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« No, Confucius cannot save America's middle class | Main | Sudo Genki - Machine Civilization »

October 13, 2011

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Truly, truly heart-breaking...thank you for posting Sam.

Hi Sam. Thank you for this.

You write, “Child-rearing is central to the Confucian project of creating and reproducing ren - 仁 - "humanity" or "humaneness" or "benevolence," the highest moral accomplishment.”

I wonder if there is a passage in early Confucianism – or specifically in the Analects or the Mencius – that supports that idea? I don’t mean the idea that child-rearing is of some relevance to how people turn out, and I don’t mean the idea that children should be cherished; I mean the idea that child-rearing is central.

There are passages on the central importance of proper concern for one’s parents (especially, I think, in adulthood); there’s a passage in the Analects that suggests that a father should be distant from his sons, and there’s a passage in the Mencius that says that fathers should not try to be their sons’ moral teachers.

My impression is that the classic texts hardly mention child-rearing. That’s a huge and striking difference between early Confucian and, say, early Greek ethics. I find it not just troubling but also surprising, not least because one might expect Confucius and Mencius to find the norms of childrearing a helpful model in some respects for norms of rulership (as Mencius does with cherishing).

Anyway of course your main point in the post is not so much about child-rearing as it is about child-cherishing, which, as you show, is sometimes mentioned in early texts. (I’m not sure why you emphasize that one side of it rather than the importance of children’s having proper concern for their parents: both seem disrupted by kidnapping, and both seem to have application to the new relations created by adoption.)

More specifically, your point is about respecting other people’s cherishing of their children, or in general other people’s family bonds. We sometimes find explicit reference to such a norm, as in LY 11.25 (“Zi Lu got Zi Gao appointed governor of Fei. The Master said, "You are injuring a man's son" - Legge) or the passages where Mencius specially emphasizes the dissolving of families as a disaster of poverty or war.

Anyway I think your main point that tolerance toward kidnapping is outstandingly unConfucian might be better supported in other ways than by mainly emphasizing child-rearing and child-cherishing.

Bill,
Thanks for the suggestions on other ways in which kidnapping might best be understood as violative of Confucian norms. As for the "centrality" of child-rearing or not...I am working on a new post to flesh out my thinking a bit more...

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