Do Filial Values Corrupt? How Can We Know? Clarifying and Assessing the Recent Confucian Debate

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 19 (2):193-207 (2020)
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In a number of papers, Liu Qingping has critiqued Confucianism’s commitment to “consanguineous affection” or filial values, claiming it to be excessive and indefensible. Many have taken issue with his textual readings and interpretive claims, but these responses do little to undermine the force of his central claim that filial values cause widespread corruption in Chinese society. This is not an interpretive claim but an empirical one. If true, it merits serious consideration. But is it true? How can we know? I survey the empirical evidence and argue that there is no stable or direct relationship between filial values and corruption. Instead, other cultural dimensions are more robust predictors of corruption. As it happens, China ranks very high in these other cultural dimensions. I conclude that if the empirical research is correct then Liu’s claims lack support.

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Hagop Sarkissian
CUNY Graduate Center


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