Confucianism and Catholicism
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Confucianism and Catholicism, among the most influential religious traditions, share an intricate relationship. Beginning with the work of Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), the nature of this relationship has generated great debate. These ten essays synthesize in a single volume this historic conversation. Written by specialists in both traditions, the essays are organized into two groups. Those in the first group focus primarily on the historical and cultural contexts in which Confucianism and Catholicism encountered one another in the four major Confucian cultures of East Asia: China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. The essays in the second part offer comparative and constructive studies of specific figures, texts, and issues in the Confucian and Catholic traditions from both theological and philosophical perspectives. By bringing these historical and constructive perspectives together, Confucianism and Catholicism: Reinvigorating the Dialogue seeks not only to understand better the past dialogue between these traditions, but also to renew the conversation between them today.

In light of the unprecedented expansion of Eastern Asian influence in recent decades, and considering the myriad of challenges and new opportunities faced by both the Confucian and Catholic traditions in a world that is rapidly becoming globalized, this volume could not be more timely. Confucianism and Catholicism will be of interest to professional theologians, historians, and scholars of religion, as well as those who work in interreligious dialogue.

Contributors: Michael R. Slater, Erin M. Cline, Philip J. Ivanhoe, Vincent Shen, Anh Q. Tran, S.J., Donald L. Baker, Kevin M. Doak, Xueying Wang, Richard Kim, Victoria S. Harrison, and Lee H. Yearley.



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Date de parution 31 mai 2020
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EAN13 9780268107710
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Confucianism and Catholicism

Reinvigorating the Dialogue
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University of Notre Dame Press Notre Dame, Indiana
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Each person cannot fully complete every task, for which reason the Lord on High commanded that there be friendship in order that we might render aid to one another. If this Way were eradicated from the world, humankind would surely disintegrate into ruin.
— Matteo Ricci, On Friendship , maxim 16 (Translation by Timothy Billings, Columbia University Press, 2009)
Introduction: Reinvigorating the Dialogue between Confucianism and Catholicism
ONE The Aristotelian Concept of Substance Introduced by Early Jesuit Missionaries to China and Its Problems in Encountering Confucianism Vincent Shen
TWO When Christian Devotion Meets Confucian Piety: The Teaching of the “Three Fatherhoods” in Premodern Vietnam Anh Q. Tran, S.J.
THREE The Zhongyong through a Theistic Lens: Tasan Chŏng Yagyong on How to Be Moral Donald L. Baker
FOUR Confucianism and Catholicism in Mid-Twentieth- Century Japan Kevin M. Doak

FIVE Mengzi, Xunzi, Augustine, and John Chrysostom on Childhood Moral Cultivation Xueying Wang
SIX Natural Law in Mencius and Aquinas Richard Kim
SEVEN Reimagining Confucianism with Ignatius of Loyola Erin M. Cline
EIGHT “Exemplar Reasoning” as a Tool for Constructive Conversation between Confucians and Catholics Victoria S. Harrison
NINE Understandings of Human Failures to Flourish in Catholicism and Confucianism Lee H. Yearley
TEN Concluding Reflections: Confucian and Catholic Conceptions of the Virtues Philip J. Ivanhoe
The inspiration for this volume of essays came out of the many fruitful conversations that took place at the International Conference on Confucianism and Catholicism: Reinvigorating the Dialogue, which was held at Georgetown University on March 4–5, 2016. We would like to thank all of the presenters at that conference, as well as all those who participated in and supported it, for helping to make it such a remarkable success. We also wish to express our gratitude to our editor at the University of Notre Dame Press, Stephen Little; to two anonymous reviewers who provided helpful feedback on the manuscript; and to Mark Mir and the Ricci Institute at the University of San Francisco for permission to use the cover image on this book. Finally, we are honored to be able to include one of the last essays published by our esteemed colleague, Vincent Shen, who passed away suddenly while this book was in production. Vincent devoted much of his academic career to bridging intellectual divides—between Western and Chinese philosophy, and between the Christian and Confucian traditions—and was a warm and generous colleague. He will be missed.
Reinvigorating the Dialogue between Confucianism and Catholicism
Confucianism and Catholicism are among the oldest and most influential religious traditions on earth; they have a long and intricate interrelationship and deeply shared beliefs, orientations, styles, and affinities. Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) began a long and at times heated debate about the nature of Confucianism and its relationship to Catholicism, which is still alive today, informing and inspiring those interested in these two grand traditions and more generally the issues they focus on and defend. Arguably, Ricci’s most important contribution to understanding the relationship between Confucianism and Catholicism was his view that Confucianism is a form of deism and an expression of natural religion. In his opinion, the Chinese people had always implicitly believed in God, and Catholicism offered them the complete and perfect expression of this long-standing faith. Ricci’s interreligious dialogue with Confucians was, of course, motivated by his desire to convert them—and the Chinese people more broadly—to Christianity, but it was also informed by the assumption that the Confucian and Catholic traditions were compatible with one another at a fundamental level, notwithstanding their many important differences. Contemporary scholars of Confucianism are sharply divided as to the religious nature of early and later Confucianism, with some seeing Ricci as on the right track but others seeing the tradition as a wholly “this-worldly” form of life. 1 The latter view seems to have originated with Max Weber (1864–1920) in the early twentieth century but has a number of prominent contemporary proponents. 2 This one issue alone offers sufficient warrant for a renewed focus on the relationship between Confucianism and Catholicism, but the justification of and motivation for such a reinvigorated dialogue do not, by any means, end there.
Confucianism and Catholicism are each supported by three pillars of thought and practice. The first is the tradition of commentary that both have generated. Not uniquely but characteristically, Confucianism and Catholicism have inspired philosophical traditions that, in large measure, revive and reinvent themselves through a process of interpreting and extending the meaning and significance of a set of classic texts with scriptural authority. 3 This, in turn, accords past commentators a status and authority not found in most other traditions and influences contemporary members to think of themselves in terms of their place in this ongoing process of understanding, orienting them to the goal that Kongzi (Confucius) described as wen gu er zhi xin 溫故而知新, “reanimating the old in order to understand the new.” 4 Second, both Catholics and Confucians accord a central place to ritual practice as a means of connecting with the sacred, expressing the significant, and shaping the self. 5 Behind such exercises are deep and complex beliefs about the limits of theory and understanding and the need to engage the physical and emotional as well as the intellectual aspects of the self in spiritual practice. Third and finally, both traditions have developed rich and complex views about the need for and proper forms of self-cultivation. 6 The underlying shared assumption here is that the process of working toward spiritual fulfillment only begins with a commitment to undertake it and is realized only in the course of a lifetime of effort and reflection. All three of these characteristics of Confucianism and Catholicism as well as the ongoing debate about the religious nature of the Confucian tradition offer challenging and profound opportunities for comparison, contrast, and mutual enrichment. In addition to their past connections and intellectual affinities, the current moment in history is witnessing a revived interest in both Confucianism and Catholicism within China, offering a third and decisive reason to embark upon a careful, sustained, and in-depth effort to reinvigorate the dialogue between these venerable traditions. 7 These are the guiding motivations for this volume.
The ten essays that constitute this volume were written by several of the world’s leading scholars, at various stages of their scholarly careers, on Confucian and Catholic thought and the relationship between them. We sought to find a tripartite mix of Confucian scholars interested but not experts in Catholicism, Catholic scholars interested but not experts in Confucianism, and scholars who specialize in comparing and contrasting these and other traditions. In this way we believe our anthology attains a greater depth of analysis, will have a broader and more significant impact, and represents the kind of broad dialogue and debate that we hope to engender and encourage.
The essays in this volume are organized into two groups: those that primarily focus on the historical and cultural contexts in which Confucianism and Catholicism have encountered one another in the four major Confucian cultures of East Asia—China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan—and that seek to understand specific figures, texts, and issues in the light of those broader contexts; and those that offer comparative and constructive theological or philosophical studies of specific figures, texts, and issues in the Confucian and Catholic traditions.
In the first chapter, “The Aristotelian Concept of Substance Introduced by Early Jesuit Missionaries to China and Its Problems in Encountering Confucianism,” Vincent Shen examines the early Jesuit missionaries’ use of Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophical categories to interpret Confucianism and argues that this decision on their part created an obstacle to dialogue between the Confucian and Catholic traditions. Shen begins by discussing how early Jesuit missionaries inaugurated a “two-way exchange of ideas” between Western Europe and China, introducing Western philosophical works and ideas to China and Chinese philosophical works and ideas to the West. He proceeds to consider their attempts to create a “harmonious synthesis” between Aristotelian (and Thomistic) philosophy and Confucianism and their motivations for doing so, which were complex but fundamentally driven by their missionary aims. Focusing primarily on the Aristotelian concept of substance ( ousia ), Shen chronicles the history of attempts to translate this term, first into medieval Latin and later into classical Chinese, as well as its use by Jesuit missionaries to present and defend Catholic doctrines to a Chinese audience. Shen argues, however, that the latter aim was fraught with logical, linguistic, philosophical, and theological problems and that the use of an Aristotelian and Thomistic framework for interpreting Chinese philosophical and religious views created serious obstacles to mutual understanding for both parties involved.
