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ZHOU Hanguang, WU Yake



Has Confucianism exerted a positive influence or a passive one on the development of ancient science and technology? This is a question that has been debated repeatedly in the field of scientific history and philosophy and has not been settled up to now. A large number of scientific historians hold the opinion that the influence that Confucianism exerted on the development of science and technology is basically passive and negative. One of the most prominent representatives of this view is the famous historian on Chinese science and technology history—British Dr. Joseph Needham. Dr. Joseph Needham declared in the second volume of Science and Civilization in China, namely History of Scientific Thought: “They (Confucians) were thus, throughout Chinese history, in opposition to those elements which groped for a scientific approach to Nature, and for a Scientific interpretation and extension of technology”(Needham, 1956, p. 9), “their contribution to science was almost wholly negative” (p. 1). As Confucianism has been playing an important role in ancient Chinese society for a long time, it is necessary for us to discuss this issue in detail.


Confucianism, positive influence, science and technology, Joseph Needham

Cite this paper

Needham, J. (1956). History of scientific thought. Vol. 2 of Science and Civilization in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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