Confucian humanism as the foundation human rights and economic ethics: a study of Korea, Japan and Republic of China

Lee, C 2007, Confucian humanism as the foundation human rights and economic ethics: a study of Korea, Japan and Republic of China, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Confucian humanism as the foundation human rights and economic ethics: a study of Korea, Japan and Republic of China
Author(s) Lee, C
Year 2007
Abstract This study is about Confucian humanism as the foundation of human rights and economic ethics. The study covers Korea, Japan and the Republic of China. The main research question lies in how Confucian humanism emerged as an enduring tradition, and how it impacts upon human rights and economic ethics of the three nations on their individual paths towards globalizing civil societies.

Research elements are (i) literature review, (ii) focus group discussions and (iii) documentation corroborations. Literature reviews covered scholarly works of East Asia and international scholars. Narrative data were obtained from the focus group discussions. Documentation corroboration complemented the focus group discussions.

The study explores the origin of Confucianism and proceeds to examine how the Confucian philosophical tradition gave naissance to Confucian humanism. From Confucian humanism, the thesis proceeds to Confucian governance (ching shih). Alternative political views of more egalitarian Confucian schools such as of Mencius also take up a good part of the governance theme. The role of life long self-cultivation is seen as the foundation of character-building for respective societal roles within Confucian ethics and social ethos. The modern democratic institution of human rights is argued as having emerged from the fertile demo-centric Confucian social psychology, but benefited directly from the Western institutional models.

Discussions on the tradition of Confucianism and that of Confucian humanism progress through the important turning points throughout history, i.e., the Classic age of Confucius, the Neo-Confucian reformation, the Practical Learning sub-era of the Neo-Confucian era, and, finally, the contemporary Neo-Confucian.

The discussions highlight that the Confucian tradition of ‘humanity’ that Confucius and his disciples formulated in the Classical age endured through the ages to modernity. They also point to the notion that Confucians pursued their intellectual, moral and aesthetic ideals to the highest possible level through the system of learning, philosophizing, and practicing in the tradition.

The Confucian cosmology of the ‘human to nature’ nexus and the Confucian spirituality of cosmic immanence in the ‘self’ provide clues to the multi-layer structure of Confucian consciousness of self, selves and the greater self, namely society or the Heaven itself. The Neo-Confucian school of ‘mind and heart’ learning reinforced the inquiry into selves in nexus to nature and the universe.

Religious tolerance and the adaptability of Confucianism have stood out as important qualities in the globalization of East-Asian values and ethos, i.e., Confucian ‘souls and decorum.’ Japan, as an island nation with a unique perception of its self-identity, employs Confucianism, still considered fundamentally as the philosophy of China, to reinforce the national identity without compromising the integrity of the Japanese tradition and sensitivity. Japanese aesthetic sensitivity would place aesthetic unity with nature on equal footing with that of moral unity with the world. Secularism and spirituality of Confucianism benefited from the peaceful co-existence amongst the three great philosophical traditions of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.

The thesis as an inquiry into Confucian humanism as a living tradition concludes by answering the main research question and its three associated postulates.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Confucian humanism
Confucian governance (ching shih)
Human rights
Economic ethics
Globalizing civil societies
Inter-religious tolerance
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Created: Thu, 19 Jan 2017, 08:28:43 EST by Keely Chapman
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