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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 51, Issue 1, March 2011

May Sim
Pages 5-22
DOI: 10.5840/ipq20115112

Rival Confucian Rights
Left or Right Confucianism?

Commentators who find in Confucianism the resources for cross-cultural dialogues about human rights frequently tend to be divided in their emphases on liberal or conservative aspects of this tradition. Those who pursue individuality, even autonomy, in Confucianism, I call liberals. Those who stress collectivity or harmony in Confucianism I call conservatives. Despite these rival paths in appropriating Confucianism for human rights, I show that both liberal and conservative characterizations, properly understood, are present in this tradition. Corresponding to each group’s stress on particular dimensions in Confucianism are the respective negative (civil and political) and positive (social, economic and cultural) human rights that each position defends. If my thesis that both the liberal and conservative accounts of human rights holds, then a Confucian account of human rights would entail that both the negative and positive rights will bear practical and political implications for it.