, such as Kitaro Nishida’s which emphasizes the notion of nothingness. Well, I hope it doesn't sound so complicated.