Scholarly article on topic 'India and China within Perennial Philosophy. A Central Theme of Philosophical Historiography between the 17th and 18th Centuries'

India and China within Perennial Philosophy. A Central Theme of Philosophical Historiography between the 17th and 18th Centuries Academic research paper on "History and archaeology"

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Abstract of research paper on History and archaeology, author of scientific article — Selusi Ambrogio

Abstract The paper deals with both historiography and intercultural philosophy, trying to offer a detailed account of the long European interpretation of other civilizations, namely India and China, from the Renaissance neo-platonic thinkers to the late Enlightenment. Neo-platonism provided the most influential historiogaphic model for at least two centuries - “perennial philosophy.” According to this model, all philosophies and philosophers – of the world and of all times – were part of an ancient lineage of wisdom, that went back to God or at least the patriarchs. India and China were inserted within this historiographic model not without several hermeneutic and chronological problems. The life of this model covered all centuries I investigated, undergoing continuous new interpretations and drastic changes also caused by these two civilizations. The real crisis of this model may be found in Heumann and Brücker, representatives of the anti-Wolfian German Philosophy. However, I claim that, even if harshly criticized, the perennial philosophy model survived in new ways through the 19th century.

Academic research paper on topic "India and China within Perennial Philosophy. A Central Theme of Philosophical Historiography between the 17th and 18th Centuries"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 71 (2013) 106 - 114

International Workshop on the Historiography of Philosophy: Representations and Cultural

Constructions 2012

India and China within perennial philosophy. A central theme of philosophical historiography between the 17th and 18th centuries

Selusi Ambrogio1

_University of Urbino, Italy_

Abstract

The paper deals with both historiography and intercultural philosophy, trying to offer a detailed account of the long European interpretation of other civilizations, namely India and China, from the Renaissance neo-platonic thinkers to the late Enlightenment. Neo-platonism provided the most influential historiogaphic model for at least two centuries - "perennial philosophy." According to this model, all philosophies and philosophers - of the world and of all times - were part of an ancient lineage of wisdom, that went back to God or at least the patriarchs. India and China were inserted within this historiographic model not without several hermeneutic and chronological problems. The life of this model covered all centuries I investigated, undergoing continuous new interpretations and drastic changes also caused by these two civilizations. The real crisis of this model may be found in Heumann and Brücker, representatives of the anti-Wolfian German Philosophy. However, I claim that, even if harshly criticized, the perennial philosophy model survived in new ways through the 19th century.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Claudiu Mesaros (West University of Timisoara, Romania).

Keywords: Perennial philosophy; Prisca theologia; China; India; Historiography of philosophy; Histories of Philosophy; Cross-cultural interpretations; Comparative philosophy; Renaissance; Enlightenment; Athesim; Idolatry.

1. Introduction

In this essay, I will briefly explore the interpretation of the foreigner civilizations of both India and China in the modern 'Histories of Philosophy' between the 17th and 18th centuries. The question of India and China in modern European culture has already been investigated quite widely; however the historiographical literature has been neglected and has never been reviewed as a global phenomenon. Obviously, due to the long period and the

1 Tel.: +393479117787.

E-mail address: aselusi@yahoo.it. You can also contact the author on Academia.edu and Linkedin.

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Claudiu Mesaros (West University of Timisoara, Romania). doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.015

nature of this short essay, I will present only the most crucial authors and the pivotal outcomes of my current PhD research. The presentation is divided in three general periods: 1) that of philosophia perennis; 2) that of the long success and crisis of the latter model; 3) the survival of the model among new models of historiography.

