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Abstract 摘要

Starting with a brief analysis of the biological, sociological, and axiological senses of the term “family,” this article points out that the purpose of a sociological family is to provide ideal conditions for human survival (which is primarily biological) and flourishing (which is axiological).

Although the sociological family structure significantly affects both the way of life and the quality of life, any sociological family can become a fetter instead of a home if family relations are not properly regulated. Regulating the family is both a basic principle for human survival and a challenging art, which is best understood through gongfu [aka. kung fu], a term that Song-Ming Confucians used frequently to describe the purpose of Confucian learning.

While authority and rules of conduct are necessary for regulating the family, effective authority must rely on virtue for its transformative effect, and rules of conduct must be accompanied by the use of discretion, an art that cannot be formalized. Both the exercising of authority and the application of rules are means rather than ends. Their proper use depends on whether they are conducive to the growth, transformation, and enablement of the relevant members. Rigid adherence to authority and rules can be potentially counter-constructive, as illustrated by cases of medical ethics in which adherence to patients’ rights to be kept informed and to give consent may prove to be inhumane to the patient, and yet adherence to the family’s right to make decisions for patients may also lead to problems. The matter has to be determined not merely on the basis of respecting cultural traditions, but ultimately on the well-being of the people involved.

The theory of regulating the family not only accommodates the need for family in various stages and conditions of human life in which a person is vulnerable – which is difficult to perceive in the West as the predominant conception of the “person” is modeled after a male, adult, autonomous rational being – it also provides a path for “reaching to the highest and brightest limits.” It is in the human relations starting from the family that a person’s life can go beyond the individual self and obtain sacredness within the secular life and thus become immortal.

The Chinese culture informed by the Confucian teaching of “rectification of names” has a rich variety of “names” to specify human relations, and hence is able to instill the sense of role-specific responsibilities. Yet the Confucian spirit of “all within the four seas are brothers” stretches family relations beyond the biological, and thereby allows Confucianism to embrace non-traditional types of family, such as adoptive families, cohabitation, same-sex marriage, and other modern institutions of living together such as kindergartens and nursing homes. It offers valuable instructions for obtaining the gongfu of leading a life as good as the structure of the family allows.

The far-reaching significance of “regulating the family” is evident in the Confucian idea that “when the family is regulated, the state will be in order; and when the state is in order, there will be peace throughout the world.” The idea has resonances in the contemporary “family therapy” of Virginia Satir, the humanism of early Karl Marx, and Riane Eisler’s idea of reviving the “partnership” relation of the pre-historical era: humans must eliminate the alienation of allowing material production and economics to dominate the creation of human life; we must reform our society according to the axiological concept of the family so that the world can become our shared home.

本文藉分析“家”的生物學、社會學和理想價值之三重不同含義及其相互關係,指出社會學意義的家和應當作為人類家園的社會,目的在於為人的生存和生命的延續提供理想條件。雖然家的形式對生活的方式和質量都有很大制約,但如果家不“齊”,任何形式的家都可能成為牢籠。齊家既是人類生存的基本功,也是一門艱深藝術。宋明儒的“功夫”概念為理解儒家齊家思想提供了一把鑰匙。家的理想狀態,需由個人自身的高度修養以及“權(衡)”的功夫而來,而不能只靠權威、家規或對文化傳統的尊重。齊家學說不僅照顧到弱勢者對家庭的需要,也提供了由“道中庸”而致“極高明”的途徑。正是從家庭開始而往外延伸的人際關係,使人的生命得以超出自我,並獲得“即凡而聖”的意義而成就不朽。儒家“四海之內皆兄弟”的精神擴展了親緣關係,使其能夠在現代社會中容納非傳統的家庭形態,並指導我們在各種家庭形態允許的條件下獲得美好生活。儒家“家齊而後國治,國治而後天下平”的觀念,與著名西方家庭療法大師薩蒂爾之觀念、早期馬克思的人本主義觀念和美國文化人類學家艾斯勒關於復歸遠古“夥伴關係”的觀點,都有相通之處:人類應當在更高級的形態上,消除人的自身生產被物質經濟生產所左右的異化,並以具理想價值意義的家為模式去改造社會,從而達致把天下家園化的目標。

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