Reconciling Confucianism with rule of law: Confucianisation or self-restraint?

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


A major obstacle to the political revival of Confucianism has been its tension with the rule of law. Systemic features of Confucianism such as social hierarchy (and the corresponding social inequality), reliance on discretion, distrust of practitioners of laws are at odds with rule of law’s basic tenets such as equality before the law, rule of legal rules rather than man, and faith in due process of law. In this article, I argue that through differentiating ‘rule of law’ in the ‘thick’ sense from the ‘thin’ sense, it is possible to reconcile Confucianism with rule of law. The first, but undesirable, approach is what I call the ‘Confucianisation of rule of law’ which is essentially legal-moralist in character. Instead, I contend that the second approach, ‘Confucian self-restraint’, is the better option not only for avoiding creating an oppressive society, but also for advancing the Confucian ideal of general moral cultivation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-294
Number of pages20
JournalAsian Philosophy
Issue number4
Early online date8 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Confucianism
  • legal moralism
  • perfectionism
  • public reason
  • rule of law


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