International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 59, Issue 2, June 2019

Yong Li
Pages 175-192

Virtues and Human Dignity
Confucianism and the Foundation of Human Rights

In this paper I argue that Confucianism provides a foundation for human rights. First, I will survey the current debates on the issue of whether Confucianism can embrace the idea of human rights. Second, I will focus on a “thin concept” of human rights and point out some historical developments pertinent to this idea and various aspects of the concept. Third, I will explain the type of interpretation of Confucianism on which I want to focus. Fourth, I will argue that Confucianism is not only compatible with human rights but also provides a foundation for human dignity, which is a basis for human rights. I argue that the Confucian virtue-based approach can overcome certain challenges that thwart an autonomy-based approach to human dignity and human rights. Finally, I will address some objections to this view.