2. Philosophia perennis and Renaissance philosophy

As it is well known among experts of historiography, the philosophical field that we can call for the sake of simplicity 'Histories of Philosophy' was born during the Renaissance in the neo-platonic and Ficinian philosophy, from the steam of philosophia perennis or prisca theologia. The idea Ficino took from Plethon (esp. Oracula chaldaica) suggested one origin for all religions or theologies, with Plato and Christian faith as the common apex. All pre-platonic philosophers were included in this general process which started from the Chaldaic civilization or the Zoroastrian one - clearly with a vague Orient as original source. Although Ficino has never written a 'history of philosophy,' the one by Agostino Steuco, namely De Perenni philosophia, is usually regarded as the first complete achievement of Ficinian historiography [1,2] and Steuco was the first to use the concept of philosophia perennis. As Steuco clearly stated: "As it is one and only the tenet of all things, documents of many men of letters prove that its [of the one tenet n.t.] doctrine was always the explanation among everyone" [3]. Like Ficino, Steuco considered Plato to be the best philosopher of all times, being the merging of the adamitic (divine) wisdom which flowed over from the Orient (esp. Armenians, Caldheans, Assiryans) to the countries of Hebrews and Egyptians until it reached the West (ancient Greece). In his analysis, Steuco introduced neither India nor China, obviously. However, this is the model in which these civilizations were collocated during the 16th and 17th centuries. For example, Pereyra [4] mentioned about ten ancient civilizations, among which India and the local Gymnosophists. This list was similar to the one proposed by St. Augustine, who was widely reno^ed and quoted at the time: "among other peoples that are supposed to have wise men or philosophers: Mauritanians, Libyans, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythyans, Gauls, Spaniards" [5].

India was steadily inserted among the perennial philosophies in almost every 'History of Philosophy' since the end of the 16th century. On one hand, sources were ancient Greeks and Romans (e.g. Megasthenes, Strabo, Philostratus) and, on the other hand, Fathers of the Church or theologians, with Clement of Alexandria definitely being the most influential. Indian philosophers were named "Brachmanes" or "Germanes" and Gymnosophists or "Hylobolis." Usually, what aroused the interest was their strict conduct and their extreme practices, such as immolation and maintained postures. Knowledge about Indian philosophy or religion was almost nonexistent, due to the limited interest of the Greeks for their thought. Adhering to ancient Christian theologians' opinions, modern authors attributed the origin of Indians to Abraham. For instance, Heurn claimed that Indians were the sons of Abraham and his concubine, Ketura [6]. There is a clear understanding that the philosophia perennis and the Bible - as historical source - were merged together, having Christian Europe as common mouth.

3. Success and crisis of the perennial historiographic model

In Heurn [6] we can notice both the success and the first rift in the perennial philosophy model: he was the first author to make a distinction between ancient and modern Indians. As a matter of fact, while the other ancient oriental civilizations disappeared as such, Indians were still alive and not fully supplanted by Mohammedans. Therefore, Heurn decided to write two different chapters about Indians: Priscorum Indorum Philosophorum variis generibus and De recentium Indorum Philosophorum generibus. The common origin of both chapters was a text by Ioannis Matalii Metelli [7] in which ancient sources and sources from modern missionaries were merged; however Heurn [6] divided them, and in doing so, he most likely wrote the first account on modern Indians in historiographical literature. Heurn's pivotal points about contemporary Indians were two: 1) Brahmans have remained almost unchanged after millennia; and 2) their religion was deeply superstitious. The first point was undeniable, while the latter was not - but rather became undeniable, since at the time Indian civilization has

been charged with heavy criticism for almost two centuries. The Brahmans were the same as in the past, but they had lost their ancient wisdom because of the impurity and decline of their religiosity. This point was stressed, among others, by Thomas Burnet in Archaeologiae Philosophicae [8]. The second book, which is related to the history of the earth, was translated twice in English, with an Appendix Concerning the Modern Brachmanes in the Indies obviously related to the first book, where a chapter on ancient Indians could be found (as in Heurn). In the Appendix we can read:

"This must be observed in general, of the modern Pagans, that there are (it is true) now remaining amongst them some Footsteps of the most ancient Tenents [sic.], which come to them by Tradition from their Ancestors, but quite overwhelmed with Trash and Filthiness, being for the most part clogged with fabulous Additions, even to the degree of being nauseous; insomuch that when you come to manly Arguments, they are of no manner of Validity. I cannot but pity the Eastern World, that the Place which was the first Habitation of wise Men, and one Day a most flourishing Emporium for Learning, should for some Ages past have been chrnged into a wretched Barbarity" [9].

