Visiting Speakers

Prof. Qiong Wang, University of Oklahoma

Friday, Nov. 6, 2009, 4:00 p.m., 607 Dale Hall Tower. Everyone is welcome!

Family Relationships and Familial Obligations

Our intuition and shared moral experiences tell us that we have obligations toward our family members. For instance, we feel obligated to help or support our spouses, parents, or siblings when they are in need. But this intuition is ambiguous: it is entangled with personal feelings, affections and various senses of being obligated. In the long history, family has rarely been treated as a serious philosophical issue. Recent social and political philosophy has started to explore family relationships, motivated by a broader interest in human intimate relationships. However, whether family relationships are of moral significance is controversial. The controversy focuses on: 1) whether there are justifiable foundation(s) for the familial obligations we feel and practice in our everyday life and 2) what, if any, the foundation(s) are.

After briefly examining several theories on familial morality in recent philosophical literature, this essay attempts to defend a family relationship account of familial obligations, which holds that family relationships are in their nature ethically significant and that this ethical nature generates our familial obligations. Since the family is considered as a social unit which normally involves intense and long-term protective, supportive, and cooperative relationships among its members, a meaningful family relationship necessarily includes some basic mutual company, sharing, care, and aid. And this nature of family relationships requires us to make appropriate responses to our family members’ needs, interests, or problems. In other words, the family relationship account holds that familial obligations are inherent in family relationships: there are moral obligations among family members as long as a meaningful family relationship exists or has existed.