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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



What do we mean by “seeing”? Although we may see the same object in front of us, we each consciously or unconsciously select what we wish to see, eliminating information we find unnecessary. An artist or poet can see in even a tiny flower, which others barely notice, a wealth of colors or countless words. How then do our own eyes and those of others differ?

This thesis aims to explore how the act of seeing shapes one’s life and influences it through a consideration of the works of Kobayashi Hideo 小林秀雄 (1902-1983), a literary critic in modern Japan. In 1949 Kobayashi published a long essay entitled “Watakushi no jinseikan” 私の人生観(My View of Life), originally given as a speech in 1948 when he was forty-six years old. In this work Kobayashi analyzes the word kan 観 (vision) with reference to more than forty historical figures from both the West and the East. The thesis selects for discussion two of these in particular, namely Miyamoto Musashi 宮本武蔵(1584-1645), a Japanese warrior of the early Edo era, and Henri Bergson (1859-1941), a major French philosopher of the twentieth century upon whom Kobayashi places special significance.

While the primary focus is on interpreting this speech of Kobayashi’s, the thesis also discusses his earlier and later works in order to show the various transitions his philosophy went through over the course of his long career. The strong belief to which Kobayashi held on throughout his life as a literary critic is that the only way to see the essence of any object is to reject all rational and analytical interpretation and instead to unite one’s self with the objects: this was the ultimate approach that Kobayashi adopted in order to understand the word kan. This thesis finally addresses the question of whether this vision enabled Kobayashi to achieve his potential as a critic and as an individual.


First Advisor

Stephen M Forrest