Confucianism, Moral Equality, and Human Rights: A Mencian Perspective

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24 Citations (Scopus)


This paper attempts to show the compatibility between Confucianism and human rights, first by revisiting the moral philosophy of Mencius, a key founder of the Confucian tradition, then by reconstructing the Mencian-Confucian idea of human rights from the perspective of his moral philosophy. One of my central claims is that not only did Mencius acknowledge core human rights-socioeconomic as well as civil-political-justified by his foundational faith in universal moral equality and human dignity, but he further understood the right to subsistence as an essential part of Confucian-constitutional rights. Contrary to the widely received notion that in Mencian-Confucianism the right to subsistence has an overriding value vis-a-vis civil-political rights, I argue that Mencius (and Confucians in general for that matter) never stipulated such a lexical ranking among rights. I conclude by discussing how the type of Confucian moral reasoning that Mencius employs in justifying the moral value of human rights can be re-appropriated to produce Confucian rights suitable for today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-185
Number of pages37
JournalAmerican Journal of Economics and Sociology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Inc..

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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