Leibniz e a questão do espinozismo chinês. Leibniz and the question of Chinese espinozism.
Authors: Franklin Perkins
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Abstract: Leibniz’s Discourse on the Natural Theology of the Chinese is the earliest example of a significant European philosopher engaging Chinese Philosophy and it remains one of the only such cases. When we consider the limits of Leibniz’s sources and the fact that “comparative philo-sophy” was almost unprecedented in Europe, his interpretation is remarkably successful. Leibniz’s engagement with Chinese Philosophy followed the contours of the Rites Controversy and the Jesuit position of accommodation. The Discourse focuses in particular on the question of whe-ther or not the Chinese (and Confucianism in particular) had a natural theology or were atheists. Among philosophers in Europe, though, the charge against the Chinese was more specific than just atheism – they saw Confucianism as a form of Spinozism. This link goes at least back to Pierre Bayle and appears clearly with Malebranche. Thus Leibniz is concerned not only with showing that the Confucians are theists (like himself ) but also that they are not Spinozists. In making this argument, Leibniz uses textual evidence and a principle of hermeneutic charity, projecting the conclusions that the Chinese, as rational beings, would naturally make. The great irony is that whi-le Leibniz was a far more generous, careful, and perceptive interpreter of Chinese thought, most scholars would now take Bayle and Malebranche as having come closer to the truth. That is, while no one would say that Chinese philosophers were Spinozists, they were probably closer to Spinoza than they were to Leibniz himself. In this paper I will examine Leibniz’s arguments against Chine-se Spinozism, considering in particular the kinds of conclusions he assumes Chinese philosophers rationally would have to make. The purpose is not so much to evaluate Leibniz’s interpretation as to see what lessons can be learned for cross-cultural understanding and comparative philosophy.