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Human Rights Ideology as Endemic in Chinese Philosophy: Classical Confucian and Mohist Perspectives

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This article counters the popular misunderstanding that China lacks a conception of human rights in its philosophical heritage. The authors demonstrate that even divergent traditions such as Classical Confucianism and Mohism provide strong and pervasive antecedents for human rights ideology, and both have much to contribute to the contemporary Chinese articulation of human rights theory and practice. The first part of the article shows that traditional Confucian values have the capacity to produce a social environment in which rights outcomes are realized, yet without recourse to the full legal mechanisms of Western claim-rights. The second part of the article reveals that Mohism offers several insights and motivations for contemporary human rights ideology. Thus, the authors substantiate that historic Chinese philosophy supports a meaningful framework for human rights, refuting the claim that human rights is alien to the Chinese way.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2012

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