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Abstract

In 1901, Chogyu Takayama (1871-1902), philosopher and literary critic, published a short article entitled “On the Aesthetic Life.” Takayama’s article, regarded as a manifesto of Nietzscheism by his contemporaries, triggered a great debate among a great many literary critics, including Shoyo Tsubouchi and Ogai Mori. This paper argues that Takayama’s article constituted a framework for aesthetic thought in modern Japan and marked the Japanization of Western modern aesthetics. Takayama was not interested in the modern Western idea of autonomous art; instead, he tried to work out the aesthetic in one’s way of living. What underlies Takayama’s idea of the aesthetic life is, to my mind, a traditional Japanese view of art according to which beauty is to be sought inside the world, not beyond the world. In other words, the idea of the aesthetic was decontextualized from its Western context of autonomous art and recontextualized within the traditional concept of the art of living. This is why his idea of the aesthetic life caused a profound echo and became a keynote in twentieth-century Japanese aesthetics.

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