Confucian and Daoist Traditions on Love
This chapter is about Confucian and Daoist views of love in the classical age (6th - 3rd c. B.C.E.). For the Confucians, love is the core of a central moral virtue. Family love is the foundation for developing an inclusive love for all human beings. Whether family love has priority over inclusive love when they conflict was an issue of contention between Confucians and their critics, and it is an issue that resonates to this day. Mencius defended the priority of family love by arguing that love must be guided by appropriate distinctions between its various recipients. For the Daoists, love as compassion for all creatures is a treasure of the Daoist sage and arises from attunement to the primordial formless source of all that exists. Daoists conceived Confucian distinctions, and all distinctions of language, as too rigid and coarse to properly guide love, and instead proposed that love should be a relatively unmediated response to the immediate presence of the recipient. Both Confucian and Daoist traditions are concerned to reconcile human beings with the loss of loved ones, but they have seemingly incompatible approaches to doing this. In this chapter I argue that one can rather regard these approaches as complementary: that it may be appropriate to emphasize one over the other in a given situation; or to synthesize the approaches so as to incorporate the strengths and to avoid the weaknesses of each.
- Routledge Handbook of Love in Philosophy