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Confucian PerfectionismA Political Philosophy for Modern Times$
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Joseph Chan

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691158617

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691158617.001.0001

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Human Rights as a Fallback Apparatus

Human Rights as a Fallback Apparatus

(p.113) Chapter 5 Human Rights as a Fallback Apparatus
Confucian Perfectionism

Joseph Chan

Princeton University Press

This chapter contends that the idea of human rights is compatible with the Confucian understanding of ethics and society, but that in the ideal society people will be guided by precepts of benevolence and virtues rather than by considerations of human rights. Thus, human rights do not play an important practical role in an ideal society, for the same reason that rites are not important in the Grand Union. However, in nonideal situations, where virtuous relationships break down and mediation fails to reconcile conflicts, human rights can become a powerful fallback apparatus for the vulnerable to protect their legitimate interests against exploitation. The importance of human rights lies in its instrumental function. But unlike liberalism, Confucian ethics would not take human rights as constitutive of human worth or dignity.

Keywords:   human rights, Confucian ethics, ideal society, liberalism, human worth, virtuous relationships

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