A new change to the perennial philosophy model is to be found in Historiae Philosophicae libri septem [10] by Georg Horn. As usual, the first book describes the pre-diluvian period and the age of patriarchs, while the second talks about Barbarians, i.e. the ancient civilizations we have already mentioned. The following three books illustrate ancient Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews under Roman ruling, and the diffusion of Christianity. In book VI, between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, he surprisingly inserts a chapter (VI, 7) about China. Horn gave a clear reason for that: Chinese civilization was almost unknown, apart from some Persian or Saracenic information, until Marco Polo and John Maundeville's travel accounts, albeit it is only with the Jesuits that real knowledge reached Europe [10]. Horn was really well informed about China, as he was fully aware of the growing controversy among missionaries over local theology. He was almost equidistant between missionaries who were proposing an ancient monotheistic theology - most of the Jesuits - and the ones who were denying it The Chinese theology was, in Jesuits' theorization, inserted at the origin of perennial philosophy. In their opinion, from this ancient theology followed refined ethics and good politics accomplished in Confucius' thought (the Chinese Socrates), which was still the thought of modern Chinese philosophers ruling the Country, giving a sort of Plato's Republic [10]. In this favorable state, the only missing element was Christian faith, brought there by Jesuit Missionaries.

After Horn [10], the importance of the Chinese controversy increased among philosophers. On one side there were Radical thinkers, and on the other the deniers of Chinese theology. The first great 'Sinophile' philosopher was Isaac Vossius, son of the renowned Gerhard Johann Vossius, author of De Philosophorum Sectis (Aia 1657), who wrote two enthusiastic chapters on China in his Variarum Observationum [11]. His central argument was the incredible and unique continuity and peacefulness of Chinese cultural history: "In all our World only the Chinese have been able to perpetually preserve for more than five millennia [their] literature unchanged' [11] mid "Only them among all mortals could preserve in total peace and tranquility for more than four millennia their reign and government" [11]. In Vossius' opinion, Chinese culture was the evidence of the uselessness of violence, the common and leading factor of European history. Since Vossius' Sinophilia became the expression of a religious, political and social critic of European past and present, China started to be the emblem of freedom, justice and tolerance in contrast with theological orthodoxy. According to Israel, Vossius was "the first esprit fort, or 'suspected atheist' [...] to hit on using Chinese culture as a subversive strategy within western intellectual debate" [12].

In 1687 Couplet edited the Confucius Sinarum Philosophus [13], the most influential book on China for almost a century. The book provided the first complete translation of ancient Chinese texts - translated by a few Jesuits - and a large and apologetic introduction to the Chinese schools of thought (likely by Couplet, but inspired by Matteo Ricci). The first school was that of Taoists, devoted to magic and superstition. The second one was that of Buddhists: they had two faiths, one realist and moral for common people, and one deeply atheistic and amoral for more advanced people. Lastly, the Confucians, which were the prisci theologi of China, had strong ethics and an ancient monotheism that needed to be purified from late atheistic influences and restored by

Christian faith. Jesuits' opponents denied ancient monotheism strenuously, claiming that Confucians were atheistic and even unable to conceive the idea of a true incorporeal God.