In the second chapter, “When Christian Devotion Meets Confucian Piety: The Teaching of the ‘Three Fatherhoods’ in Premodern Vietnam,” Fr. Anh Q. Tran examines the early reception of Catholicism in Vietnam and the complex process of “inculturation” that attended its integration into traditional Vietnamese society. As Father Tran shows, in premodern Vietnam, Confucianism permeated all aspects of society, from familial ethics to social-political doctrines, and the persecutions of Catholicism that occurred from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century represented a clash of cultures between a new religion and the traditional Vietnamese way of life. Focusing on Catholic apologetic texts from the eighteenth century such as Phép giảng đạo thật (Treatise on true religion) and Hội đồng tứ giáo (Conference of the Four Religions), Father Tran addresses the distinctive challenges and opportunities that Catholicism faced in Confucian Vietnam, including the controversy surrounding ancestral rites and the Catholic effort to assimilate into Vietnamese society through the traditional doctrine of tam phụ (the Three Fatherhoods). Such efforts, he argues, illuminate how Catholicism could claim to be an acceptable expression of Vietnamese religiosity while also maintaining its uniqueness. Father Tran concludes his essay by drawing some implications for understanding the significance of Catholic interreligious encounters in premodern Vietnam.
The third chapter, “The Zhongyong through a Theistic Lens: Tasan Chŏng Yagyong’s Thoughts on Living a Moral Life,” by Donald Baker, examines the distinctive and innovative religious views of the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Korean Confucian philosopher Chŏng Yagyong (1762–1836), better known by his literary name, Tasan. A temporary convert to Catholicism in the 1790s, Tasan eventually rejected Catholicism in favor of Confucianism when he was forced by Korean officials to choose between the two traditions and went on to become the most prolific and wide-ranging Korean thinker of his day. As Baker shows, however, the Catholic theological and philosophical ideas that Tasan absorbed as a young man remained an enduring and significant influence on his thinking and helped him to develop highly original philosophical views that challenged the neo-Confucian orthodoxy of his day while also recovering and reinterpreting elements of the early Confucian tradition. Among other things, Baker explores Tasan’s disagreements with his predecessors in the Korean Confucian tradition, T’oegye Yi Hwang (1501–70), and Yulgok Yi (1536–84), who had inaugurated the famous “Four-Seven debate” over the nature of human moral psychology, and his philosophical explorations of one of the classic texts of Confucianism, the Zhongyong (often translated as “The Doctrine of the Mean”). Baker devotes the greater part of his essay to the latter topic, and to revealing the complex details of Tasan’s Confucian version of theism, which Tasan developed in his extensive commentaries on the Zhongyong . One of Tasan’s greatest innovations was the important role that he accorded in his philosophy to the Lord on High (K. Sangje , C. Shangdi 上帝), the supreme deity of the ancient Zhou dynasty. As Baker shows, for Tasan belief in the Lord on High solved a number of difficult philosophical problems facing the Confucian tradition, including the need to explain the source of the order or design that we find in the natural world, and even more importantly the need to offer an adequate account of moral motivation for following the Confucian Way ( Dao ). Although Tasan’s Confucian theist views did not exert a major influence on the subsequent development of the Confucian tradition in Korea—largely because he wrote many of his works in exile, and his philosophical writings were rediscovered only in the twentieth century—Baker concludes his piece with a reflection on the enduring importance of Tasan’s views and the possibilities that they reveal for dialogue between the Confucian and Catholic traditions.
In the fourth chapter, “Confucianism and Catholicism in Mid-Twentieth-Century Japan,” Kevin M. Doak explores the unique perspectives of twentieth-century Japanese Catholics on the relationship between Confucianism and Catholicism, with a special focus on the writings of two of the most prominent Japanese Catholic intellectuals of the period, Tanaka Kotaro (1890–1974) and Yoshimitsu Yoshihiko (1904–45). Tanaka, a leading Japanese jurist and the most famous Japanese Catholic of his day, and his friend Yoshimitsu, an innovative professor of theology at Sophia University and the University of Tokyo, had a public exchange of views on the relationship between Confucianism and Catholicism in the Japanese journal Catholic Studies in 1943, with each staking out different positions on the question of how Catholics should understand Confucianism. Doak examines Tanaka’s and Yoshimitsu’s views with care and in detail, including Tanaka’s argument that the guiding legal principle of Confucianism and of Chinese society more generally is the natural law, not legal positivism (to the great credit of Chinese society), and Yoshimitsu’s argument that the tension between Confucianism and Catholicism is due, not to a supposedly essential conflict between Eastern and Western ways of thinking (as Western thinkers like Marcel Granet argued), but rather to “a problem of the natural and the supernatural,” in which the supernatural truth of the Christian gospel poses a challenge to any “‘natural law’ type of Truth.” Doak shows, among other things, how both Tanaka and Yoshimitsu were able to recognize the distinctiveness and value of Confucianism while also rejecting the relativistic and cultural essentialist views of thinkers like Granet, and also how they disagreed with one another, as devout Catholics, over the usefulness of interpreting Confucian moral and religious views in terms of a Thomistic category like natural law. Doak concludes his essay with a brief discussion of the views of a third Catholic thinker, Fr. Sauveur Antoine Candau, M.E.P. (1897–1955), and a reflection on the contemporary state of Catholic-Confucian dialogue in Japan and argues that contemporary efforts in Japan to ground a theory of human rights could benefit from a return to the universalism and rationalism of thinkers like Tanaka, Yoshimitsu, and Candau.
The fifth chapter, “Mengzi, Xunzi, Augustine, and John Chrysostom on Childhood Moral Cultivation,” by Xueying Wang, aims to expand our understanding of how major figures in the early Confucian and Christian traditions thought about the moral cultivation of children and how their views were informed by their larger views of human nature. She devotes special attention to Chrysostom’s views in particular, since the views of the other three thinkers are more familiar to many scholars, and since Chrysostom’s views provide an important corrective to the widespread impression that early Christian thinkers (1) had relatively little to say about the topic of childhood moral cultivation and (2) took a generally dim view of children. After discussing the insights of each of these four thinkers, Wang briefly compares and contrasts their views and highlights important differences and similarities between them. On the side of differences, she emphasizes the diversity of views of human nature that one finds in each tradition: not only did Mengzi and Xunzi (ca. 310–219 BCE) disagree with one another over the innate goodness or badness of human nature, but so too did Augustine (354–430 CE) and John Chrysostom (ca. 347–407 CE), with the former defending the idea that children are naturally sinful and in need of supernatural transformation through divine grace, and the latter defending the position that children are naturally innocent—indeed, morally “blank,” with no natural inclinations toward either goodness or badness. On the side of similarities, Wang observes that although Mengzi and Augustine had quite different assessments of children’s moral natures and capacities, they nevertheless both advocated forms of moral pedagogy that emphasized the need for and importance of parental affection (which is largely absent in both Xunzi’s and Chrysostom’s writings). Likewise, she observes that while Xunzi and Chrysostom similarly disagreed over children’s moral natures and capacities, they nevertheless both advocated moral pedagogies that emphasized the need to instill moral qualities in children through socialization (which both Mengzi and Augustine would have challenged for their own distinctive reasons). By attending closely to these areas of difference and similarity between and within the Confucian and Christian traditions, Wang argues, we put ourselves in a better position to make nuanced and productive comparisons between them.
In the sixth chapter, “Natural Law and Virtue in Mencius and Aquinas,” Richard Kim aims to expand our understanding of natural law theories of ethics through a comparative philosophical study of the ethical views of two major thinkers in the Confucian and Catholic traditions. Against those who assume that natural law theories of ethics are uniquely Western and that no analogue to such theories can be found in Chinese philosophy, Kim uses careful textual exegesis and conceptual analysis to show that the early Confucian philosopher Mengzi (372–289 BCE)—better known to Westerners by his Latinized name, Mencius—held a form of that theory. In the process, he aims not only to deepen our understanding of Mencius’s ethical views but also to broaden our understanding of natural law theories of ethics and the possible forms they can take. While not denying that thinkers like Mencius and Aquinas (1225–74 CE) also might be helpfully interpreted through the lens of ethical theories like virtue ethics and deontology—and that their ethical views might not fit neatly into a single theoretical category—Kim shows that certain features of Mencius’s ethical views clearly merit this description. He concludes his essay with a brief discussion of the important role of traditions in moral life and a defense of the enduring value of natural law theories of ethics, and he makes a case for why we should take tradition-centered thinkers like Mencius and Aquinas seriously.
The seventh chapter, “Reimagining Confucianism with Ignatius of Loyola,” by Erin M. Cline, examines the question of what Confucian contemplative practices might look like if we reconstructed them in a contemporary setting and reinvented them not just for members of East Asian cultures but for others as well. Noting that it is neither wholly feasible nor desirable to try to revive all traditional Confucian practices, she outlines a reimagining of Confucian contemplative practices that would be based on the values and virtues those practices aimed to cultivate and express and that would be accessible to those of diverse religious outlooks in a contemporary setting. Cline argues that it would be helpful to mine the resources of a vibrant tradition that has preserved and developed a set of contemplative practices that successfully facilitate the cultivation of the self. She focuses on Ignatian spirituality partly because of an important area of resonance with Confucianism: its contemplative practices, like those of Confucianism, are aimed, not at eliminating thoughts or desires or becoming awakened to the ultimate unity of all things, but at helping one attend to and cultivate one’s desires, thoughts, and feelings in order to create and nurture relationships. Despite a variety of deep and important differences, Cline argues, Ignatian spirituality is a unique and helpful resource for reimagining the practices that are a part of Confucian moral self-cultivation. Drawing on two different forms of prayer from the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises (contemplation and colloquy), she proposes a reimagined version of some of the practices that were traditionally a part of the preparatory vigils for Confucian ancestor veneration. Outlining a practice that is designed to facilitate moral self-cultivation through the use of one’s imagination and through reflection on the example of the lives of one’s ancestors, Cline shows how such an exercise could be beneficial for those seeking to cultivate Confucian virtues today.
