The Virtues of Intimate Relationships

Dissertation, Duke University (2019)

Authors
Sungwoo Um
National Institutes of Health
Abstract
My dissertation aims to shed light on the importance and distinctive nature of intimate relationships such as parent-child relationship and friendship by developing my own version of a virtue-ethical approach. In Chapter 1, I critically examine important contemporary Western theories of filial piety and argue that they do not adequately capture the nature of a desirable parent-child relationship and filial piety. In Chapter 2, I show why the duty-centered approach to filial piety is inadequate focusing on why it fails to make sense of filial love and argue that filial piety is better understood as a virtue by showing how it can do justice to the normative significance of filial love. In Chapter 3, I introduce what I call ‘gratitude for being’ to capture the distinctive type of gratitude we owe to people who have consistent and particularized care for us, especially our parents. I argue that the idea of gratitude for being can best make sense of deep gratitude typically found among intimates who care for each other. In Chapter 4, I introduce what I call ‘relational virtues,’ which are virtues required for the participants of a given type of personal relationship and argue that it offers a valuable resource for answering questions concerning the value of intimate personal relationships. Next, I propose my own relational virtue theory of filial piety. In Chapter 5, I discuss several aspects of the Confucian conception of filial piety—early filial piety, the close connection between self-cultivation and filial piety, and postmortem filial piety—and show how my relational virtue theory can defend and make sense of them. Lastly, I show how my view of filial piety is different from the Confucian view, or at least a version of it. In Chapter 6, I discuss the virtue of friendship as a relational virtue and show how it can make sense of the nature and value of friendship. In particular, I show why the virtue of friendship is distinct from general virtues such as benevolence or generosity and why it is morally important to have this virtue. Finally, in Chapter 7, I propose what I call ‘relational activity view’ on partiality. After critically examining existing views on partiality, I suggest a picture of how special values are transformed, delivered, and created within intimate relationships.
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