A Peculiar Fate: The Reception of Confucianism in German Philosophy

The Norwegian Kant Society will host a guest lecture by professor Eric Nelson, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, on the topic "A Peculiar Fate: The Reception of Confucianism in German Philosophy".

Eric S. Nelson is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

He has published over sixty articles and book chapters on Chinese, German, and Jewish philosophy.

All interested are heartily welcome!

Eric Nelson on “A Peculiar Fate: The Reception of Confucianism in German Philosophy”

In this paper, I explore the odd and twisting story of the German philosophical reception of Confucius from Leibniz and Wolff through Kant and Hegel to Rosenzweig, Misch, and Buber. The European and German reception of the thought associated with Confucius, called rujia (儒家; the school of the erudites) in Chinese, has been primarily shaped by internal European philosophical and political-theological debates. Early Enlightenment figures (Leibniz, Wolff, and French philosophers such as Voltaire) interpreted Confucian China as offering a model of enlightened progressive monarchy and natural theology that could help reform Western thought and practice.

Later Enlightenment, Romantic, and Idealist thinkers (Kant, Herder, and Hegel) dismissed Confucian and Chinese thought as religiously pantheistic and politically despotic in light of debates over Spinozism and Enlightened despotism. Often these criticisms targeted earlier forms of European philosophy (Leibniz and Spinoza) more than anything specifically Chinese The idea of "oriental despotism" dominated the German and Western understanding of China in subsequent centuries.

This conception is passionately reaffirmed by Franz Rosenzweig in "The Star of Redemption" and is challenged in the early twentieth-century by Martin Buber and Georg Misch. They argued for the philosophical significance of Confucius and for a more tolerant and dialogical relationship with Confucian and other forms of non-Western philosophy.

About Eric Nelson

Nelson is currently finishing a monograph on the German reception of Chinese philosophy. He is the co-editor with Francois Raffoul of the "Bloomsbury Companion to Heidegger" (London: Bloomsbury, 2013) and "Rethinking Facticity" (Albany: SUNY Press, 2008).

He has also co-edited with John Drabinski, “Between Levinas and Heidegger” (Albany: SUNY Press, 2014); with G. D’Anna and H. Johach, “Anthropologie und Geschichte. Studien zu Wilhelm Dilthey aus Anlass seines 100. Todestages” (Wurzburg: Konigshausen & Neumann, 2013); and with A. Kapust and K. Still, "Addressing Levinas" (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2005). He has edited special topic issues of Frontiers of Philosophy in China and the Journal of Chinese Philosophy.

Published Apr. 21, 2016 4:43 PM - Last modified Apr. 21, 2016 4:43 PM