3.1. Bayle: Chinese philosophers as 'speculative atheists'

The dispute over Chinese rites and theology involved philosophers such as Leibniz, Bayle, or Malebranche. Leibniz wrote that CMnese had a "natural Theology" - distinguishing between God and matter - hence they had a perennial philosophy rediscovered by Confucius, as Jesuits claimed [14,15,16,17,18]]. Turning back to historiography, a new radical change was due to Bayle. In his Dictionnaire Historique et Critique [19], he devoted many entries to Oriental civilizations. However, the most important one is "Spinoza:"

"He [Spinoza ed.] was a Systematic Atheist with a new method, although the basis of his doctrine was in common with many other Philosophers, ancient and modern, European and Oriental (A). Regarding Oriental ones it is sufficient to read what I reported in the Article on Japan Note D, and what I says there (B) regarding the Theolo^ of m ancient Chinese sects" [19].

In note (B), Bayle claims that Oriental philosophers were mostly atheistic, as anti-Jesuits said, because they were Spinozists. However, while claimers of Chinese atheism denied that Chinese could belong to philosophia perennis, Bayle [19] proved that affiliation. They were part of a sort of "Spinozistic perennial philosophy," that Bayle called "speculative Atheism" [20], different from "positive Atheism" - that of deniers of God. Speculative Atheists do not prove the inexistence of God; rather, they question each proof, being neither 'theists' nor 'positive atheists' and living morally without the fanaticism of many idolaters. In the "Spinoza" entry, not only Chinese and Jap^ese philosophers are described as "Spinozistic," but even Indians, who believed in a divine pantheism, the central tenet of an Euro-Asiatic cabala. Bayle took that idea form Bernier, a Gassendian philosopher who travelled around South Asia [21].

The effect of Bayle's claim on the historical debate was remarkable - 'radical philosophers' writing histories of philosophy developed that concept of non(/a)-theistic ancient philosophy. Among them, I can quote PierreDaniel Huet who claimed that Greek philosophers had learnt "that it is necessary to suspend judgment and reliance" ("qu'il faut suspendre son jugement et sa créance") from Persian Magi and Indian Gymnosophists [22], hence they were considered fathers of Skepticism and not of Spinozism, although still anti-dogmatic philosophers. An interesting follower of Bayle on Spinozism along the history of philosophy was the German Eclectic Budde or Buddeus, although his opinion on Spinozism was different form Bayle's. His Compendium Historiae Philosophicae [23] is a confluence of many previous authors, the most remarkable being Georg Horn, although never mentioned by name, and obviously Bayle, who is quoted extensively. Horn's influence is undeniable on the structure of Budde's history, because he talks about the Chinese only after Puffendorf, but before Eclecticism - his own philosophy. Budde had previously delivered two exercitatio related to China, one on "rites controversy" [24] - sharply supporting Jesuits - and one, very famous, entitled De Spinozismo ante Spinoza [25], clearly a Bayleian analysis. Indians were prisci theologi [23] and were equally considered Spinozists [23]. Chinese were atheists and Spinozists, as testified by the atheistic (and nihilistic) description Couplet made of Buddhism, extended by many thinkers to the entire Chinese thought. Couplet [13], as I remarked, described only Buddhism as being atheistic and evidently nihilistic, as opposed to Confucianism. On the other hand, anti-Jesuits also described Confucianism as lacking a true providential God. These two descriptions were often unified, with different aims, to prove the negative atheism of all Chinamen.

3.2. Heumann and Brücker against Oriental philosophies

While the question of Oriental Spinozism, summarized above, was a new interpretation of Renaissance philosophia perennis (even definitely heterodox), in the early 18th century, radical critics of this historical model began to emerge. The most drastic denier of this changeable but successful historiographical system was

