Between Nanjing and Weimar: Goethe’s Metaphysical Correspondences

This article examines how Goethe places his reading about a Jesuit disputation with a Buddhist monk in seventeenth-century China within the context of German philosophical debates. Goethe immediately draws an analogy connecting Weimar debates between Kantians and idealists to the earlier Nanjing debate about Jesuit and Buddhism metaphysics. His inclination to perceive parallels between philosophy in China and Germany anticipates his later comments to Eckermann about the similarities between the Chinese and European novels that served as the basis for his pronouncements about Weltliteratur (world literature). A careful reading of Goethe and Schiller's letters shows that as a heretical thinker, Goethe was inclined to identify with the Buddhist dismissal of Christian theism; however, the emerging atheism controversy surrounding accusations made against Fichte's lectures at the University of Jena led him to cautiously avoid entering into yet another Enlightenment debate about religion.

The file deposited is Chapter 10 from Daniel Leonhard Purdy's 2021 book Chinese Sympathies, published by Cornell University Press. It is a version of the article "Between Nanjing and Weimar: Goethe's Metaphysical Correspondences" by the same author, published in Goethe Yearbook. The book is licensed CC BY-NC 4.0.



Work Title Between Nanjing and Weimar: Goethe’s Metaphysical Correspondences
Open Access
  1. Daniel L Purdy
License CC BY-NC 4.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial)
Work Type Article
  1. Goethe Yearbook
Publication Date May 1, 2021
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
Deposited July 29, 2022




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