The Virtues of Intimate Relationships

Dissertation, Duke University (2019)
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My dissertation aims to shed light on the importance and distinctive nature of intimate relationships such as parent-child relationship and friendship by developing my own version of a virtue-ethical approach. In Chapter 1, I critically examine important contemporary Western theories of filial piety and argue that they do not adequately capture the nature of a desirable parent-child relationship and filial piety. In Chapter 2, I show why the duty-centered approach to filial piety is inadequate focusing on why it fails to make sense of filial love and argue that filial piety is better understood as a virtue by showing how it can do justice to the normative significance of filial love. In Chapter 3, I introduce what I call ‘gratitude for being’ to capture the distinctive type of gratitude we owe to people who have consistent and particularized care for us, especially our parents. I argue that the idea of gratitude for being can best make sense of deep gratitude typically found among intimates who care for each other. In Chapter 4, I introduce what I call ‘relational virtues,’ which are virtues required for the participants of a given type of personal relationship and argue that it offers a valuable resource for answering questions concerning the value of intimate personal relationships. Next, I propose my own relational virtue theory of filial piety. In Chapter 5, I discuss several aspects of the Confucian conception of filial piety—early filial piety, the close connection between self-cultivation and filial piety, and postmortem filial piety—and show how my relational virtue theory can defend and make sense of them. Lastly, I show how my view of filial piety is different from the Confucian view, or at least a version of it. In Chapter 6, I discuss the virtue of friendship as a relational virtue and show how it can make sense of the nature and value of friendship. In particular, I show why the virtue of friendship is distinct from general virtues such as benevolence or generosity and why it is morally important to have this virtue. Finally, in Chapter 7, I propose what I call ‘relational activity view’ on partiality. After critically examining existing views on partiality, I suggest a picture of how special values are transformed, delivered, and created within intimate relationships.
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