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Human Rights in a Confucian Society Essay

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I. Introduction

Though the modern concept of human rights is originated from the Western world, it is believed to be a universal principle regardless of cultures. Meanwhile, people particularly concern the compatibility of human rights and Confucianism, which has a long history and still exerts influences in East Asia. It also poses a question to whether a traditional thinking still has its values in the modern context.

This essay will evaluate whether the core values of Confucianism and human rights are conceptually incompatible, so that human rights cannot be found in a Confucian society. The essay will first discuss the core values of human rights and Confucianism, and then the justification and facilitation of human rights by Confucian ideas will be explored. Lastly, it will explain that human rights can exist in a Confucian society.

II. Human rights and their underlying principles

Human rights are regarded as the keystone of modernity. There are various international bills to entrench the modern ideas of human rights, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Human beings are entitled to civil and political rights against violation by the state, as long as the social, economic and cultural rights.

Indeed, human right is never just a legal matter as it also involves moral principles to justify its inalienable and non-transferable status. UDHR preamble states that human right is the “recognition of the inherent dignity”. That means we are entitled to human rights because we have inherent values to be pursued and realized. Human rights are originated in ourselves, but not conferred by law or others. If a society does not recognize those aforementioned justifications, human rights would be unsupported and a...


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...ntrenched in a Confucian society. Therefore, there should be at least some foundations and principles that facilitates human rights in a Confucian society.



Works Cited


1. Craig, Williams. ‘International Human Rights and Confucianism,’ Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law 7, no. 1 (2006): 38-66.

2. de Bary, Theodore, and Tu Weiming. Confucianism and Human Rights. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

3. Li Cunshan李存山. ‘Confucianism and Human Rights of People儒家的民本與人權.’ Confucius Studies孔子研究 6 (2001): 4-12.

4. Randall Nadeau, ‘Confucianism and the Problem of Human Rights,’ Intercultural Communication Studies XI (2002): 107-118.

5. Angle. Stephen C. Human Rights in Chinese Thought: A Cross-Cultural Inquiry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

6. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), G.A. res. 217A (III), U.N. Doc A/810 at 71.



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