Struggle for the Right to Cover Up for Family Members: The Significance and Value of the Confucian Thought “Cover Up for Family Members” in Modern Society

Keywords: Confucianism, The Analects 論語, Mecius 孟子, cover up for the family members 親親相隱, Axel Honneth, theory of recognition, normative reconstruction


The argument for covering up for family members who had committed offenses was a core part of Confucian thinking, and a topic that has long been controversial. This idea tended to be deemed by traditional Legalist scholars and contemporary law-centered scholars as an outdated approach that compromised legal fairness, and thus should not be accepted by contemporary society. However, it is understood through Honneth’s recognition theory that the “law” is in fact merely a principle of recognizing a person’s identity as a member of civil society, and we cannot ignore that man also has an identity of the “family” relation that is connected to “love”. The identity recognition based on the principle of “love” is an intrinsic need of humans, and also an essential link in the establishment of an integrated personality. The desire to cover up for a family member is nothing other than an attempt to rebuild an ethics-centered identity recognition, so as to avoid the materialization of humans by “laws”.

Author Biography

Wei-Chieh TSENG, National Cheng-Chi University

Adjunct  Instructor, 

Department of Chinese Literature


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Confucian Ethics, Politics and Modern Law