Volume 9, 2018
Normativity of Filial Piety (xiao) in Early Confucian Ethics
This paper aims to discuss normative reasons of filial piety in early Confucian ethics by proposing that the source of value and normative claim of filial piety could be explained by a process of “reflective endorsement”. The paper argues that the assertion of filial love’s authority, coming either from the mandate of heaven (tianming 天命) or from human nature, can be normative when one reflects on and endorses the value of the parents in one’s life. One, thus, considers this value as “good”, and then allows oneself to be guided by “natural” affection. When one respectfully follows or gently remonstrates with the parents, the normative reason of such filial practices could be explained that one endorses the parents to be a “priority” in one’s life. According to reflective endorsement theory, our identities including human identities give rise to our obligation to any person or thing we place value. Thus, when individuals and people in community collectively endorse filial piety as the most important virtue in moral cultivation and social harmonization, this means that they also endorse what kind of human being and good life should be developed, including what appropriate virtue should be cultivated for expressing human identities. For this reason, filial piety in Confucian ethics has a strong normative force.