In the eighth chapter, “Exemplar Reasoning as a Tool for Constructive Conversation between Confucians and Catholics,” Victoria S. Harrison begins with a thoughtful reflection on Ricci’s attempted synthesis of Confucianism and Catholicism in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and draws a distinction between two different aims in interreligious dialogue—the more ambitious aim of dual belonging to two traditions and the more modest aim of enhancing mutual understanding between traditions. Pursuing the latter aim, and motivated by a desire to “facilitate genuine mutual understanding, while minimizing the risk of misrepresenting the beliefs, values, or commitments of either party,” Harrison devotes her essay to describing a conversational method for conducting interreligious dialogue that she terms “exemplar reasoning.” As she explains, exemplar reasoning “seeks to promote intercultural understanding by focusing on exemplary persons rather than on abstract philosophical or religious ideas, or on the classic texts of a tradition. Through structured conversation, exemplar-reasoning participants explore the beliefs, values, and commitments that are expressed in the way exemplary figures live, or have lived, their lives.” This method is particularly well suited to facilitating interreligious dialogue between Catholics and Confucians, Harrison argues, on account of the importance that both traditions accord to exemplary persons such as saints and sages. Drawing upon the work of the Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905–88) and a number of contemporary scholars of Confucianism, Harrison carefully describes how the practice of exemplar reasoning might be profitably conducted by Catholics and Confucians in a face-to-face manner, in a way that avoids misrepresenting one’s own tradition and its distinctive beliefs, values, and commitments in an effort to make it understandable to members of other traditions.
In the ninth chapter, “Understandings of Human Failures to Flourish in Catholicism and Confucianism,” Lee H. Yearley explores, compares, and contrasts the different accounts that Confucians and Roman Catholics offer to explain why people often fail to attain human flourishing—by which he means, roughly, a full or complete state of virtue—and some of their corresponding teachings concerning how people can work to avoid or address such failure. Yearley’s contribution engages and interweaves four primary issues or themes. First, he describes the basic accounts these traditions offer for why people fail to flourish. Second, he identifies, analyzes, and contrasts two very different approaches to explaining such failure: one theoretical and the other literary in nature. Third, he presents an analysis of the character and value of the kind of comparative approach he offers. Fourth, he explores some of the implications his study has for understanding and addressing our own and other people’s failures to flourish. In investigating these different yet interrelated topics, Yearley relies upon four primary exemplars, two from each tradition: the Confucians Mengzi 孟子 and Du Fu 杜甫 (712–770) and the Roman Catholics St. Thomas Aquinas and Dante degli Alighieri (1265–1321). Mengzi and Aquinas represent the theoretical approach of their respective traditions, while the poets Du Fu and Dante exemplify the literary approach. Among the many bold and stimulating claims Yearley advances is that literary accounts often probe more deeply into important aspects of failures to flourish than do theoretical ones and that literary approaches can highlight phenomena relevant to such failures that theoretical approaches either overlook or attempt to interpret away. By pursuing parallel literary tracks in his comparison between the theoretical accounts of failures to be virtuous in Confucianism and Catholicism, Yearley not only enriches our understanding and appreciation of these two great intellectual and spiritual traditions but also makes a significant and distinctive contribution to our more general understanding of the roles that literary and theoretical approaches can play and the ways in which these can support, augment, and at times challenge one another.
Finally, in the tenth chapter, “Concluding Reflections: Confucian and Catholic Conceptions of the Virtues,” Philip J. Ivanhoe highlights some of the aims, achievements, and implications of the anthology as a whole. He focuses on comparing Confucian and Catholic conceptions of virtues, and the first issue he takes up concerns the corrective nature of the virtues, an idea that owes a great deal to the analysis of St. Thomas Aquinas. The basic idea is that virtues correct for deficiencies or excesses in natural human affections or dispositions, as Philippa Foot puts it, “each one standing at a point at which there is some temptation to be resisted or deficiency of motivation to be made good.” There is considerable insight in such a view; for example, it makes clear that for most people, becoming fully virtuous requires overcoming certain excesses or deficiencies and that this is often a daunting challenge. As Ivanhoe notes, this is close to how Xunzi, an early Confucian, thought of rituals: “Ritual cuts off what is too long and extends what is too short.” Nevertheless, while Foot’s analysis is revealing as an account of how the virtues function in the process of self-cultivation, Ivanhoe argues that it does not offer an accurate or insightful account of the nature of the virtues.
Developing ideas first raised by Eirik Lang Harris that draw upon the early Confucian Mengzi, Ivanhoe explains how at least a number of important virtues are primarily inclinational rather than corrective in nature. That is to say, such virtues are the fully developed forms of nascent human tendencies. The idea that the virtues are correctives, Ivanhoe observes, derives from and presupposes characteristically Christian notions about vice and temptation. Such accounts clearly echo Christian beliefs concerning original sin, which helps explain why Foot thinks that the very concept of what it is to be a virtue is to correct such a tendency toward wrong behavior or to provide an absent but necessary motivation toward good behavior. In closing, Ivanhoe argues that some version of this claim, that we are by nature sinful creatures or strongly inclined to err, might well be true, can be defended wholly independently of scriptural authority, and points to a lacuna in Confucian accounts of the virtues. While he defends Confucian claims that many if not most virtues are inclinational and that the nature of the virtues is better thought of in terms of their ability to overcome self-centeredness, Ivanhoe contends that the best account of the virtues can be fashioned by augmenting traditional Confucian accounts with Thomist (as well as other) views about the virtues and in particular the claim that human nature includes some rather strong tendencies toward error, and specifically self-centeredness.
A T A TIME when East Asian societies and their traditions are experiencing an unprecedented period of growth and expansion of influence, and when both the Confucian and Catholic traditions are faced with the myriad challenges (and also opportunities) presented by an increasingly globalized and rapidly changing world, the need for increased understanding and creative exchange between these traditions is perhaps greater than ever before. It is our hope that this collection of essays will contribute to a renewed and reinvigorated dialogue—and perhaps even friendship—between these great traditions and their members, for practical and personal as well as theoretical reasons.
1. For examples of the former view, see Legge (1880), Ching (1977), and more recently Clark (2005). For examples of the latter view, see Ames (2003) and also Ames and Rosemont (1998). For views that fall somewhere between these ends of the spectrum, see Puett (2002), Ivanhoe (2007), and Cline (2013).
2. See, in particular, Weber’s influential study of Chinese religions, The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism (1951), originally published in German as Konfuzianismus und Taoismus (1915).
3. On this set of issues, see Henderson (1991), and also Makeham (2004). For two insightful discussions of the nature and importance of tradition in human life, see Shils (1981) and Pelikan (1989).
4. Analects 2.11; translation by Philip J. Ivanhoe.
5. Important discussions of the role of ritual in the Confucian tradition include Fingarette (1972), and Ivanhoe (2013). For an influential and innovative theological discussion of the role of ritual in Christian (and specifically Catholic) faith, see Rahner (1978). And for a recent defense of the value of ritual and of religion more generally by a leading Catholic philosopher, see Taylor (2007).
6. For works that discuss the cultivation of the self in the Confucian and Catholic traditions, see Wilson (2001), Stalnaker (2006), and Ivanhoe (2013). For an influential and wide-ranging study of practices of self-cultivation in the West, see Hadot (1995).
7. On the revival of Confucianism and Catholicism (and of religion more generally) in contemporary China, see Sun (2013) and Ivanhoe and Kim (2017).
Ames, Roger T. 2003. “ Li and the A-theistic Religiousness of Classical Confucianism.” In Confucian Spirituality I , edited by Tu Weiming and Mary Evelyn Tucker. New York: Crossroad.
Ames, Roger T., and Henry Rosemont, Jr., trans. 1998. The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation . New York: Ballantine.
Ching, Julia. 1977. Confucianism and Christianity: A Comparative Study . Tokyo: Kodansha International.
Clark, Kelly James. 2005. “The Gods of Abraham, Isaiah, and Confucius.” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 5 (1): 109–36.
Cline, Erin M. 2013. “Religious Thought and Practice in the Analects .” In The Dao Companion to the Analects , edited by Amy Olberding. New York: Springer.

Fingarette, Herbert. 1972. Confucius: The Secular as Sacred . New York: Harper and Row.
Hadot, Pierre. 1995. Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault . Oxford: Blackwell.
Henderson, John. 1991. Scripture, Canon, and Commentary . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Ivanhoe, Philip J. 2007. “Heaven as a Source for Ethical Warrant in Early Confucianism.” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 6:211–20.
———. 2013. Confucian Reflections: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times . New York: Routledge.
Ivanhoe, Philip J., and Kim Sungmoon, eds. 2017. Confucianism, A Habit of the Heart: Bellah, Civil Religion, and East Asia . Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Legge, James. 1880. The Religions of China: Confucianism and Taoism Described and Compared with Christianity . London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Makeham, John. 2004. Transmitters and Creators: Chinese Commentators and Commentaries on the Analects . Harvard East Asian Monographs. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center.
Pelikan, Jaroslav. 1989. The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Puett, Michael. 2002. To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self-Divinization in Early China . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center.
Rahner, Karl. 1978. Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity . New York: Seabury Press.
Shils, Edward. 1981. Tradition . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Stalnaker, Aaron. 2006. Overcoming Our Evil: Human Nature and Spiritual Exercises in Xunzi and Augustine . Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Sun, Anna. 2013. Confucianism as a World Religion: Contested Histories and Contemporary Realities . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Taylor, Charles. 2007. A Secular Age . Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Weber, Max. 1951. The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism . Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Wilson, Stephen. 2001. “Conformity, Individuality, and the Nature of Virtue: A Classical Confucian Contribution to Contemporary Ethical Reflection.” In Confucius and the Analects: New Essays , edited by Bryan W. Van Norden. New York: Oxford University Press.
