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« California Gay Marriage: Confucius Agrees | Main | Taoists in Texas Moving to Vermont »

May 16, 2008

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The rectification of names objection is not, I think, so easily dismissed. Since the fundamental aspect of marriage was the unequal relationship (not the heterosexual relationship) between husband and wife, I don't see how Confucius or Mencius would concieve of a same-sex companionate marriage (or even a modern egalitarian mixed-sex marriage, for that matter).

One could argue that, for a same-sex marriage to be properly Confucian, one partner would naturally assume the role of wife and one of husband, and as long as they maintained the relationship in that manner, all would be well.

See, that is just it. The definition of marriage has changed so much since then, that I'm not convinced we are even discussing the same institution anymore. And to me, that is what rectification of names is all about: people calling themselves kings when they weren't. The marriage of today is no more the marriage of 2000-odd years ago (whenever Leviticus was codified), let alone 5000-odd years ago than the "kings" during the Warring States Period were kings!

I meant when "king" was defined, with a little bit of mythological hyperbole. I didn't mean to suggest the Warring States period was 5000 years ago.

At first, I did not have a position, but Sam's point that Confucians treat each thing in its context convinced me that Confucian institutions should permit homosexual marriages.

"It is proper, from a Confucian perspective, to treat different things differently."

Jonathan,
While historically it is true that marriage was an unequal relationship, is that inequality necessary for the ethical goals of Confucianism? If we take the creation and reproduction of ren (humanity) as the primary goal, then marital inequality may not be necessary morally. Indeed, in a modern context such inequality could be an obstacle to ren and thus something that must be jettisoned...

re: "Rectification of Names"
Apply the principle and ask - what role do GLBTs have in society?
- Does "Rectification" or giving proper names/regard to GLBTs add to creating social harmony?
- Or is Rectification for GLBTs specifically unwanted - that GLBTs should be excluded from all human networks and be shamed. If so, how are those who make this determination sure their thinking is not flawed, are they actually fortifying social disharmony?

My feeling is that we simply haven't done the work, haven't yet allowed society to process the true value that GLBT people bring to the table. We've done the opposite, the names we give GLBTs are derogatory. Are we destroying any chance to create harmony within the new emerging global networks of human society? I've concluded that being against rectification for GLBTs (or any other naturally occurring flavor of humankind) guarantees social disharmony – and is a core violation to Confucius thinking.

On the other hand, if you believe that given a field of diversity - the challenge is to only name those roles which you want to encourage, and others should be relegated to the ghettos, then be prepared for the same old same old ... more slavery, war, ego, ungodliness.

Somewhat off topic: Black Identity Politics and "Rectification of Names":
Petey Greene (1931-1984) was an African-American television and radio talk show host. A two-time Emmy Award-winner, Greene overcame drug addiction and a prison sentence for armed robbery to become one of Washington, D.C.'s most prominent media personalities. On his shows he often talked about subjects such as racism, poverty, religion, sexuality, recreational drug use, government issues, and current events of the time.

He ended his show saying:
"I don't want no laughing, I don't want no crying, and most of all, no signifying"
This daily admonition reminded his listeners that those names given to Blacks (Rectification of Names) need not be internalized – that the battle was psychological and that you should be mindful of becoming your own enemy (don’t buy into shaming yourself when the shame is a result of our collective failure to evolve).

Charles Kim
charles@kim.name

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