Kant on Respect

The Ethics of Respect
• One of Kant’s
most lasting
contributions to
moral philosophy
was his emphasis
on the notion of
respect (Achtung)
What is Respect?
• Respect has become a fundamental moral concept
in contemporary America
– Rodney Dangerfield
– “Don’t dis’ me.”
– There are rituals of respect in almost all cultures.
• Two central questions:
– What is respect?
– Who or what is the proper object of respect?
The Categorical Imperative
• “Act in such a way that
you always treat
humanity, whether in
your own person or in
the person of any
other, never simply as a
means, but always at
the same time as an
Kant on Respecting Persons
• Kant brought the notion of respect (Achtung)
to the center of moral philosophy for the first
• To respect people is to treat them as ends in
themselves. He sees people as autonomous,
i.e., as giving the moral law to themselves.
• The opposite of respecting people is treating
them as mere means to an end.
Treating People as Ends in Themselves
What are the characteristics of
treating people as ends in
• Not denying them relevant
• Allowing them freedom of choice
Privacy, Autonomy, Respect
• Privacy Act- 1974- “Privacy= autonomy or
control over significant personal matters;
limitation on access to self.
• Privacy includes: rights to one’s thoughts and
actions unless infringe on rights of others;
rights to “personal space.”
• Privacy-fundamental good of relationshiptrust, mutual respect, confidentalityprofessionals.
Is lack of proper self-respect a moral failing?
• The Deferential Wife
– See article by Tom Hill, “Servility and Self-Respect”
• Servants
– See movie of Kazuo Ishiguro's “Remains of the Day”
• Stevens the servant: "I don't believe a man can
consider himself fully content until he has done all he
can to be of service to his employer."
• Aristotle and Self-Love
– What is the difference between self-respect and self-love?
Clearly, there is at least a difference in the affective
Respect in the Classroom
• What does it mean to respect students?
– Are there any common classroom practices that
you see as disrespectful of students?
• What does it mean to respect teachers?
– Are there any common school practices that you
find are disrespectful to teachers?
– What does it mean to respect peers- other
• Respect for other people
(including not using other
people as a means) remains a
key concept in contemporary
moral philosophy.

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