This post expands a question I asked once in the old Discussions section.
It is sometimes said that the (or a) Ruist picture of moral psychology stresses family because Ruists stress the development of moral sensibilities starting with people’s earliest relationships, which are their childhood relationships at home. So … what about household servants?
Having the right attitudes in my family relationships tends to give me the right attitudes in my political relationships.
Where right family attitudes prevail in society, the right political attitudes tend also to prevail.
Differences in family culture from region to region, or from time to time, tend to be accompanied by analogous differences in political culture.
Idea #2 is very abstract, and can be understood simply in terms of order versus disorder, or natural respect versus the lack of it. Idea #3 contemplates a variety of kinds of stable order, and perhaps a variety of forms of government.
Where might idea #3 appear in the Chinese tradition?
There are many images and metaphors that might serve as cores of conceptions of something for which one could use the English word “role.” One way to look for some is to look at words from other languages. I’ll look here at two, one from Greek and one from old Chinese.
At Steve’s request I have agreed to help prepare a guidance “page” on how to cite Chinese philosophy-related texts (classical and post-classical), and how to use the citations you see. But I don’t know much about that, so please send help!
Here and there I have argued that Confucius did not think family virtue is the root of ren 仁; far from it. In defense of that claim I’ll now try to answer the question: how then do so many scholars think he did?
Confucius’ remark at Analects 1.6 is often cited to show that he thought proper moral development begins with filial piety and then extends that attitude to ever-larger groups of people (ever less intensely). I shall argue that the remark does not display such a view. Confucius did not in general envision moral progress as extension.
Many hold that for Confucius the family is the model for organized political society in some sense; that Confucius regarded the norms for relations beyond the family as largely based on the norms for relations with kin. Here I follow Joseph Chan in challenging that view.