Filial Piety In Human Nature

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A significant feature in Confucian tradition regards the concept of “xiao”, or filial piety, a virtue of respect for one’s parents and ancestors. Recently, this concept has obtained increased interest, as many are analyzing possible interpretations and meanings to various Confucius passages. This paper discusses more specifically the motivation or reasoning behind some acts of filial piety, arguing that a son’s filial actions stem from basic human nature versus lying within moral uprightness. The discussion begins with a survey of existing views on the topic before introducing the crux of the essay and possible objections.
One particular controversial passage portrays a conversation between the governor of She and Confucius. A story is revealed in which a father steals a sheep and
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Even if a suggested law or moral principle by itself is just, it should not be implemented if it requires unmanageable acts for most people (Huang 141). A filial son will not report his father’s crime, as most human beings are incapable of doing such. One may argue that those who are able to do the unmanageable deserve praise for actions that require deviation from the norm. This evidently is not the case given Confucius’s disapproval of Zhigong’s actions.
When questioning the reasons behind why a filial son conceals his father’s wrongdoing, I argue that the son’s actions does not necessarily lie in moral uprightness but in fact can be reasoned within basic human nature. It is not surprising that a son would shelter his father. Many would act in a comparable way. It is natural for people to give preferential treatment to those within the family. That we allow particular connections with family members to structure our perception of right or wrong and to sway our actions as compared to non-kin is deeply ingrained in our
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