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Children have special duties to their parents: there are things that we ought to do for our parents, but not for just anyone. Three competing accounts of filial duty appear in the literature: the debt theory, the gratitude theory and the friendship theory. Each is unsatisfactory: each tries to assimilate the moral relationship between parent and child to some independently understood conception of duty, but this relationship is different in structure and content from any that we are likely to share with anyone apart from a parent. A more promising account will concentrate on what is unique about the parent-child relationship. I articulate and defend the ‘special goods theory’, according to which filial duties arise from the distinctive kinds of goods that healthy parent-child relationships typically involve.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Boston University

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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