Filiality, Compassion, and Confucian Democracy

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Ren, the Confucian virtue par excellence, is often explained on two different accounts: on the one hand, filiality, a uniquely Confucian social-relational virtue; on the other hand, commiseration innate in human nature. Accordingly there are two competing positions in interpreting ren: one that is utterly positive about the realization of universal love by the graduated extension of filial love, and the other that sees the inevitable tension between the particularism of filial love and the universalism of compassionate love and champions the latter in that filial love appears to create a serious obstacle to modernizing Confucianism. Nevertheless, both interpretations agree that compassion, given its universal and humanist implications, can be unquestionably conducive to the modern project of 'Confucian democracy'. This paper counters this shared view by arguing that in order to make Confucian democracy culturally meaningful and politically viable, it must accommodate uniquely Confucian relational virtues, particularly filiality.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2008

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