Confucius on Contextual Duties

Business Ethics - PHILOS3235 - 7 February 2018


  • What motivates them or makes them “stick”?
    • Family (children, spouse, parents):
      • Invested into relationship
      • Instinct to take care of
      • Societal norms/laws (psychological egoist)
      • Commitment/voluntary
      • Parents:
        • Spent time/resources on us (we owe them)
        • Needs have to be met (dependents)
    • Professional duties/job:
      • Engineers:
        • Actions/work affect others
      • Military/Police:
        • Duty to protect/serve
      • Doctors:
        • “Do no harm”
    • Religious duties:
      • Identity/faith
    • Civic duties/society:
      • Owe to society?
        • Reflexive duty - to citizen too
        • Self-interest - make a better society for me

Thought Experiment

  1. Someone is starving in NY + Jones is doing nothing about it
  2. Jones’ mother is starving in NY + he’s doing nothing

Which is worse?

1 or same obligation 2
impartial, 1 person is still suffering More of an obligation
issues w/ equal obligation If everyone takes care of family, nearly everyone gets taken care of
places moral obligation too high Owe her more than a stranger

For Confucius, a person is always a person in relationship/context

ren is biological human

Ren is humanity as acheivement

good person = excels at his/her relationships

Filiality (duties to family) - the root of ren

  • Being filial:
    • Respect:
      • convey respect
      • feel respect
      • not just providing