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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front. Philos. China    2018, Vol. 13 Issue (3) : 449-464     https://doi.org/10.3868/s030-007-018-0034-4
Orginal Article |
A Contemporary Re-Examination of Confucian Li 禮 and Human Dignity
XU Keqian()
School of Chinese Language and Literature, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210097, China
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Abstract

In modern Western liberal discourse, human dignity has been cast as an important component of basic human rights, while so-called human rights have been generally understood as certain inborn, inherent and inalienable properties of every human being. In this understanding, human dignity is just a natural endowment rather than a historically constructed social-cultural phenomenon. Based on this premise, liberalism is justified for the reason that under a social condition of complete freedom, individuals will spontaneously exercise their rights thus to secure their dignity. However, from a Confucian point of view, human dignity is socially defined and exists in concrete forms in social-cultural contexts. Dignity is not an abstract, universal, minimal standard that can be applied to all people at every time; it refers to individuals’ decency and grace under various given social contexts, and it corresponds to particular roles, statuses and even ages and genders of individuals in their respective societies. The full realization of human dignity relies on certain social-cultural or institutional arrangements. Confucian li is precisely this kind of arrangement, which designs a whole set of regulations and norms in order to maintain human dignity in general, as well as to maintain different people’s dignity in varying situations. Therefore, according to Confucianism, behaving appropriately according to the norms and regulations of li is just a way to preserve dignity.

Keywords human dignity      Confucianism      li      Confucius     
Issue Date: 27 September 2018
 Cite this article:   
XU Keqian. A Contemporary Re-Examination of Confucian Li 禮 and Human Dignity[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2018, 13(3): 449-464.
 URL:  
http://journal.hep.com.cn/fpc/EN/10.3868/s030-007-018-0034-4
http://journal.hep.com.cn/fpc/EN/Y2018/V13/I3/449
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