Chapter 1 Leibniz’s Concept of translatio sapientiae as a Practice of Transcultural Exchange

In: Chinese Thought in Early German Enlightenment from Leibniz to Goethe
Břetislav Horyna
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Leibniz was not the one to discover China, as far as Western culture was concerned. His historical contribution lies in the fact he presented Europe and China as two distinct ways of contemplating the world, as fully comparable and resulting in types of societies at the same high institutional, economic, technological, political and moral level. In this sense he saw China as the “Europe of the Orient” and as such susceptible to investigation by the same tools of natural philosophy which Leibniz knew from the environs of European scholarship. He was the first representative of the classical school of European philosophy to knowingly reject Eurocentrism. Leibniz followed the intentions of learned missionaries in his understanding of the Christian mission as a cultural and civilisational task, a search for mutual agreement and connections, in favour of a reciprocal understanding.

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