Historical Contexts
China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan
The Aristotelian Concept of Substance Introduced by Early Jesuit Missionaries to China and Its Problems in Encountering Confucianism
From an intercultural point of view, the early Jesuits’ introduction of Western philosophy to China in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was a highly significant historical event, inducting the Chinese people into the works of Western philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Bernard, and St. Thomas Aquinas, whose thoughts, and indeed names, they had not previously heard of. As such, this was an unparalleled moment of interaction between Chinese and Western philosophies. It also served to establish the role of the early Jesuits in China as intercultural mediators between China and the West. Among the Western philosophers that they introduced to China, they specifically featured Aristotle and his works, as interpreted by Catholic thinkers such as Augustine and Aquinas. Among the Chinese philosophers that they introduced to Europe, they featured first Confucius and his Analects and then, in the late seventeenth century, the Classic of Change s and the Emperor Kang Xi, whom they represented as the sage-king of China.
The main purpose of this two-way exchange of ideas, in particular that of translating Aristotle into Chinese, was, in the words of Giulio Aleni, to allow for a “harmonious meeting between sages of the Eastern and Western seas.” As Aleni wrote in his Sixue fan 西學凡 (Introduction to Western sciences):
As for those who learn theology, there will absolutely be none who can achieve it without philosophy. That is why we who travel from as far as ninety thousand li are willing to translate into Chinese all the previous mentioned treatises. We will be able to finish translating them in somewhat more than ten years, so that those who are younger and have talent can start to learn them gradually, with an innocent heart . . . in order that the sciences of sages of the Eastern and Western seas will be able to twine in one thread, leading to a harmonious synthesis. 1
Thus the translation of Aristotle’s philosophy into Chinese was intended to lead to the study of theology, or, in the Jesuits’ terms, renxue 人學 (the human sciences) was undertaken in preparation for tianxue 天學 (the science of Heaven), so that “the sciences of sages of the Eastern and Western seas will be able to twine in one thread, leading to a harmonious synthesis.” The Jesuits wanted to provide teaching materials for the training of seminarians, so that “those who are younger and have talent can start to learn them gradually, with an innocent heart.” The translation was, therefore, an intercultural project of a philosophical and theological nature for the purposes of seminarian education. By “sages of the Eastern and Western seas” they meant, more specifically, Aristotle and Confucius.
Aristotle was the first of the Western philosophers to be systematically introduced into China by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century. Four commentaries on Aristotle were published in Europe during the European Renaissance. Among these, the Coimbra College commentaries were brought to the Chinese people by the Jesuit fathers. According to a famous Chinese historian, Rev. Fang Hao, four Aristotelian books were “translated” into Chinese and made available in the late Ming period. These were the Mingli tan 明理探 (Investigation of names and principles), the Huanyou quan 圜有詮 (Interpretation of the universe), the Lingyan lishao 靈言釐勺 (Treatise on the human soul), and Alphonsus Vagnoni’s Xiu shen xi xue 修身西學 (Self-cultivation in Western learning). 2 However, as I discovered through my research on the Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis Societatis Jesu, they are not in fact “translations” at all. 3 Three of them, the Coimbra College commentaries on De categoriae , De caelo , and De anima , are Catholic interpretations of Aristotelean works and are freely abridged texts rewritten for the Chinese people. Indeed, the Mingli tan is credited as being translated for meaning by Francisco Furdato and expressed in literary Chinese by Li Zhizhao; 4 the same is the case with the Huanyou quan, 5 which is based on the Coimbra commentary on Aristotle’s De coelo . The Lingyan lishao , based on the Coimbra commentaries on Aristotle’s De anima and also freely abridged, is credited as being “orally narrated” by Franciscus Sambiasci and transcribed into literary Chinese by Xu Guanqi. In addition, Alphonsus Vagnoni’s works titled Xiu shen xi xue, Qijia xixue, and Zhiguo xixue are rewritten works in Chinese on Aristotelian-Thomist ethics and political philosophy rather than straightforward translations.
We should also add to the list the Suida (Dialogue on sleeping) by Franciscus Sambiasci, which contains texts that are in fact a Chinese rewriting in the form of dialogue, rather than a “translation,” of Aristotle’s De somno et vigilia and De somniis . 6 Parts of De somno et vigilia and De divinatione per somnium can also be found in Aleni’s Xingxue chushu (General introduction to the science of human nature); these excerpts are based on the works’ Coimbra commentaries but contain more Chinese references. 7 Also, the Kongji gezhi (Investigation of heavenly phenomena), credited as being zhuan (authored) by Alphonsus Vagnoni, in fact contains in its first volume part of Coimbra’s commentaries on Aristotle’s De generatione et corruptione , especially those parts dealing with the four elements, and in its second volume contains a great deal of material from Aristotle’s Meteorology , based on Coimbra’s commentaries on it in the Parva naturalia .
Matteo Ricci’s, Aleni’s, and other Jesuits’ translation projects, and therefore their efforts of bringing Western sages to Eastern sages, more specifically Aristotle to Confucius, resulted in the first synthesis of Chinese philosophy and Western philosophy: Chinese neo-Scholasticism. 8 This chapter attempts to give a philosophical evaluation of the early phase of Aristotelianism’s meeting with classical Confucianism by focusing on the introduction of the Aristotelian concept of ousia (substance) into China.
In fact, besides the general intention to bring the sciences of Eastern and Western sages into a “harmonious synthesis,” there were three reasons why Aristotle was chosen to represent Western thinkers. First, Aristotelian philosophy was emphasized within Jesuit education programs at that time. It was included in their Ratio studiorum (1585), as recorded in the Monumenta paedagogica Societatis Jesu , where we read, “The teaching of Aristotle is to be followed in the order of logic, natural and moral philosophy, and metaphysics.” 9 In fact, the publications Mingli tan , Huanyou quan , Lingyan lishao , and Xiu shen xi xue followed more or less this prescribed order, though not completely. Thus, for example, contrary to what Zhang Xiping said, that “ De anima was translated because it could be accommodated to the late Ming’s philosophy of the mind/heart,” the Jesuits had their rules for teaching Aristotle as set out in the Monumenta paedagogica . 10 Also, the content of teaching prescribed in the “Docenda et defendensa in philosophia” and the “Docenda in scholis philosophiae,” for example on pages 489–561 of the Monumenta paedagogica , was very much related to the transmission of Aristotle’s philosophy. Indeed, Aristotle’s name is mentioned at least sixty-three times in the pages of these important historical documents.
Second, the Jesuits thought that Aristotle’s philosophical system could contribute to laying the foundation of a worldview that both was compatible with the Christian religion and also could mediate between different areas of culture such as science, technology, ethics, and politics. For this reason, Ricci and his colleagues deemed that it would be attractive to the Chinese mind as well as assisting them in their missionary work. Aristotle’s logic, philosophy of nature, theory of the soul, ethics, and natural theology—following their reinterpretation by Catholic thinkers—were considered to be especially useful in this regard. Aristotle’s philosophy was perceived as a mediator between renxue and tianxue .
Third, this educational program was very compatible with Jesuit missionary work in the Chinese context, especially concerning training seminarians and providing knowledge for more advanced Chinese believers, equipping them with Aristotle’s concept of “substance,” as developed in his treatises on logic, physics, the theory of man, and metaphysics, to argue with or even to criticize the Buddhist concept of emptiness, the Daoist concept of nothingness, and the neo-Confucian concept of li or principle as Ultimate Reality. The fact that there was already a need for this in seminarian education is indicated by Aleni’s words about the translated texts, “Those who are younger and have talent can start to learn them gradually, with an innocent heart.” Of course, more advanced Chinese believers, such as Xu Guanqi 徐光啓, Yang Tingyun 楊廷筠, and Li Zhizhao 李之藻, also benefited from these translations.
We may roughly divide Aristotelianism into three periods, that of Aristotle in ancient Greece, medieval Aristotelianism, and Renaissance Aristotelianism; they feature certain continuities but also different developments. 11 This can be seen from the history of translation of Aristotle’s term ousia (substance). Aristotle’s concept of ousia , which represents originally an entity or its essence, was translated, in its medieval interpretation, as substantia, the word also used in the Coimbra commentaries of Aristotle. Later, when some of the commentaries were translated or rewritten into Chinese, the term was translated as ziliti 自立體 (literally, “self-standing body”) by the Jesuits, the more modern equivalent of which is the Chinese term shiti (literally, “substantial/real body”). For our discussion purposes, I will use the contemporary conventional translation shiti as the official term. However, we should bear in mind that there have been historical changes of meaning in all these translations.
