Confucianism, Humanism and Equal Rights

Confucianism, Humanism and Equal Rights

Why Humanism is relevant to social development.

Everyone should have the chance to contribute to society

There is an interesting essay in China Daily written by a guy name Thorsten, which leads me to believe he is European – see: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2012-12/10/content_16000968.htm.  The title of the essay is Europes path to a new Humanism.  The author compares the Confucian system of education and society organization with that which has been in Europe. While I think the author presents a rather simplistic and therefore unrealistic view of what is happening in Europe, I still think this essay is worth contemplating.


First, it is always interesting to me to see how other people invoke Humanism. What does Humanism mean to them?

In this case Humanism, using the Confucian form of Humanism, is all about equality of educational opportunity. But more than just equal opportunity, it’s actually about comingling of the classes. It’s about society being run by a meritocracy, not through cronyism or classism. It is of course amusing that the European Parliament is held up as a council of sages, pragmatic technocrats and that this is considered better than the seducers who run the individual countries.

What I do like about his arguments is that he says secularization of government is  a good thing and an example of what Humanism can do for a country. I agree. The universal opportunity of education, which is again, fundamental to developing human potential and therefore social development, is also a good example of what happens why you apply Humanism to education. And finally the erasing of class as method of discrimination within society which is also very humanistic and very good for social development and social mobility certainly.

The central message of Humanism is that we should judge people not on arbitrary accidents of birth, but on ability and on merit (what they do with their abilities). To ensure that all people have opportunity to develop their abilities, we have to erase the class barriers that prevent people from attaining an education.  We have to erase the barriers that prevent people from contributing fully to society. And this was the central approach that Confucius took when he undertook societal reform.  And yes, it works.

It’s important we Humanists remember this and integrated this aspect of Confucianism more fully into our ideas and practices. Everyone is capable of becoming a virtuous person. Our goal, as a society, should be to help people reach their highest goals. Not to continue to set up barriers to keep them out.