Respect for persons

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L084-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 10, 2023, from

Article Summary

The idea that one should treat persons with due respect is an important part of common sense morality, but opinions differ about when respect is called for, what it requires, and why. Respect for persons is also a central concept in many ethical theories. Some theories even hold respect for persons to be the foundation of all other moral duties and obligations.

Respect is distinguished commonly, on one side, from fear and submission, and on another, from admiration, liking and affection. Respect for all persons as such is distinguished normally from esteem or special regard for persons of unusual merit. Some philosophers identify respect with agapē, a special kind of love, but respect is perhaps most often regarded as a distinct attitude that should constrain and complement the promptings of love. Kant, for example, held that the requirements of respect and love are different, though compatible, and that both are dependent upon the more general and fundamental idea that humanity in every person is an end in itself.

Other key issues in discussions of respect for persons include: what moral requirement, if any, there is to respect all persons; what the grounds, scope, and theoretical status are of that requirement; whether one can forfeit all claim to respect as a person; what ‘respect for persons’ demands with regard to specific problems, such as conflicts rooted in race and gender differences; and whether there is the same ground and obligation to respect oneself as to respect others.

    Citing this article:
    Hill, Thomas E.. Respect for persons, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L084-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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