Volume 17, Issue 1, 2020
The Confucian Approach to Justifying Human Rights
Beyond the Opposition between Universality and Particularity
In the discussion whether Confucianism supports human rights, it is necessary to distinguish between the content and the form of human rights. Regarding the content of human rights, only the normative texts in Confucianism can contribute to the discussion. Even though Confucianism concedes that people are equal in nature, this equality is restricted in certain areas of normative justification. Regarding the form of human rights, the Confucian idea of graded love is against the universal nature of human rights. However, the pre-ontology of Heidegger shows us how graded love can actually be the ground of the Confucian approach to universality, which overcomes the opposition between universality and particularity within Western metaphysics. Therefore, in the Confucian approach to universality, graded love can be the motivation to universalizing of human rights. Moreover, as the Confucian approach to universality is not a principle that transcends all particularities, it helps construct an inclusive form of human rights.