In the past, ousia was sometimes translated into English as “essence,” which corresponds to another Latin term, essentia . According to Joseph Owens, professor at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies at the University of Toronto, there were problems with both the translation as substantia and the translation as essentia . 12 The problem with the term substantia is that it does not express the etymological relationship between “being” and ousia , whereas the problem with essentia is the fact that, as emphasized in medieval philosophy, Aristotle never contrasted essentia with existentia . On the other hand, Yu Jiyuan, a Chinese scholar of Greek philosophy, writes:

Concerning the term ousia , contemporary renderings as “substance” or “essence” both come from Latin. When the Latin authors translated the term, they attempted to reflect its relation with to on ; thus they used the feminine participant to invent the term essentia , as done by Quintilian and Seneca. Boethius, while commentating on Aristotle’s logical works, addresses ousia ’s meaning (in logic it denotes “subject” or “agency”), and translates it as substantia (standing beneath), but in his theological works he still uses essentia . Since Boethius’s logical commentaries had powerful influence in the Middle Ages, substantia became the major translation of ousia . Modern English translations, more specifically Aristotle’s standard Oxford translation, generally use substance , or in some cases essence . 13
The term ousia , which originally meant “entity,” has undergone many changes in its translation history. The Latin translation as substantia is closely related to the Greek term Hypokeimenon (ὑποκείμενον), which literally means the “underlying thing,” while the Latin term substantia is composed of sub and stantia , with the latter stemming from the verb sto , which means “stand,” so that the combination means “that which stands under.” Thus its meaning has changed from “lying under” to “standing under.” In the sixteenth-century Jesuit translation as ziliti , which literally means something like a “self-standing body,” the meaning changes from “standing under” to “standing above” and thus has connotations of a body, a self, a subject, even subjectivity. Thus the Jesuit translation of ziliti reflects not the ancient Greek or even the medieval Aristotelian but the Renaissance Aristotelian concept of substance, a substance already implied to involve a certain sense of subjectivity. This has some relation to the thought of early modernity: ousia is no longer the supportive substratum that either lies under or stands under but the subject, or a self-standing subject. As for today’s generally accepted translation as shiti 實體 (substance), in literal terms this means neither lying nor standing and emphasizes more the meaning of something real, true, and therefore substantial. Therefore, in saying that it is a reality an ontological emphasis is added, together with all the metaphysical and epistemological meanings the term shi might contain. Thus the whole history of its translation is in fact a history of interpretation, going from “lying down” to “standing under” to “self-standing body” to “true reality”—a process of emergence and standing up from beneath to above, from substratum to subjectivity, from subjectivity to true reality. When we study Aristotle, medieval Scholasticism, and the Chinese neo-Scholasticism initiated by Ricci in China, these modifications of meaning in translation need to be carefully noted. So as not to complicate the issue, I will refer to the conventional Jesuit translation as ziliti and the modern-day translation as shiti (substance).
Obviously, ousia is an important concept in Aristotle’s philosophy, and it has had a deep and long-lasting influence on Western thought from ancient Greek philosophy to Newtonian physics. The idea of substance has its thread-leading and synthesizing function to play in Aristotle’s logic through his physical theories, his theory of the soul, even his metaphysics. We could say that it serves as the core concept of his systematization. Thus it is not surprising that it was integrated into the Jesuits’ project of translating Aristotle into Chinese. We should point out here that, in all their translations of Aristotelian works, whether works on logic ( Mingli tan ), the theory of the soul ( Lingyan lishao and Xinxue chushu [Theory of human nature]), or the theory of God ( Tianzhu shiyi [True meaning of the Lord of Heaven), the concept of substance is taken to be the cornerstone and therefore essential.
The translation of Mingli tan is based on the Coimbra commentaries of Aristotle’s De categoriae . Among the ten categories ( shilun 十倫]), for me, the category of ziliti 自立體, or substance, and, from the nine yilaize 依賴則,or accidents, the category of relation are especially notable. This is because Aristotle’s concept of substance starts as a logical and linguistic subject-predicate structure, whereas Chinese philosophy emphasizes the ontology of dynamic relationship and neglects or lacks any explicit subject-predicate structure or the logical reasoning based on it.
According to the French linguist Emile Benveniste, in his “Categories de pensée et categories de langue,” language determines thought and its grasp of reality. Although I don’t buy Benveniste’s strong sense of “determination,” language does indeed offer support to our thought. According to Benveniste, the Aristotelian theory of categories, as the greatest logical classification of the whole realm of existence, is based on the Greek language. Indeed, among the ten categories, that of substance corresponds to the use of nouns in Greek language, in particular those of individuals and kinds, while quality and quantity belong to two kinds of adjective; relation belongs to another kind of adjective; place, time, and position belong to Greek adverbs; and state, active, and passive belong to Greek verbs. De categoriae explores the operation of predication as well as the modes of thought of human beings in the process of thinking and of knowing beings. In other words, when human beings think or know something, they should be capable of discerning whether it has substance or whether it concerns only accident, in order to be able to know its essence and to define it.
However, the evolution of Aristotle’s thought from De topica to De categoriae shows a transition from linguistic considerations to ontological considerations, that is, to more concern with beings, a concern that is mediated by his logic. In De topica , Aristotle posits that there are ten categories, which Mingli tan translates as shilun : substance and the nine accidents of quality, quantity, relation, place, time, position, state, active, and passive. Mingli tan thus reads, “Of things said without any combination, each signifies either ziliti 自立體 (substance), or jihe 幾何 (quantity), or hesi 何似 (qualification), or xiangsi 相視 (relation), or denoting chiexuo 切所 (place), or denoting heshi 何時 (time), or denoting tishi 體勢 (state), or denoting zuowe i 作為 (act), or denoting disou 抵受 (passive).” 14
It is worth mentioning that Western philosophy has proposed several theories of categories over the course of its history. Aristotle’s theory of categories in ancient Greece was a logical classification based upon the Greek language with ontological implications. In modern philosophy, Kant’s theory of categories posits that these are a priori concepts that a philosopher or scientist thinks transcendentally: that is, the concepts are the condition of possibility prior to experience while making experience possible in a thinking subject’s cognitive structure. The categorical scheme proposed by A. N. Whitehead in the twentieth century is in fact a scheme of the highest general concepts representing the existential (ontological), explanative, and normative aspects of post–Einsteinian cosmology.
As for the question of ousia ’s meaning, Aristotle in book 5 of his Metaphysics , which elucidates the meaning of various terms, explains this particular term as follows:
We call substances (1) the simple bodies, i.e. earth and fire and water and everything of the sort, and in general bodies and the things composed of them, both animal and divine beings, and the parts of these. All these are called substances because they are not predicated of a subject but everything else is predicated of them. (2) That which, being present in such things as are not predicated of a subject, is the cause of their being, as the soul is of the being of an animal. (3) The parts which are present in such things, limiting them and marking them as individuals, and by whose destruction the whole is destroyed, as the body is by destruction of the plane, as some say, and the plane by the destruction of the line, and in general number is thought by some to be of this nature; for if it is destroyed, they say, nothing exists, and it limits all things. (4) The essence, the formula of which is a definition, is also called the substance of each thing. It follows then, that “substance” has two senses, (a) the ultimate substratum, which is no longer predicated of anything else, and (b) that which is a “this” and separate—and of this nature is the shape or form of each thing. 15
As we understand it, in the above, “That which . . . is the cause of their being, as the soul is of the being of an animal” denotes the formal cause, as the soul is the formal cause of a living being. We will come back to this in the next section. As to “the parts which are present in such things, limiting them and marking them as individuals, and by whose destruction the whole is destroyed,” here Aristotle means the material cause that makes something individual—in other words, the material cause that limits something to being individual; and whenever the material cause is destroyed, that individual body is destroyed also. As to the two senses of the term substance in Aristotle’s summary, one refers to the individual, subject, or substratum, and the other refers to form, essence, or substantial form, such as the soul, which, when separated from the body, can exist as a substantial form. As we can see, Aristotle’s view on ousia evolves continuously from On Categories ’ emphasis on predication to the Metaphysics ’ ontological development and its very close relation to his hylomorphism.
In comparison, Classical Chinese does not have an explicitly distinctive classification of nouns, copulas, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and so on. The language does contain these parts of speech, but it has not developed an explicit grammar regarding their analytic structure. The “subject + copula + predicate” structure, and the act of predication, are not its major concern. That is not to say this is a linguistic shortcoming in the Chinese language. On the contrary, Classical Chinese mostly does not depend on the “subject-predicate” structure, even if it features such grammatical structures, for example in the claim that “human nature is good” (though the meaning of this claim has yet to be determined in the broader context). Generally, Aristotle successfully explored the structures of thought (logic) via the Greek grammatical structure, and then ontological classification (existence) through human thinking structures; however, Chinese theoretical discourse did not express itself through logico-mathematical structures, and it has never linguistically explored its own grammatical structures in order to establish a grammar-logical system to regulate its theoretical discourse. One of the earliest Chinese grammars, Mashi wentong 馬氏文通 (General introduction to Chinese grammar by the Ma brothers [Ma Xiangbo and Ma Jianzhong]), published in 1898, was based on Western grammar, or more precisely on Latin grammar, which was used to establish a preliminary outline for the authors’ own system of Chinese grammar.
Along these lines, I would mention that logic is related to mathematics in Western science. Thus it is understandable that, besides Mingli tan in the area of Aristotelian logic, early Jesuits in China brought with them Western mathematics, such as Euclidean geometry. Historically, the Chinese people had a very high level of mathematical achievement; however, mathematics was used largely for practical purposes, such as calculation and the recording of empirical data, rather than for structuring and organizing theoretical propositions. By contrast, Euclidean geometry was essential for Western theoretical reasoning and played a crucial part in the Galilean astronomical discoveries. Ricci, with the assistance of Xu Guanqi, translated his professor Clavius’s edited Elements of Geometry into Chinese under the title Jihe yuanben . In his preface to this book, he correctly took geometry to be a fundamental theoretical science that was a presupposition of other more practical sciences and technologies. This idea was conducive to the adoption of a modern system of scientific knowledge in which the whole scientific realm is constituted by a deductive system of scientific propositions taking mathematics as their foundation. It is a pity that this idea was neglected by Chinese scholars, who were interested only in mathematics’ practicality and neglected it in terms of theoretical rationality. Euclidean geometry has its own limits, as Descartes observed in his Discourse de la méthode , a criticism that led him to invent analytical geometry; but that came later, after Ricci’s time.
