This paper examines the role of filial piety in East Asian Confucian societies as a means of drawing out political implications by showing two different standpoints elaborated by Gadamer and Habermas. The two thinkers seem to display different outlooks on the notion of filial piety in the East Asian Confucian culture: Whereas Gadamer appears to approve the practice of filial piety as keeping tradition in the specific societies, i.e., Confucian East Asian culture, Habermas rejects it by refusing the concept of tradition. The debate primarily originates from two different—though both “Western”—philosophical traditions. Gadamer endorses tradition since all human beings are conditioned by the effects of cultural heritage, and events can never be disinterested. All previous contexts of human culture enter into the greater tradition that is transmitted to us through the generations as an inexhaustible stock of moral instruction. On the other hand, in his critique of Gadamer’s appropriation of tradition, Habermas argues that human beings can overcome the dogmatic force of tradition. In Habermas’s account, it is of significant importance to use reason—or critical reflection—in order to overcome such dogmatic force. In short, this paper appropriates Habermas’s charge that Gadamer hypostatizes tradition. In other words, Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics embeds understanding in tradition because all understanding is necessarily prejudiced. Habermas rejects Gadamer’s idea of tradition on the ground that it is absolutizing.


Confucianism, Confucian East Asian culture, critical reflection, filial piety, Gadamer, Habermas, tradition

Please login first to access subscription form of article

Read Full text in PDF

Browse By

Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)