Consequentialism, Contractualism, and the Demands of Filial Obligations

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    What would we do if our parents fell ill and became dependent on us on a long-term basis? How far does morality require adult children to make sacrifices on behalf of their parents? In this project, I will answer these questions by illustrating an explanation of the nature of filial obligations in the case of long-term caregiving. I believe that a good explanation will have to fulfill three criteria. First, the explanation should tell us about the strength of filial obligation in relation to the demands of other obligations. Second, as the demands of long-term caregiving may have an indefinite nature, we should be able to determine the circumstances in which adult children are morally permitted to stop assisting their parents. Third, the explanation should be sensitive to cultural diversities and expectations regarding the provision of filial care. In the literature, we may find discussions regarding the nature of filial obligation in analytic philosophy. There is a range of “analogy-based views”, including the debt theory, the gratitude theory, the friendship theory, and special goods theory, etc. However, in the proposed research, we will review these theories and leave them to oneside, because they cannot fulfill the above-mentioned criteria. The proposed research will focus on the implications of two normative theories, namely,Consequentialism and Contractualism. According to Consequentialism, adult children have strong duties to support their parents if their general compliance with this rule promotes the overall good. According to Contractualism, adult children have strong filial duties if their caregiving actions involve a moral principle that no one can reasonably reject. Consequentialism and Contractualism can provide explanations of filial obligation from an overall profile of an ethical framework; they allow us to assess the strength of filial obligation in relation to the obligations of other demands, generate reasons for adult children to resist the potentially limitless requirements of long-term caregiving, and may prescribe different moral codes to people living under different cultural circumstances.

    Funding Source: RGC - General Research Fund (GRF)
    Effective start/end date01/09/1530/09/16


    • Consequentialism
    • Contractualism
    • Filial Obligations
    • Long-Term Caregiving


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