We all know that Euclidean geometry, with regard to its process of reasoning from the known to the unknown, is founded on the same procedure as syllogism (major premise, minor premise, conclusion) in Aristotle’s formal logic and that, historically speaking, modern European science has been positively influenced by the study of logic and by epistemological reflections. Galileo himself was first a student and then a professor at the School of Padua, which was the most important school for Aristotelian studies during the Renaissance. 16 Although Galileo differed from Aristotle on scientific method and epistemological principles, even to the point of criticizing Aristotle, his science, in being equipped with an epistemological foundation, was more Aristotelian in spirit than not.
Ricci translated the Jihe yuanben , thus introducing Euclidean geometry based on syllogistic reasoning into Chinese intellectual circles. This was very much in line with the grammatical and logical thinking introduced by the Mingli tan . Although they did not spark any Chinese intellectual movement akin to the modern European scientific movement, the mathematics, logic, and scientific method that they introduced into China had a great impact on traditional Chinese science: for example, they influenced the methodology used by the Qianjia 乾嘉 school, pushed the Yanli 顏李 school to place more emphasis on shixue 實學 (solid learning) and praxis, and had an impact on philosophy, linguistics, investigation by evidence, and methodology for the whole Qing period.
As mentioned previously, Aristotle’s concept of ousia , with regard to the form/essence of life, the core of the Aristotelian concept of nature, means the soul of a living being. According to Aristotle, the theory of the soul belongs to the philosophy of nature: that is, the various forms of soul—vegetable, animal, and human—are all forms of life, and therefore all parts of nature. However, according to St. Thomas, and also the Coimbra commentaries on Aristotle, the emphasis shifts to the philosophy of man, and its central concern is now the human soul, integrating other forms of soul (vegetable and sensible). It was this version that the early Jesuits in China introduced: Aristotle’s theory of the soul as a theory of the human soul, no longer limited to the philosophy of nature.
In this context, I will discuss three books related to the Aristotelian theory of the soul in the late Ming and early Qing period. The first is Lingyan lishao (1624), which the Chinese historian Fang Hao called a Chinese translation of Aristotle’s De anima but which I found to be instead a freely abridged and rewritten Chinese version of the Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis in libros De anima Aristotelis , “orally narrated” by Franciscus Sambiasci and transcribed into literary Chinese by Xu Guanqi with some Chinese recontextualization. 17 The second is the Xingxue chushu , by Aleni, which is more faithful to Aristotle’s definition of the soul and is a remarkable philosophical work. The third is a short work titled Xingshuo (On human nature), by Xia Dachang (also known as Mathias), a Chinese Christian, in the late seventeenth century; it shows us how a Confucian scholar received Aristotle’s theory of the soul and transformed it into a theory of human nature.
Lingyan lishao , right from the beginning of its introduction , proclaims the scientia animae to be the science of self and therefore the most beneficial and most honorable subject of philosophy, even one fundamental to all sciences. 18 Note that the concept of “self” is here already related to the Renaissance self-awareness or human subjectivity of early European modernity. Thus the reason given for studying the soul is very different from that of Aristotle, who states: “The knowledge of the soul admittedly contributes greatly to the advance of truth in general, and above all, to our understanding of Nature, for the soul is in some sense the principle of animal life.” 19 In Lingyan lishao , knowing one’s soul is preparation for moderating one’s feelings and controlling one’s desires and guiding them according to principles. This knowledge is also applicable to the effective government of people, where the same issues of control, guidance, and moderation come into play. 20 Thus, while Aristotle considered the science of the soul as the most honorable and difficult of all the sciences of nature, Lingyan lishao immediately places it in the domains of ethics, politics, and theology. Lingyan lishao takes anima to be in the likeness of God and the “science of anima ” to be the science of knowing oneself. Lingyan lishao uses the term anima to refer only to the human soul, which contains within itself the nutritive and sensible functions. In this regard it does not use the term anima in its properly Aristotelian sense of “the actuality (entelechy) of the first kind of a natural body having life potentiality in it.” 21
Right from the beginning, and in a departure from its Aristotelian origin, Lingyan lishao claims that the Bible and the Christian faith are necessary for understanding the human soul: “In order to understand totally the marvelous soul, two things are necessary: follow what is said in God’s scriptures, and follow the light of my faith.” 22 Also, in treating the subject of the soul, it refers to St. Augustine and St. Bernard as much as Aristotle. Lingyan lishao characterizes anima as substantial, independent, and immortal, especially when it emphasizes that it is created in the likeness of God; thus it differs from Aristotle’s concept of the soul as the form of life and the Chinese theory of the soul as qi .
In the main, Lingyan lishao upholds the Catholic doctrine that the soul, being in the likeness of God, can thereby communicate with God. 23 Human beings should be able to start from the perfection of the soul to reach out to the origin of all perfections, that is, God. 24 The love that exists between God and humanity is based upon their mutual likeness, 25 and the beatitude of human beings comes from divine grace. 26 Generally speaking, like all early Jesuit texts in China, Lingyan lishao advances a dualistic vision of the body-soul relationship in which the soul can rise above the human body, and it adopts a repressive concept of virtue in ethics, thereby differing from classical Confucianism’s creative concept of virtue. 27
In addition, Lingyan lishao places much emphasis on the soul as an independent spiritual and immortal substance, 28 with the three basic spiritual capacities of memory, intellect, and will (or aiyu [love and desire]). Regarding memory, the work states that “after a man dies, his soul must be able to remember things in his lifetime.” 29 This emphasis on memory owes more to Plato, the Neoplatonic school, and St. Augustine than to Aristotle, who says only that the agent’s intellect survives after death and has no memory of things from its lifetime. In fact, Aristotle says of nous that “when separated, it is alone what it is, and this above is immortal and eternal (we do not remember, because, while this is impossible, passive thought is perishable); and without this nothing thinks.” 30 This indicates that for Aristotle the agent’s intellect is the only soul to survive after death and that it has no memory. In this respect Lingyan lishao again differs from Aristotle. As for human intellect and will, which develop into the virtues of love and wisdom, they are similar to God. 31 The human soul is considered as being in the likeness of God; 32 it is therefore similar to God, and it tends toward the Cause of all perfections, that is, God. 33 Because of this similarity, there can be love between human beings and God: “Since anima is similar to God, the ultimate object that he tends toward and loves should be God.” 34 The beatitude of the human soul comes ultimately from God’s grace. 35
The second book dealing with the Aristotelian theory of the soul, the Xingxue chushu , published one year earlier than Lingyan lishao , is credited as yizhu (including both translation and composition) by Aleni. Here we find a definition of anima that is quite faithful to Aristotle: “The form of living things, in the Western world, we call anima , or soul [ hun ], that is the nature of living beings, . . . and there are three kinds of soul: nutritive soul, sensible soul, and spiritual soul.” 36 This definition shows that the text understands “soul” in Aristotle’s sense, unlike St. Thomas’s commentary on De anima , which focuses more on the human soul. Still, Aristotle’s theory of soul is introduced here in preparation for the Chinese understanding of the human’s spiritual soul.
In one of the most interesting passages in Xingxue chushu , Aleni lists terms from different Chinese philosophers that according to him name the same human soul:
Some call it liangzhi 良知 [inborn knowledge], . . . that is to say the noumenal natural spirit. Someone calls it lingtai 靈臺 [spiritual seat]. . . . The Daxue 大學 ( Great Learning ) calls it mingde 明德 [enlightening virtue], to say it is light in itself and understands all principles. Zhong yong 中庸 ( Doctrine of the Mean ) calls it the weifa zhi zhong 未發之中 [centrality before manifestation], to say that it is the noumenal substance from which all feelings are to be manifested. Mencius calls it dati [great body], to say it is the honorable one. In short, the names are different, yet the noumenal substance they refer to is the same. 37
As we can see here, Aleni claims that certain Confucian ideas, such as Mencius’s concepts of liangzhi and dati , the Great Learning ’s concept of mingde , and the Zhong yong ’s concept of weifa zhi zhong , all denote the same idea of the human soul. This approach was seen as useful for gaining the sympathetic understanding of Confucian intellectuals, although its philosophical soundness was still questionable. But Confucians found it difficult to accept that Mencius’s liangzhi and dati , the Great Learning ’s mingde , and the Doctrine of the Mean ’s weifa zhi zhong were equivalent to the soul, given that these did not represent any idea of a substance or Aristotelian substantial form, whereas for Aleni the soul was a substance, more specifically a “noumenal substance”—a concept that did not tally at all with Confucian notions.
