Chapter 6 How is Transcultural Comparison Possible?

In: Chinese Thought in Early German Enlightenment from Leibniz to Goethe
Břetislav Horyna
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At the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, it became indisputable in Western Europe that at the other end of the Eurasian continent lay a millennia-old traditional culture that was in many fundamental ways comparable to its own. In China, a full-fledged cultural alternative opened up before Europe. The contact of Jesuit missions with China, Japan and other countries of the Far East had one goal: evangelization, the mass production of Christians from converted “pagans”, infidels and atheists. But this was followed by economic goals, linked to colonialism. The germs of a discussion about a non-violent unification between Chinese culture and the metaphysical and practical-moral principles of the West died down as quickly as such ideas could be problematized and their propagators (cf. Chr. Wolff) compromised. Leibniz, Wolff, Bilfinger and others learned from the Chinese to understand the possibility of a different reasoning with which one can achieve the same or perhaps in some ways even better results. But they had no success. Hard military-economic aggression took hold, the consequences of which are still being borne in Sino-European relations today.

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