Orientalism andAntivoluntarism in the History of Ethics: On Christian Wolff's Oratio de Sinarum philosophia practica
Article first published online: 17 DEC 2002
2000 Journal of Religious Ethics, Inc.
Journal of Religious Ethics
Volume 28, Issue 2, pages 189–219, Summer 2000
How to Cite
Larrimore, M. (2000), Orientalism andAntivoluntarism in the History of Ethics: On Christian Wolff's Oratio de Sinarum philosophia practica. Journal of Religious Ethics, 28: 189–219. doi: 10.1111/0384-9694.00044
- Issue published online: 17 DEC 2002
- Article first published online: 17 DEC 2002
- German Enlightenment;
Christian Wolff's 1721 Discourse on the Practical Philosophy of the Chinese is generally read as championing the autonomy of ethics from religion. This is too simple: Wolff's ethics was an antivoluntarist religious ethics. The example of the Chinese confirmed for Wolff that revelation is not necessary for knowledge or practice of genuine virtue, though he held that the Chinese achieve only the first of three “degrees of virtue.” (Most Christians, including the Pietists who drove Wolff from Halle shortly after he delivered the Discourse, did not, in his judgment, achieve even that.) China's being perceived as outside of Western (and sacred) history made it a congenial example for the ethics and moral anthropology that, in Wolff's time, were struggling against the voluntarism of a Christian ethics premised on original sin.