Saturday, July 20, 2013

317. Benjamin Franklin and Filial Piety

Filial piety is considered a key virtue in Chinese culture. In Confucian philosophy, filial piety (Chinese: 孝, xiào) is a virtue of respect for one's parents and ancestors. Benjamin Franklin regarded himself a filial son. We know this by the fact that Franklin had the following sentence inscribed in his parents’ marble stone monument. “Their youngest son, In filial regard to their memory, Places this stone.”

This inscription is very important for us to understand Franklin’s attitudes towards Confucian Moral philosophy. His use of the word filial in this way is surprising, given his attitude towards organized religion and worship. Franklin took Confucius traditional step in "Regard" to the "Memory" of his parents. This "Memory" here isn't just Franklin's personal memory of his parents and it is another hard evidence of showing Franklin’s following Confucian moral philosophy in cultivating his private virtue.

We may find some notion of filial piety in Western history. However, it is well-known that there is no concept of filial piety same as that of ancient Chinese in the western civilization, including the ancient Greek civilization represented by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle; the ancient Hebrew Judaism civilization, and the ancient Roman civilization.

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