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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.That is to ask, is there any limitation of that principle in our moral practice, especially when we consider filial morality in dealing with the relationship between adult children and their aged parents?
Most of us, I believe, would say "yes" according to our common moral sense.
But what interests us in this example is not whether Fred ought to save Sheila but why Fred ought to try to save her.
Because we cannot always assume a friendship relation exists between a parent and his/her children, filial obligation is not a genuine moral obligation at all.
In what follows I shall argue against the Daniels/English thesis in light of the traditional Eastern Confucian view of the nature of filial obligation.
It is rather determined mainly by what kind of existential situation a moral agent is in and what kind of social role she plays.
For example, a normal and healthy person is obligated to yield to a handicapped person because the latter is handicapped.
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.
To me, what makes Fred morally obligated in this case is the existential or factical "being" of Fred, Sheila, and John rather than Fred's intentional consent that is crucial in Fred's moral obligation to try to save Sheila.
Similar examples in our contemporary social and moral life can also be found in the cases such as the moral obligation of the present generation of human beings to protect the ecological environment and to preserve some of the natural resources for future generations, a citizen's obligation to defend her home country, a patient's obligation not to have physical contact with healthy persons if she knows that she has an infectious disease, etc.