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?
Here are some reasons to think that Youzi did not regard family as the root of humanity or of the Way. (I used to think he did.)
Most of my argument focuses on defending a view held by Soothill, Leys, Chin, and maybe Lau and Slingerland: that by 弟 in Analects 1.2, Youzi meant elder-respect, a virtue commonly associated specifically with life outside the family. It would follow that according to 1.2, only one of the two parts of the root of humanity is specifically a family virtue. If 孝 and 弟 have something relevantly in common for Youzi, family isn’t it.
In a February 2016 blog post, Bin SONG makes a powerful case for switching from “Confucianism” to “Ruism.” This is not a brand-new idea; for instance, David Elstein has consistently used “Ruism,” including in his posts here at Warp, Weft, and Way, and Robert Eno advocated for such a practice in his 1990 book The Confucian Creation of Heaven (see here for relevant quote). Still, Bin Song raises some new arguments. To some degree, the things that Elstein, Eno, and Song are talking about may not be entirely the same: at least in the first instance, I take them to be referring to a modern philosophical movement, an ancient ritual-cum-philosophical movement, and a modern spiritual or religious movement of potential relevance in the contemporary US, respectively. (Admittedly, the application of these categories to Chinese practices can only be approximate; I just mean to gesture toward some possible distinctions.) Be this as it may, it may be that the arguments for using “Confucianism” in any of these contexts are weaker than many of us have assumed. What do you think: should we abandon the word “Confucianism”?