This article analyzes the proselytical use of ancient theology that developed in the environment of the Jesuit China Mission in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. This period is roughly coeval with the European diffusion of deistic doctrines based on a secularized interpretation of natural theology. I argue that the threat posed by the spread of such doctrines produced a significant effect on the philosophy that Jesuits developed in order to relate to Confucianism. In particular, in the late seventeenth century, Jesuits belonging to the China Mission gradually abandoned Matteo Ricci’s natural theology and espoused an approach grounded in ancient theology. The situation changed, however, after the turn of the eighteenth century. Deism continued to spread, and even ancient theology came to be perceived as dangerously close the libertinism. The increasing suspicion towards ancient theology was reflected, in the China Mission, by the reception of the doctrines advanced by the so-called “Figurists”, a group of French Jesuits who proposed an interpretation of certain characters of the Chinese Five Classics as figurae of the Bible.

Natural Theology and Ancient Theology in the Jesuit China Mission / G. Mori. - In: INTELLECTUAL HISTORY REVIEW. - ISSN 1749-6977. - 30:2(2020), pp. 187-208. [10.1080/17496977.2019.1648054]

Natural Theology and Ancient Theology in the Jesuit China Mission

Giuliano Mori
2020

Abstract

This article analyzes the proselytical use of ancient theology that developed in the environment of the Jesuit China Mission in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. This period is roughly coeval with the European diffusion of deistic doctrines based on a secularized interpretation of natural theology. I argue that the threat posed by the spread of such doctrines produced a significant effect on the philosophy that Jesuits developed in order to relate to Confucianism. In particular, in the late seventeenth century, Jesuits belonging to the China Mission gradually abandoned Matteo Ricci’s natural theology and espoused an approach grounded in ancient theology. The situation changed, however, after the turn of the eighteenth century. Deism continued to spread, and even ancient theology came to be perceived as dangerously close the libertinism. The increasing suspicion towards ancient theology was reflected, in the China Mission, by the reception of the doctrines advanced by the so-called “Figurists”, a group of French Jesuits who proposed an interpretation of certain characters of the Chinese Five Classics as figurae of the Bible.
Jesuit China mission; Matteo Ricci; Figurism; ancient theology; natural theology
Settore M-FIL/06 - Storia della Filosofia
Settore M-STO/02 - Storia Moderna
Settore M-STO/06 - Storia delle Religioni
Dipartimenti di Eccellenza 2018-2022 - Dipartimento di FILOSOFIA
set-2019
INTELLECTUAL HISTORY REVIEW
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2434/674590
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