Moreover, Aleni emphasizes that the soul is what makes a person a unique individual. This would mean that sages like Yao and Shun would be the same as common people, which raises the question: Given that their natures, their minds/hearts, are the same, does their difference consist only in the fact that they are born with different qi and, after being born, learn and are influenced in different environments? The answer is that although they look alike physically and have similar nature, this does not mean they are of one Mind. Each is a unique individual with a unique soul. 38 Although this reads like a Thomist critique of Averroes’s and Avicenna’s interpretation of Aristotle’s world soul (or, to use Avicenna’s term, intellectual soul), Aleni, unlike St. Thomas, who addressed his arguments contra gentiles in the Western medieval world, did not have to fight with Averroes or Avicenna. What Aleni was targeting was the Idealist neo-Confucian understanding, mostly under the influence of Buddhism, that there was only one Mind. As Lu Xiangshan says, “There is only one Mind. My mind, my friends’ mind, the minds of sages thousands of years ago, and the minds of sages thousands of years to come are all the same. The reality of the mind is infinite. If one can completely develop his mind, he will become identified with heaven.” 39
Aleni criticizes this understanding of the spiritual soul as one and infinite for two reasons. First, it cannot explain human individuality. Second, even if the human soul can be in communion with God, it itself is not God and cannot be identified with God as an infinite Being. However, what interested Chinese philosophy was a theory of human nature, not a theory of the soul. Chinese interest in human nature has a long tradition dating back to Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi. Thus, when the Catholic theory of the soul was introduced to China, it was transformed immediately into a theory of human nature. This could be seen as the Jesuits’ appropriation of Chinese terms and defamiliarization of their own terms in the new context of Chinese culture; and it is why Aleni named his major work a “general introduction to the doctrine of human nature” rather than a doctrine of the human soul. However, it is interesting that its seventh and eighth volumes were titled, on their margins, “General introduction to the doctrine of the soul,” indicating the work’s original concern. 40
The third book under discussion, Xingshuo , written by Xia Dachang, shows the influence of the Aristotelian/Thomist concept of substance and combines it with Confucianism, thus demonstrating a Chinese intellectual’s synthesis of Catholicism with Confucianism. Put another way, it is a Chinese appropriation of the Aristotelian and Christian theory of the soul by a traditional Confucian theory of human nature. We read at the beginning:
Those who understand human nature must understand thoroughly the principles of three essential constituents of the universe. Those who can fully unfold their human nature will be able to return to unite with their creator. The three essential constituents of the universe are the way of Heaven, the way of earth, and the way of man. The Heavenly way is without concrete form; the way of earth has a concrete form; and the human way is in between the two. Man’s soul, a formless substance, is similar to the Heavenly way; his body, a concrete thing, is the same as the earthly way. That’s why the human way can synthesize both the Heavenly and the earthly. The reason by which Man is similar to Heaven and greatly different from plants and animals both in air and in water is but the perfection of this soul. 41
Having identified the human soul with human nature, Xia goes on to say that the spiritual soul of each human person is created by God himself as his best bestowal. Thus Xia has accepted the theological argument offered by the earlier Jesuits in China concerning human individuality. For this reason, he says, human beings are quite different from other beings created out of the four elements (here he draws on the Western typology of four elements—earth, air, fire, and water—instead of the Chinese typology of the wuxing , or five elements). This is an argument for the dignity of human beings based on their natural endowment. Since God has bestowed this precious human nature on humankind, humankind should fully develop it so as to pay return for God’s grace. 42 Xia then refers to the Book of Documents and the Book of Odes to support the idea that human nature is good. He also refers to the authority of Confucius and Mencius to say that both the inborn nature of human beings and human virtues such as humaneness ( ren 仁), righteousness ( yi 義), propriety ( li 禮), and wisdom ( zhi 知) are good in themselves. 43
The Aristotelian theory of the soul thus serves for Xia to justify Mencius’s theory of human nature as good. In fact, we find in Xingshuo an axiological rereading of Aristotle’s theory of the human soul; Xia says that the goodness of human nature manifests itself in the three basic spiritual capacities of the human being—intellect, will, and memory—thus adding a Platonic and Augustinian element (memory) to Aristotle, as the other Jesuits did. We do not find here any theory of abstraction or of the active and passive intellects. For Xia, all three faculties of the soul can attain God as their ultimate object: “God is the perfect company of highest Good. . . . My body has no access to God, yet my will is able to get closer to God and has God as my companion in it. . . . My eyes cannot see God, yet my intellect is able to see God and has God as my companion in it. My external form cannot have contact with God, yet my memory is able to contact God and therefore has God as my companion in it.” 44 In this way the Chinese traditional concept of tianren heyi 天人合一 (union of Man and Heaven) is now reinterpreted as the union of the human being and God through the human spiritual faculties of will, intellect, and memory. Xia says:
The worthy man looks for a sage, the sage looks for Heaven, in this way human beings can develop effectively. If I can unfold the utmost capacity of my will, intellect, and memory, to connect myself to and unify myself with God, God must be able to endow me with the light of will, intellect and memory in order to enlighten my heart. When God is up there, I will be in union with him up there. When God is in Heaven, I will be in union with him in Heaven. When God descends to the earth, I will be in union with him down on the earth. I will be in union with God without separation, and God will never abandon me. 45
Reasoning from both the Confucian view of the human being’s natural tendency toward good and the Catholic idea of grace from God, Xia seems to arrive at the view that man can attain a certain mystic union with God as a consequence of the joint effect of the unfolding of natural human ability and God’s grace from above. Unfortunately the Platonic and Catholic influences on the Chinese appropriation of Aristotle’s theory of soul have an unhappy consequence for this theory of human nature: a dualistic or even conflictual conception of the relation between body and mind or, even worse, a view of the body as a source of evil. While the human soul is seen as good, the body is seen as the agent that causes evil actions. Xia says:
There must be something which is not good in human beings, so that evil can enter into human beings. . . . In fact the responsible cause of evil is the body, the companion of the soul. The soul takes the body as its companion, while the body causes huge harm to the soul. The soul wills to move upward, while the body goes downward. Even if the soul has power to control the body, the body has no desire to follow the soul. Why? It is because they belong to different species. Spiritual nature is the spiritual substance bestowed by God himself, and it is of noble existence, whereas the body is a physical thing produced by the transformation of water, earth, fire, and air and is therefore of inferior existence. . . . Since the body is so evil and mean, and the spiritual soul so noble and good, how can human beings not think of changing course? They must go away from evil company and connect themselves with good company. God is the supreme good companion of human nature. 46
This dualistic vision of the human being’s spiritual nature and the human body, more Platonic and Augustinian than Aristotelian, was quite consistently developed throughout the Jesuits’ teaching, from their introduction of the theory of the human soul to its development into a Chinese-Catholic theory of human nature. This has serious consequences, not only theoretically, in going against their hero Aristotle’s theory of the soul’s unity with the body, but also practically for their ethical theory. Indeed, Jesuits and their Chinese followers all upheld an ascetic ethical theory in response to conditions in Late Ming society, a time when human desires were given free rein. In all of the early Jesuits’ ethical writings in Chinese, the world was seen as a temporary place, and the ultimate end of the human being was to attain Heaven. Human desire was seen as tending toward vice and counterproductive to moral virtue; a moral life consisted in avoiding evil and performing good; and moral praxis consisted in casting aside one’s own desires and nurturing virtues. The method of moral self-cultivation was a method of self-examination and repentance. These views can be seen as quite similar in spirit to those of contemporaneous neo-Confucians and Buddhists, and this compatibility of ethics prepared the ground for Catholicism in China. As we all know, the moral teaching of neo-Confucians of that period followed Zhu Xi’s exhortation to cast off human desires and conserve the Heavenly principle ( qu renyü cun tianli 去人欲存天理).
Thus early Catholic ethics in China was much more Platonic or Neoplatonic than Aristotelian in the sense that it advocated discarding the sensory world to lead a life of asceticism. This was quite similar to the ethical stance of Buddhism and neo-Confucianism, which replaced the classical pre-Qin Chinese philosophy’s creative and harmonious attitude toward the sensory world with a dualistic and repressive world vision. In this context, I will call virtue as understood by early Jesuits in China and Catholic Chinese intellectuals a “repressive concept of virtue,” that is, virtue as the overcoming or repression of human desires, rather than a “creative concept of virtue,” which, in the case of Aristotle, means mainly the unfolding of the excellence of one’s natural capacity for good and, in the case of classical Confucianism, means mainly the harmonization of human relationships. The repressive concept of virtue can be best illustrated by the vast work entitled Qike 七克 (On overcoming seven capital sins), written by Didacus de Pantoja 龐迪我 and edited by Yang Tingyun 楊廷筠, where “virtue” is defined as the overcoming of seven capital sins: humbleness as overcoming pride, benevolence as overcoming jealousy, generosity as overcoming misery, patience as overcoming anger, simplicity or frugality as overcoming gluttony, chasteness as overcoming lust, and diligence as overcoming laziness. Thus it is repressive indeed.
The highest level of the doctrine of substance is the discourse about Ultimate Reality, or God as the Ultimately Real. The early Jesuits in China, under the guidance of Aristotle and St. Thomas, took God to be the highest substance, the first substance, pure spiritual substance, and the first cause that creates the world. From a philosophical perspective, Ricci in his Tianzhu shiyi proposed a series of proofs for the existence of God, mostly inspired by St. Thomas’s Five Ways ( quinque viae ). Thus Ricci’s second proof, based upon the movement of nonliving beings that require eventually an external agency to move them, corresponds to St. Thomas’s first way. Ricci’s third proof, which bases itself on the movement of animals requiring an intelligent mover, corresponds to the first and fifth ways of St. Thomas in combination. Ricci’s fourth proof, which bases itself on the need of an efficient cause for myriad beings to exist, corresponds to St. Thomas’s second way. Ricci’s fifth proof, which bases itself on the order of things, corresponds to St. Thomas’s fourth way. Ricci’s sixth proof, which bases itself on the original cause of all species, can be interpreted as corresponding with St. Thomas’s second way. 47
The above proofs for the existence of God rely upon the rational validity of the principle of causality, which extends that rationality to the existence of Ultimate Reality, thus propounding a worldview that is totally rational. However, in St. Thomas, we can know for certain the existence of God but not his essence; also, St. Thomas has emphasized that God’s substance is ipsum esse subsistens (Subsistent Being Itself) and that God’s Trinity is internally relational among the Three Persons. These ideas of St. Thomas are not discussed in Ricci’s Tianzhu shiyi . To say that we can prove the existence of God is somehow an immanence view of human rationality, to the extent that even the existence of Ultimate Reality is knowable by human reason. On the positive side, this totally rational worldview strongly supports the rationalist worldview of modern science. However, this point was not appreciated by Chinese intellectuals, who focused on the practical outcomes of science and did not pay much attention to this rationalist argument and its implications for Ultimate Reality.
