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Role Ethics: A Confucian Moral Vision for the 21st Century

UC Berkeley's Center for Chinese Studies presents a talk by Professor Henry Rosemont, Jr.

January 27, 2010 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Although over 160 nations have ratified the U.N. International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, the United States has not. In significant measure this is due to grounding the concept of human rights in a view of human beings as essentially free, autonomous individuals. In this way civil and political rights may be straightforwardly championed and legally defended, but so can a “blame the victim” view for explaining stark social and economic injustice despite its manifest falsity.  Social, economic and cultural rights will have little place in a conceptual framework based on foundational individualism in a capitalist society. Grounding the concept of human beings in their interrelatedness, however, Confucians can easily champion both sets of rights, giving their role ethics – as distinguished from Western theories of deontological, consequentialist, or virtue ethics -- a claim on our attention today as the gap between the super-rich and the impoverished continues to widen both at home and abroad.