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Human Dignity as the Foundation of Human Rights?

Human Dignity in Philosophy and Applied Ethics – China and the West

An important question regarding the issue of human dignity as the possible foundation of human rights is whether we can develop an intercultural understanding of human dignity. Members of the project are currently working on a book project, co-funded by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, on human dignity in Western as compared with Chinese philosophical and cultural traditions. The book is expected to appear early 2017.

Aim of the book

The main aim of the project is to facilitate a dialogue on the possibilities of translating concepts, or clusters of concepts, from both traditions into each other. It is not our intention to ultimately reach a consensus (or a dissensus for that matter) about the compatibility of “Chinese” and “Western” cultures and philosophical traditions as such. It is also not the aim to identify one concept of human dignity as being present in all traditions. The endeavor is rather preparatory: to develop from different angles (e.g. Kant-Confucius, understandings of modernity) an intercultural dialogue in which understandings of human dignity are discussed against the background of their embedding in a specific context of interpretation. It may be possible that at the end of the day the possibilities of cross-cultural translation of concepts turn out to be limited, but it may also be the case that many of the often assumed dichotomies (e.g. emphasis on social role vs. autonomy, rites vs. rights) between China and the West turn out to rest on exaggerations or prejudices. The project aims to encourage unbiased exploration of the similarities and differences in the understanding of concepts and their embedding in specific cultural-philosophical traditions.

The book has over 40 contributors, with Chinese and Western scholars working on coauthored chapters.