Christoph August Heumann [26], a brilliant German evangelical Lutheran Theologian and historian, often undeservedly neglected by scholars. Although unsystematic and fragmentary, his thought was impressively modern and, on some points, he advanced even authors of at least two generations following him. Heumann was, with his professor Jakob Thomasius, one of the fathers of a new scientific idea of philosophy and history of philosophy. He stated a rigid distinction between philosophy and whatever was related to religion. The ordinary reading keys of atheism and theism, or Spinozism and Idolatry - of being religious - were not decisive for him anymore. Heumann imposed, among other things, an interesting dual model in order to divide schools of philosophy: 1) "simplicem sive empiricam" and 2) "scientificam sive theoreticam" The new focus was clear: what one needs in philosophy is epistemology and logical arguments - or simply, logic. When he dealt with the history of sects in ancient time, he used the old model: 1) "Graecanica" md 2) "Extra-Graecanica," with the subgroup 2.1) "Hebraeorum" md 2.2) "Barbarorum ." However, after a few lines, he explained that among non-Greeks "rigorously here [we] cannot find any philosopher" (Hn strictu sensu hier keine Philosophos finden'') [27].

Heumann [27] excluded "barbaric thought" from the context of philosophy, claiming that they could be included, at most, among traditional forms of wisdom. He gives some reasons for that exclusion. For him, the first thing that could never be compatible with philosophy is superstition, because history teaches us that superstition has always been an instrument of clergymen to subjugate all other men, erasing free and effective thinking. Oriental philosophy "is written by 'unworthy clerics' in paganism and is called philosophy" [27].

"I alone claim, grounded on the given reasons, that all these 'Collegia sacerdotum' of Egyptians, Orphics, Eumolpidies [of Eleusi], Samotraces, Magi, Brahmans, Gymnosophists, [...] all of them are definitively not Schools of Wisdom, but rather of Ignorance, in which Superstition is raised to be forma artis, in order to succeed in subjugating all the peoples" [27].

In Heumann's opinion, clergymen and despotic politics were at the heart of barbaric anti-philosophy: "thus the monarchic regime was prejudicial to [the existence] of philosophy in these lands' [27]. The sole civilization able to, at first, reduce and afterwards remove superstition (managed by clergymen) and despotism was ancient Greece - thus this was the spreading place of Philosophy. We see how deeply Heumann erases the philosophia perennis model, dramatically reducing the spreading of philosophy.

Heumann also provided in his Acta [28] a partial translation, or paraphrasing, of the preface and a chapter of the Anciennes Relations des Indes et de la Chine [29] written by the French Catholic priest and orientalist Eusebe Renaudot. This book has been translated in English (London 1733), in Italian (Bologna 1749) and, as I discovered, partially in German in 1720 by Heumann. Renaudot was an enemy of the Jesuits, his aim being to use a historical method to defeat them. He did not speak about Spinozism or Atheism, because his enemies were the Jesuits and not the Libertines - and Heumann did the same2. Renaudot used two ancient travel accounts by two Muslims in order to prove the falsity of the "China myth." However, his direct enemies were neither Leibniz nor Bayle, but Vossius, who was harshly criticized as anti-historical and incompetent. Vossius could not speak Chinese and never went to China; in opposition, the two Muslims spoke Chinese and went there for a while, so they were reliable sources. The pivotal points in Renaudot's exposition were: 1) all extolled Chinese scientific knowledge was nonexistent or modified - even invented - by Jesuit Missionaries. This argument entailed that Chinese calendars, which had proved the pre-diluvian antiquity of this civilization, were unworthy. 2) ancient Greek, Asian and Muslim authorities never mentioned any Chinese philosopher, poet, wise or scientist: this testified to the insignificance of Chinese culture. The consequence of this argument, even undeclared, was that the Chinese could not be at the origin of philosophia perennis as prisci theologi. 3) Confucius and his philosophy were meaningless; he had clear opinions about nothing, first of all about God but even about ethics. The rare good arguments were not originally Chinese, but rather Persian, Indian or even from classical Greece

One of the rare exceptions may be found in Actaphil., II, p. 722 note B [28].

