Andrew Hui, PhD
Associate Professor of Humanities
Yale-NUS College, Singapur
Born in 1980 in London
Studied Liberal Arts and Comparative Literature at St. John’s College, Annapolis, Yale Divinity School, the Scuola Normale Superiore, and Princeton University
Confucius the Stoic: The Encounter between Chinese and Western Philosophy in the Global RenaissanceIn a 1595 letter, the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci wrote that in their teachings and morals, the works of ancient Chinese philosophers were like “another Seneca.” My project, “Confucius the Stoic,” is about the encounter between two cultures – Europe and China – and how this encounter was made possible by a small group of highly erudite religious men. It occurred at the pivotal moment when Renaissance humanism was giving way to the early modern age of science. The Jesuits – a new Catholic order founded to combat the Reformation within Europe and to evangelize the world – constructed the idea of a global humanism, and this construction was made possible, I argue, through the retrieval of the texts of antiquity, both Western and Eastern.
I will investigate how Christian missionaries retrieved the texts of Western classical antiquity to explain Confucianism to Europe and conversely retrieved the texts of Confucianism to explain Christianity to China. In seeking to find equivalences between Greco-Roman and Chinese antiquities, the Jesuits translated Euclid, Epictetus, and Aristotle into classical Chinese and brought astronomical and cartographic knowledge into the imperial court. In turn, in their field reports and rendering of the Confucian Four Books into Latin, the missionaries saw the Chinese sharing the same idea of the “natural light of reason” as the ancient Stoics. Eventually, the work of the Jesuits fueled the imagination of European thinkers such as John Webb, Athanasius Kircher, and Leibniz. Thus, this episode in cultural encounters prompts us to re-examine the construction of “East” versus “West” in the formative age of global modernity.
Hui, Andrew. The Poetics of Ruins in Renaissance Literature. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016.
—. A Theory of the Aphorism from Confucius to Twitter Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019.
—. “Dreams of the Universal Library.” Critical Inquiry 48, no. 3 (2022): 522–548.