Essence of the Faculty of Letters


Human beings come into this world, live for the given period, gradually grow old, become ill at times, and pass away from the world. Every human is spinning their life within a restricted time frame. Each person is, in this sense, a limited existence in terms of time, a being haunted by the finiteness (Endlichkeit) of a brief space of time.

Every person is also a being that helplessly lives in the present time. The here and now (hic et nunc) is the only place for humankind to exist. Even though humans dream about elsewhere, they can never reach it. Does it follow from this reason that a person is just an existence confined within a certain time frame and caught in the midst of the present age?

Let me give you the following instance; it has been known since olden times that prime numbers exist infinitely. You can find this beautiful truth in “Elements” by Euclid. Here and now, we are able to experience his proof. Isn’t this an incredibly wonderful thing by itself? Each of us, in the given present moment respectively, is touching what is transcending the time frames.

The Faculty of Letters consists of four divisions; Philosophy and Religion, History, Language and Culture, and Psychology and Sociology. These four divisions encompass both this present time, which cannot be replaced, and something which surpasses the hic et nunc, the restricted world of space and time. Measures to deal with them vary of course, casting different hues, depending on which is the main focus, right now or something going beyond it.

What is consistent is the attitude toward making an effort, here and now, to concern ourselves with what is transcending the present. We are trying to rise above the here and now when we are facing an old text. The reason is we are being addressed across the distance of time, by those who have woven the texts which no longer belong to the current time, and the descendants who have inherited them. Views beyond the present time are necessary for us as well, when contemplating a wide variety of problems we have on the here and now, for instance from the viewpoint of human behavioristics. We cannot thoroughly capture even the nature of the present time as long as we are buried in the vast actual world we are facing.

Simply going back in the tide of time is not the point. Nor is just anticipating what will come in the future as an extension of the present. Merely extending time in either way is nothing more than penetrating the edge of the world of the here and now. It will only lead us to self-sufficiency in our age we came into by chance.

What is required then? It is probably to listen to voices from the past and to see signs towards the future, whilst remaining in the present time. This is the path for human beings to triumph over time itself.

No one really knows what “eternity” is. However, throughout the ages, human beings have thought that standing vertically on the present, so to speak, instead of extending time infinitely, is the analogy of eternity. All studies in the Faculty of Letters are to comprehend narratives from bygone eras and to stand facing towards indicators for the future. Furthermore, to listen closely and to open our eyes to the “hic et nunc” is our vocation. Studies in the Faculty of Letters are, in this respect, nothing but the challenge, for time-restricted human beings, to have a glimpse of eternity in spite of the tides of time. You are invited to embark on the workings of humankind as time-bound existences still trying to transcend time.

Sumihiko Kumano
Dean of the Faculty of Letters and Graduate School of the Humanities and Sociology