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The Confucian Filial Duty to Care for Elderly Parents
Research Collection School of Social Sciences
  • John N. WILLIAMS, Singapore Management University
  • T. Brian MOONEY, Singapore Management University
Publication Type
Working Paper
Publication Date

A central feature of Confucianism is the doctrine that an adult child has, for want of a better word, the ‘duty’ to care for his elderly parents1. Whether this doctrine should be framed in terms of an ethic of duties as opposed to an ethic of virtues is a vexed question. It might be argued that the doctrine is best framed in terms of the behaviour and dispositions appropriate to an agent who is, within the Confucian moral vision, good. Nonetheless, in both popular discourse and in much the secondary literature, the doctrine is characterized in terms of a moral ‘ought’. We will adopt this perspective, and talk of the ‘filial duty of care’. We investigate the empirical question of whether Chinese communities still have a strong sense of this duty. We conclude that although there is a widespread perception among Chinese communities that their sense of filial duty of care has been eroded, in fact the adherence to it remains robust.

Singapore Management University
City or Country
Copyright Owner and License
Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0
Citation Information
John N. WILLIAMS and T. Brian MOONEY. "The Confucian Filial Duty to Care for Elderly Parents" (2008) p. 1 - 26
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