(Pythagoras3). Furthermore, Confucius' way to express philosophy was unacceptable and poor, without real logical arguments. The same Chinese language was equivocal and could not allow an effective Rhetoric and Literature. 4) Chinese people lived immorally, were vile and coward. They were unjust, they had no moral code or even, as Heumann [28] said, simple "gemeine Meynungen," "Common/popular opinions/' Most of all, in China there was an unequivocal "pouvoir despotique" or "Dispotische Herrschaft"

It is evident that the perennial philosophy model and the Chinese social myth of Radical thinkers were meaningless in Heumann's History of Philosophy model. I might claim that the birth of scientific history of philosophy coincided with the exclusion of Oriental (Barbaric) thought from the realm of Philosophy. In Heum^m's opinion, philosophy was solely of Greek heritage; it was born in that country and not elsewhere. Laertius' claim which was denied since the time of the Fathers of the Church for almost a millennium and a half began to come back slowly. I say "slowly because only starting with the "despotisme oriental" of Montesquieu and definitively at the end of the 1770s does the myth of China start to decline.

While the effects of Heumann's theses were quite limited4, the Historia Critica Philosophiae [30] by Jakob Briicker was the most widespread "History of philosophy" of the century. This History was the source of many entries of the Encyclopédie (spec. Diderot). The analysis of Oriental civilizations in Brucker alone would deserve a long essay, therefore I am able to submit here only a short overview of the pivotal points. While considering quite extensively Asian thought, Brucker accepted Heumann's lesson and considered it nothing more than a simple wisdom and never a real philosophy. Chaldeans, Persians, Egyptians and Indians had never practiced philosophy, because they followed authority and family lineage instead of logical thought and merit. Wisdom was reserved to specific clans (i.e. Brahmans) and all other peoples were subjugates. However, about this wisdom Briicker said: "Naturalis philosophiae cognitio apud Indos exigua fuit" ("Natural philosophical knowledge among Indians was exiguous") [30]. Indian ethics led to the abolition of passion and freedom, carrying superstition, idolatry and religious enthusiasm [30]. At the end of his Historia Critica [30], Brucker set a long and rich chapter entitled De Philosophia Exotica [31]. I will present only a limited number of the theses contained in this chapter: 1) Briicker refused "Spinozism" and every Western key attributed to 'Exotic' civilizations [31], preferring atheism (he used it widely in relation to China) and idolatry; 2) Indians only had "Theologiam naturalem;" 3) Chinese had no moral principles; what Jesuits called moral principles were only social duties designed to guarantee political imperial order [31]; 4) "Chinese philosophy is lime without sand dispersed by a broom, ineffective, unable to link properly its own principles, completely unable to reach effectively fim and definitive conclusions" [31].

3.3. Voltaire's Indophilia and Encyclopédistes ' ambiguity

Voltaire's view of China and India opposed that of Brucker. His thought might be considered as the best example of philosophia perennis among modern philosophers. Voltaire proposed the Jesuits' model of perennial philosophy; however, the original monotheism claimed by them became a deistic one. Not to mention that in the numerous little essays, novels and letters consecrated to both these countries in his Essai sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations et sur les principaux faits de l'histoire depuis Charlemagne jusqu 'a Louis XIII, published in 1756 and reworked until 1778, India and China reached an unpredictable importance, being included in the Essai in the beginning, in the middle and at the end. Before and after Voltaire, perhaps no philosopher has ever debated

In this essay I could not approach the question of the Oriental sources of Pythagoras in Renaissance, mostly Egyptian, Persian and Indian. A good example of a Renaissance argument about that is Johannes Gerhard Scheffer (1701), Natura et constitutione philosophiae italicae seu Pythagoricae liber singularis editio secunda, ex integro curata. Cui accedunt Pythagorae aurea carmina cum Praefatione C. S.Schvrzfleischii, Wittenberg: Sumptibus Christiani Theoph. Ludovici, , 1701 (1st ed. Upsala: excudit Henricus Curio), see ch. 4 and 5. What is clear in Renaudot's lesson is the aim of erasing all previous arguments over China and even Asia.

