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The Battle over Confucius and Classical Chinese Philosophy in European Early Enlightenment Thought (1670−1730)

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A profound split is evident during the period 1670–1730 in the way European scholars and commentators attempted to understand and describe classical Chinese thought. For some, Confucianism acknowledged divine creation and divine governance of the world, immortality of the soul and other elements of Natural Theology. The Radical Enlightenment thinkers, however, and also some Christian scholars denied that Confucianism was based on Natural Theology or pervaded by belief in divine providence, characterizing it rather as monist, naturalist and Spinozist. The disagreement proved fundamental in several respects and proved divisive for the Church, as well as European thought more generally, producing a series of lively disputes that continued over several decades.


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