ORIGINAL PAPEROn“Humane Love”and“Kinship Love”Bryan W. Van NordenPublished online: 8 May 2008#Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008I am honored to be asked to comment on the fine essays by LIUQingping and GUOQiyong(Liu2007; Guo2007). They are obviously both deep thinkers with serious moralcommitments. I find myself closer to agreement with Guo, and so I will have more to sayabout Liu’s work. Regarding Guo’s thoughtful and scholarly position, I will simply notethat I personally view the relationship between Kongzi, Mengzi, and ZHUXi as analogousto the relationship between Plato, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas. Each figure influencesor is influenced by the others, and each is worthy of serious study. However, they presentpositions that are distinct, and we should be cautious that we are not projecting theworldview of one onto another (see Van Norden2007: 23–29 and 323–325; Ivanhoe2000.).Turning to Liu, he claims that Confucianism regards“kinship love for one’s relatives”asmore foundational than“humane love for other people in general.”Hence,“kinship love”categorically overrides“humane love”when the two conflict. In contrast, Liu advocates a“Post-Confucian”position, in which“humane love”is foundational, and categoricallyoverrides“kinship love”when the two conflict. I will argue, first, that Liu’s own positionhas extremely counterintuitive consequences, and, second, that Confucians can reject acategorical emphasis of kinship love over humane love.Consider two concrete examples. (1) President John F. Kennedy appointed his brother,Robert Kennedy, attorney general. (2) President Bill Clinton appointed his wife, HillaryClinton, to chair the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. Several things arestriking about each case. First, it seems that some sort of favoritism is involved. RobertKennedy and Hillary Clinton were both attorneys with professional experience that madethem at least minimally qualified for these positions. However, there is no particular reasonto believe that either would have stood out as especially strong candidates for theirrespective posts if some other Democratic candidate had won the White House. Second,Confucianism cannot be“blamed”for what these US Presidents did.Guanxi關係is aChinese term, but it refers to something that is operative in Western politics, business, andDao (2008) 7:125–129DOI 10.1007/s11712-008-9057-xBryan W. Van Norden (*)Department of Philosophy, Vassar College, 310, 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie,NY 12604-0310, USAe-mail: [email protected]
(dare I say it) academia as well. Third, and most importantly, I think most of us have theintuition that there is nothing“corrupt”or immoral about what Presidents Kennedy orClinton did in these cases. However, Liu would have to say that these actions intrinsically“harmed the public welfare and rightful interests of the masses”(Liu2007: 10).