While the resonance of Giambattista Vico’s hermeneutics for postcolonialism has long been recognised, a rupture has been perceived between his intercultural sensibility and the actual content of his philological investigations, which have often been criticised as being Eurocentric and philologically spurious. China is a case in point. In his magnum opus New Science, Vico portrays China as backward and philosophically primitive compared to Europe.
In this first study dedicated to China in Vico’s thought, Daniel Canaris shows that scholars have been beguiled by Vico’s value judgements of China without considering the function of these value judgements in his theory of divine providence. This monograph illustrates that Vico's image of China is best appreciated within the contemporary theological controversies surrounding the Jesuit accommodation of Confucianism.
Through close examination of Vico’s sources and intellectual context, Canaris argues that by refusing to consider Confucius as a “filosofo”, Vico dismantles the rationalist premises of the theological accommodation proposed by the Jesuits and proposes a new functionalist valorisation of non-Christian religion that anticipates post-colonial critiques of the Enlightenment.