Although Diderot in Philosophie des Chinois (Encyclopédie, III, p. 341) said: "Il est vrai que Budée, Thomasius, Gundling, Heumann,

& d'autres écrivains dont les lumieres sont de quelques poids, ne nous peignent pas les Chinois en beau/'

over these civilizations that much. Greece and Rome were not included and only Muslims, among 'barbaric' or 'exotic' civilizations, were devoted a few chapters. Voltaire described China as Vossius did; however, as it was done during Heurn's time, he distinguished between ancient and contemporary Asians. The ancient philosophers were the first "prisci theologi" ("Brahmans preceded Chinese by several centuries, while the latter preceded all other men' [32]) who believed in a unique God, without theological additions, from whom a perfect moral (with the golden rule) had arisen. This happened both in China and India, and therefore, claiming that they were atheist was unacceptable and anti-historical (Essai, ch. 2). In ancient India there had been a Platonic Republic (ch. 4) reasonably ruled by Brahmans; however, since losing its political function, India had fallen into Superstition, Idolatry (ch. 157) and despotism (ch. 194). A with regard to Chinese philosophers, they were the best moralists in history ("Philosophie de l'histoire" or Introduction, ch. 18). They had a stable law and a correct justice and their government was not despotic (ch. 1, 195). The only weakness of the Chinese accepted by Voltaire was their scientific incapability, which often allowed the rise of superstitious theories, although Superstition never contaminated their monism or deism (ch. 1, 155).

Among the last generation of Radical Thinkers, China was still lauded until the end of the 1760s. In the Encyclopédie Diderot was doubtful about China, because the political system guaranteed stability at the price of freedom of thought. The myth of tolerance and of positive atheism (or anti-theology) was still claimed; however, numerous critics of Chinese society, Imperial regime and cultural isolation may still be found. As Israel has brilliantly demonstrated, a comparison among the three editions of the Histoire Philosophique des Établissement et du Commerce des Européens Dans les Deux Indes will clearly show the changing opinion among the Encyclopédistes, as Diderot and D'Holbach [33]. In the first edition (1770) China was still presented as a utopian country, while in the third edition (1780) the utopian aspects are replaced by social and political critics. The same change of opinion might be researched comparing a few entries of the Encyclopédie written at different stages of the long and perilous redacting process. We can suppose that the utopian society of Radical thinkers was moved from China to a possible European (or French) society.

4. Conclusions: The survival of the perennial model

Two opinions became prevalent at the end of the 18th century. The first opinion, asserted by various philosophers as Condillac or Condorcet, claimed that India and China were civilizations at the early stages of human development - obviously below Greeks - that erased the previous obstruction of freedom (i.e. esotericism, superstition and despotism). The second opinion was radically different, and it was claimed by philosophers with a strong interest in historical linguistics, archaeology and ancient literature. That was the case of the Fruh-Romantiker philosophers, who, following the pioneer studies on Sanskrit and linguistic roots, were fascinated by the idea of a unique proto-historic civilization located in ancient India which was the origin of European and part of South Asian civilization. Sir William Jones formulated his thesis of Sanskrit's affinities with European classical languages at the end of the 1780s. It is worth noting that, at the same time, the harshly criticized astronomer Jean Sylvain Bailly asserted a common origin of all ancient civilizations in the Mongolian steppe [34]. Thus, India became a favorable place for a religious (and biblical) renewal. Indophilia was not confined to German Romanticism, hence it can also be found in France. A good example could be the radical change in the entry "Bramines" by M. Bergier in M. Naigeon, Encyclopédie Méthodique [35]. While the first paragraphs were taken directly from the entry written by Diderot, the following ones are drastically different, really praising Indian civilization. Indians were regarded as the first people who approached God philosophically [35], without recalling the Noaic lineage, as Alexandre Dow claimed in his The History of Hindostan [36] widely quoted here. Therefore, even if deeply modified, we might say that Romantics were claiming a new interpretation of philosophia perennis, although less biblical, narrower and without China. Where Sinophilia died, Indophilia was born [37].

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