Chapter 3 A Reconstruction of the Teachings of the Ancient Chinese according to Georg Bernhard Bilfinger

In: Chinese Thought in Early German Enlightenment from Leibniz to Goethe
Břetislav Horyna
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Bilfinger took the whole issue of state administration across the border of philosophical (and also theological) theories into the realm of state law, to the beginnings of state science. This alone marked a methodological shift; as a practitioner of international relations, Bilfinger was more interested in deductive procedures, which he believed would provide him with plausible results by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the various elements of the system of government and the organization of governance in state entities. In doing so, he was less interested in the individual elements that Wolff had examined than in the systemic arrangements manifested in the creation of successful and beneficial forms of government in the state. On the other hand, he did not ask the question that is to be expected in this context and without which state-law justification must lack something fundamental: he did not ask for the general purpose of the state. In doing so, he left out an entire methodologically specific area of thinking about the state, its governance, management, order, authority, legitimacy, legal theory, and social philosophy: namely, the area of political metaphysics and its thesis about the reason for the existence of the state. Bilfinger’s time was familiar with this ideological intention, political metaphysics as the vanguard of all sciences of government and governance already had a history, and there were authors who attempted to break out of the concept of politicization of the old Church-Christian pastoral power as well as the ancient mystifications about the reflections of the cosmogonic order in the earthly “body politic.” But Bilfinger left this strand of thinking about the state and the state system aside; he clearly did not regard it as essential to his quest for the political rationalization of absolutism, but rather saw it as a weight that would put the brakes on any pragmatically directed action to penetrate the ideological systems of Enlightenment rationalism into practical governance. In doing so, he vindicated his own methodological position, which is unmistakable.

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