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The concepts are also invoked in bioethics, environmental ethics, business ethics, workplace ethics, and a host of other applied ethics contexts.
The ubiquity and significance of respect and self-respect in everyday life largely explains why philosophers, particularly in moral and political philosophy, have been interested in these two concepts.
They turn up in a multiplicity of philosophical contexts, including discussions of justice and equality, injustice and oppression, autonomy and agency, moral and political rights and duties, moral motivation and moral development, cultural diversity and toleration, punishment and political violence.
Despite the widespread acknowledgment of the importance of respect and self-respect in moral and political life and theory, there is no settled agreement in either everyday thinking or philosophical discussion about such issues as how to understand the concepts, what the appropriate objects of respect are, what is involved in respecting various objects, what the conditions are for self-respect, and what the scope is of any moral requirements regarding respect and self-respect. Among the main questions about respect that philosophers have addressed are these: (1) How should respect in general be understood? Philosophers have variously identified it as a mode of behavior, a form of treatment, a kind of valuing, a type of attention, a motive, an attitude, a feeling, a tribute, a principle, a duty, an entitlement, a moral virtue, an epistemic virtue: are any of these categories more central than others? (c) To what other attitudes, actions, valuings, duties, etc.
is respect similar, and with what does it contrast?
(d) What beliefs, attitudes, emotions, motives, and conduct does respect involve, and with what is it incompatible?
(2) What are the appropriate objects of respect, i.e., the sorts of things that can be reasonably said to warrant respect?In what follows, I will focus chiefly on respect as attitude or feeling.There are, again, several different attitudes or feelings to which the term “respect” refers.We may learn both that our lives together go better when we respect the things that deserve to be respected and that we should respect some things independently of considerations of how our lives would go.We may also learn that how our lives go depends every bit as much on whether we respect ourselves.Respect for persons is a central concept in many ethical theories; some theories treat it as the very essence of morality and the foundation of all other moral duties and obligations.This focus owes much to the 18 century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, who argued that all and only persons (i.e., rational autonomous agents) and the moral law they autonomously legislate are appropriate objects of the morally most significant attitude of respect.(5) What moral requirements, if any, are there to respect certain types of objects, and what is the scope and theoretical status of such requirements? What, if anything, does it add to morality over and above the conduct, attitudes, and character traits required or encouraged by various moral principles or virtues?(6) Are there different levels or degrees of respect? It is widely acknowledged that there are different kinds of respect, which complicates the answering of these questions.We may learn that jobs and relationships become unbearable if we receive no respect in them; in certain social milieus we may learn the price of disrespect if we violate the street law: “Diss me, and you die.” Calls to respect this or that are increasingly part of public life: environmentalists exhort us to respect nature, foes of abortion and capital punishment insist on respect for human life, members of racial and ethnic minorities and those discriminated against because of their gender, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs, or economic status demand respect both as social and moral equals and for their cultural differences.And it is widely acknowledged that public debates about such demands should take place under terms of mutual respect.