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François Noël’s Contribution to the Western Understanding of Chinese Thought: Taiji sive natura in the Philosophia sinica (1711)

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Abstract

Jesuits in China adopted key Confucian terms to express Christian notions; for example, Tian 天 or Shangdi 上帝 was considered an equivalent for God, and guishen 鬼神 for angels. A Terms controversy started among the Jesuits and other missionaries and developed into the famous Rites Controversy. However, all the missionaries agreed in rejecting the Neo-Confucian concept of Taiji 太極, which was believed to be materialistic, pantheistic, or atheistic. The Flemish Jesuit François Noël (1651–1729), after a careful study of Neo-Confucian texts, interpreted Taiji with the Western concept of nature, and even claimed that it held theistic meaning. We shall analyze and evaluate here this early Western attempt in giving a positive meaning to Taiji.

Keywords

Taiji 太極 Jesuits Spinoza Neo-Confucianism 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina

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