Vico and China

BookVico and China

Vico and China

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2020:06


June 11th, 2020

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While the resonance of Giambattista Vico’s hermeneutics for postcolonialism has long been recognised, a rupture has been perceived between his intercultural sensibility and the actual content of his philological investigations, which have often been criticised as being Eurocentric and philologically spurious. China is a case in point. In his magnum opus New Science, Vico portrays China as backward and philosophically primitive compared to Europe.
In this first study dedicated to China in Vico’s thought, Daniel Canaris shows that scholars have been beguiled by Vico’s value judgements of China without considering the function of these value judgements in his theory of divine providence. This monograph illustrates that Vico's image of China is best appreciated within the contemporary theological controversies surrounding the Jesuit accommodation of Confucianism.
Through close examination of Vico’s sources and intellectual context, Canaris argues that by refusing to consider Confucius as a “filosofo”, Vico dismantles the rationalist premises of the theological accommodation proposed by the Jesuits and proposes a new functionalist valorisation of non-Christian religion that anticipates post-colonial critiques of the Enlightenment.

Author Information

Daniel Canaris is a research fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Sun Yat-Sen University. After receiving his PhD from the University of Sydney in 2017, he has held appointments in Australia, Germany and England. His current work focuses on the founder of the Jesuit China mission, Michele Ruggieri (1543-1607).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: resurrecting the Chinese fossil17
‘A monstrous Chinese fossil’17
China and Confucianism in Vico’s Naples34
Vico and Jesuit accommodationism38
Revisiting the rozza e goffa philosophy of Vico’s Confucius48
Plan of this work52
1. Providence and Rome in the Diritto universale55
Retheologising Vico55
Background to grace and providence in Vico’s Diritto universale63
Providence between fate and chance70
2. The problem of China in early modern historiography97
Placing China in a Judaeo-Christian metanarrative97
Development of the Jesuit view of China103
3. The Scythian exception in the Diritto universale143
The Romans of the East143
The Scythians in early modern historiography and ethnography147
Vico’s Scythians and Noachide monotheism150
4. Towards a new theological valorisation of China163
Normalising the Scythians163
A hermeneutic of ignorance169
Demystifying Chinese ideograms184
Re-evaluating Jesuit accommodationism189
5. Poetic truth and Christian truth215
Scienza versus coscienza215
Ontological truths and teologia civile ragionata224
Conclusion: La discoverta del vero Confucio251