St. Thomas should not be held responsible for Ricci’s failure to introduce the Christian notion of God into China. St. Thomas’s development of the Aristotelian concept of noesis noeseos (thought thinking of thought itself, total self-transparent thought) allowed him to envision God as a totally self-aware spirit, as his concept of ipsum esse subsistens means God is able to return to contemplate himself by way of his own reflective power. Also Aquinas’s doctrine of the Trinity stresses the relationship of God in three persons. He says, “Relation in God is not like an accident in a subject but is the divine essence itself; and so it is subsistent, for the divine essence subsists. Therefore, as the Godhead is God, so the divine paternity is God the Father, who is a divine person. Therefore, a divine person signifies a relation as subsisting. And this is to signify relation by way of substance, and such a relation is a hypostasis subsisting in the divine nature.” 48 This understanding of God’s absolute self-transparency in being relational was very close to Chinese understanding of the ultimate reality and holistic wisdom. Unfortunately, Ricci and his Jesuit and Chinese followers did not explore this point.
This leads us to the line of thought cherished by traditional Chinese philosophers: the interconnectedness of man and Heaven, of humans, and of humans and myriad things, and the view that Ultimate Reality can be attained only by the spiritual experience of this interconnectedness. That is why Chinese philosophers, in particular Confucians, no matter whether classical or neo-Confucians, all tend to accept discourses on Ultimate Reality that are based upon human existence and spiritual experience. Ricci seems to have observed this Chinese preference; that is why he puts the argument based on human lingzhi at the beginning, before arguments based on causality. He writes, “That ability I need not learn is my inner ability. Today all people in all countries under Heaven have the natural tendency to honor one God without being told to, and the suffering people are crying for salvation as if looking for mercy from their parents, and those who did evil things are afraid of punishment as if afraid of a hostile country; is it not because respect for this Lord governs the world and human hearts and helps various people to have respect for themselves?” 49
In fact, Ricci’s argument here refers to the Mencius, which states: “The ability possessed by men without having been acquired by learning is inborn ability, and the knowledge possessed by them without the exercise of thought is their inborn knowledge.” Starting from inborn ability and knowledge, and developing from these an inner inclination toward Heaven, one can eventually, through the process of unfolding one’s own heart and knowing one’s nature, establish one’s destiny and serve Heaven. 50 This idea of Mencius was accepted and developed by neo-Confucians of the Song-Ming dynasties, mainly regarding its insistence on the internal interconnectedness of humans and Heaven, which shows itself in an inborn ability and knowledge among human beings that, if fully unfolded, enables to achieve perfection.
At this juncture we need to ask why Ricci and the early Jesuits in China, who had picked up on this idea of interconnectedness, could not develop it to combine Catholic and Chinese thoughts on the matter of Ultimate Reality and thereby mutually enrich each other. The answer may reside in Aristotle’s, St. Thomas’s, and Ricci’s emphasis on the ontological status of substance. Ricci and the early Jesuits sustained a concept of God that was related to a kind of “onto-ousio-theo-logical constitution of metaphysics.” Their concepts of nonbeing or emptiness stayed on the ontic level, so they could not understand the Daoist concept of nonbeing and the Buddhist concept of emptiness as spiritual freedom. More radically, Buddhists would look for a spiritual freedom that went so far as to deny the concept of emptiness itself rather than to remain stubbornly attached to that concept.
Here, let us limit our discussion to the Confucians. Ricci, in criticism of Zhu Xi’s idea of “the Great Ultimate as li 理 [principle],” clearly refers to Aristotle’s theory of substance and accidents to point out that principle is merely a kind of relation, therefore only a kind of accident, not a substance, and that it has to rely on substance in order to exist, so that it cannot become the first cause creative of myriad things. God as the first cause of all things is necessarily a substance and not an accident. For Ricci, God is the first substance, the highest substance. 51
Ricci utilizes the principle of causality to prove the existence of God, and his idea that God is the first cause of all things fits totally what I call the “onto-ousio-theological constitution of metaphysics,” a modification of what Heidegger calls an “onto-theological constitution of metaphysics.” Heidegger states: “When metaphysics thinks of beings with respect to the ground that is common to all beings as such, then it is logic as onto-logic. When metaphysics thinks of beings as such as a whole, that is, with respect to the highest being which accounts for everything, then it is logic as theo-logic.” 52 I use the term onto-ousio-theo-logical constitution of metaphysics because (as I pointed out in my After Physics ), in the development of Aristotle’s thought, the concept of ousia plays a large role: he proposed an ontology first in book 4 of his Metaphysics , and it turned into an ousiology before it turned again into a theology. 53
Ricci’s discourse on God belongs to a typical onto-ousio-theo-logy. For him, God is the First Being, First Substance, and First Cause. Under the influence of the Aristotelian concept of “substance,” Ricci retains an ontic view of being and nothingness and thus does not understand the Daoist idea of “nonbeing” or the Buddhist idea of “emptiness.” He uses the Aristotelian theory of “substance” and “accident” to criticize these Daoist and Buddhist ideas as well as Zhu Xi’s idea of li . For Ricci, li is an accident and therefore not the cause of all creation. Ricci’s concept of God goes well with the idea that God is the Great Geometer and Great Horologist who bestows ultimate rationality and organization upon the world. But this view lacks the warmth, optimism, and vigor of the concept that Heaven is the final end as well as the innermost inclination of the human heart aspiring to perfection, a view much cherished by all schools of Chinese philosophy.
On the other hand, the friends of the early Jesuits in China, like Xu Guanqi, Yang Tingyun, and Li Zizhao, the so-called three pillars of early Catholicism in China, and other Chinese intellectuals, like Xia, emphasized God as the creator of the world as well as perceiving him as the Great Parent/Father. This is to say that the Chinese mind readily understood the relationship between God and human as akin to that between parent and child. But the Aristotelian concept of substance affected their thought too. That is why they criticized Zhu Xi’s concept of li by drawing on the Scholastic categories of substance and accidents to argue that if li did not originate from a spiritual agent or an intelligent substance, it could not account for the creation of the world; only God as a spiritual agent could create the world. They also appealed to the Five Relations of Confucianism to describe the relation between God and human beings and among human beings. For example, Yang Tingyun calls Heaven the Great Parent of human beings to explain why humans must love and respect Heaven. As to man’s relations with other humans and myriad things, he sees them as akin to the relations between brothers and sisters because they share the same Great Parents. Here he relates the argument of substance to both the Lord’s Prayer and the Chinese ontology of relationship.
All religions and philosophical systems assume a certain Ultimate Reality; however, this is not necessarily an Ultimate Other. For example, for Zhu Xi, there is an Ultimate Reality that is called the Great Ultimate. For him, li (principle, reason) is the Great Ultimate; therefore it does not have the unknown, unfathomable dimension of the Ultimate Other. For a Catholic, God is the Ultimate Reality and at the same time an unfathomable mystery, always transcending any characterizations or discourses—that is, an Ultimate Other. Since the faith of Ricci and his Jesuit followers was so sincere and profound, they should have experienced God as the Ultimate Reality as well as the Ultimate Other. However, in Ricci’s proofs for the existence of God, God is all rational and knowable by rational reasoning.
Yet there is an idea of the Ultimate Other in traditional Chinese thought. This is evidenced, for instance by Laozi’s words: “Dao can be said, but the sayable Dao is not the Constant Dao.” Thus there is unfathomable Dao, which is similar to the hidden God of Catholicism. We can see Xu Guanqi and Yang Tingyun’s receptivity to the Ultimate Other in their admiration of the image of Jesus. Yang Tingyun, in answer to the Chinese people’s questions about God’s image, says that God is originally invisible and inaudible and is evident only in the Bible teachings he leaves to the church. It is not until he becomes incarnate as a human being that he takes on form and voice and can be rendered in image form. Similarly, Xu Guanqi, in his Glory to Jesus’s Image , states:
He is the Lord that creates Heaven and earth, the origin of all humans and myriad things. As to his “before,” there is no beginning; as to his “after,” there is no end. He is omnipresent in the universe without any gap; still he transcends myriad things without being the same. Originally he has no tangible form to compare; what we can see is only his incarnated image. In showing his marvelous transformation he imparts his universal love; with great justice he encourages or punishes. His position is the most honorable and the highest; his reason is most mysterious and inexhaustible. 54
Here, “no beginning, no end,” “transcend all things without being the same,” and “no tangible form to compare” seem to imply that God is the Ultimate Other; it is only after the incarnation of Christ that we are able to render God in image form to trace his life on earth. Therefore the strong tension between the imaginability and unimaginability of God shows there was a certain idea of the otherness or hiddenness of God in the hearts of early Chinese Catholics.
B Y INTRODUCING THE Aristotelian concept of substance with its Catholic interpretations, the early Jesuits in China and their Chinese followers established a conceptual basis that they used to defend themselves from logical, anthropological, ethical, and theological criticisms by Chinese intellectuals concerning the structure of their discourse, their Catholic theory of the soul and ascetic ethics, and their concept of God. As we have demonstrated, the encounter between Catholicism and Confucianism gave rise to a new school of thought, Chinese neo-Scholasticism, as well as problems regarding the concept of substance. These can be summarized as follows.
First, Catholic medieval philosophical and theological discourses used as a basic propositional structure “subject + copula + predicate,” together with its function of predication, but this structure does not ex

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