A Genuine Way to Be? A Study of Martin Heidegger's Concept of "Authenticity" with Reference to Two Short Stories by Oe Kenzaburo
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Much commotion has been made regarding the philosophical similarities between Heidegger's thought and some Twentieth Century Japanese philosophy, particularly the work of Nishida Kitaro, and Nishitani Keiji. In this paper I am continuing the legacy of East-West comparisons. However, I am not focusing on Heidegger's relationship with either of the above philosophers, but I will attempt to compare some of the work of the Japanese writer Oe Kenzaburo with Heidegger's magnum opus Being and Time. My ultimate intention is to use two short works by Oe as a literary counterpoint to and critique of Heidegger's concept of "authenticity." I believe that a literary critique will be fruitful on several levels. Authors of fictional literature are blessed with a medium and format which allows them to create complex and complete worlds. They are able to create model environments that mimic the actual world, and through this they are able to test out possibilities. A writer might choose to model a vision of the earth one hundred years from now with the purpose of testing out the environmental consequences of our dependence upon industry and nonrenewable resources. Although such a world would remain purely speculative, the writer is able to actively explore possible visions. In light of this, literature becomes an interesting venue through which to test philosophical insight. My main objective in this work is to filter Heidegger's conception of an "authentic" self through t~e lenses of Oe's two works "Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness" and "The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away." I feel that examining Heidegger's work in this light will enable the formulation of insight that would not have otherwise been possible. As a result of this endeavor I hope that a clearer understanding of authenticity and its relation to social interaction will emerge. Although as it stands, the project is far from complete, I will feel it has been a success if the reader gains at least a small measure of insight into Heidegger's notion of the self.