The Confucian Filial Obligation and Care for Aged Parents ABSTRACT: Some moral philosophers in the West (e.g., Norman Daniels and Jane English) hold that adult children have no more moral obligation to support their elderly parents than does any other person in the society, no matter how much sacrifice their parents made for them or what misery their parents are presently suffering. This is because children do not ask to be brought into the world or to be adopted. Therefore, there is a “basic asymmetry between parental and the filial obligations.” I argue against the Daniels/English thesis by employing the traditional Confucian view of the nature of filial obligation. On the basis of a distinction between ‘moral duty’ and ‘moral responsibility’ and the Confucian concept of justice, I argue that the filial obligation of adult children to care respectfully for their aged parents is not necessarily self-imposed. I conclude that due to the naturalistic character of the family, the nature of our familial obligations (such as parental caring for young children and adult children’s respectful caring for aged parents) cannot be consensual, contractarian and voluntarist, but instead existential, communal and historical. Some moral philosophers in the West hold that adult children do not have any more moral obligation to support their elderly parents than does any other person in the society, no matter how much sacrifice their parents made for them in the past or what kinds of misery their parents are presently suffering. This is so, they claim, because children do not ask to be brought into this world or to be adopted. Thus, the traditional filial obligation of supporting and taking care of the aged is left as either the private responsibility of the elderly themselves or as a societal burden on the public. (1) For example, Norman Daniels argues that there is a “basic asymmetry between parental and the filial obligations” (Daniels, 1988, p.29). The parental obligation of caring for their young children, says Daniels, is a “self-imposed” duty, while the so-called children’s obligation of caring for their aged parents is “non-self-imposed” and thus cannot be morally required. (2) In her famous essay, “What Do Grown Children Owe Their Parents,” Jane English also claims that a favor done without it being requested or a voluntary sacrifice of one for another can only create “a friendly gesture” (Sommers & Sommers, 1993, pp. 758-765). It incurs neither an “owing” nor a moral obligation to reciprocate.