Human Level

According to Smith, “the family is the basic unit of society” in China, where “legend…credits the hero who ‘invented’ the family with elevating the Chinese from animal to human level.” (Smith, 176) This attitude is particularly evident in the thought of Confucius:

“That three of the Five Relationships pertain within the family is indicative of how important Confucius considered this institution to be. […] Within the family, in turn, it is the children’s respect for their parents that holds the key; hence the concept of filial piety. […] ‘The duty of children to their parents is the fountain from which all virtues spring.’”(Smith, quoting Confucius, 176)

What is our society’s view of the importance of the institution of the family? Does family play as crucial a role in our society as Confucius thought it must? Is family as important today in America (and the West) as it was in the recent past? Has any other institution taken its place as central to the health of other relationships in our society? Dowe see children as having duties to their parents?

Discussion Prompt 5:

The Confucian view of self, according to Smith:

“apart from human relationships there is no self. The self is a center of relationships. It is constructed through its interactions with others and is defined by the sum of its social roles.” (180)

e.g. metaphor of an anemone in the sea

e.g. metaphor of an eagle on the wind

“The expansion [of one’s sympathy and empathy indefinitely] proceeds in concentric circles that begin with oneself and spread from there to include successively one’s family, one’s face-to-face community, one’s nation, and finally all humanity. In shifting the center of one’s empathic concern from oneself to one’s family one transcends selfishness. The move from family to community transcends nepotism. The move from community to nation overcomes parochialism, and the move to all humanity counters chauvinisticnationalism.” (Smith, 182)

What do you think of the Confucian account of ‘self’?

Do you feel that there is something essential missing from this conception of self?

If so, what do you think is missing?

Where and how do you think you arrived at this idea?

–Science (psychology)?

–Culture (the arts)?

–Religion (overt doctrine or practices)?

–Religion (covert elements which persist within our culture)?

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