One of the difficulties with introspection is that you may not answer questions honestly; or to put it another way, you may not be able to imagine your world without your world view; without the things that you have been brought up and taught to believe.  Philosophy has existed primarily to help people to liberate their minds.  Ethics, which rests on notions of harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, requires one to look at another’s circumstances, decisions, motives, etc with empathy; ethics requires you to imagine being in someone else’s shoes.

It turns out respect of others also requires this.  The book, “Respect, in a world of inequality” argues the point that imagining that we are all equal does not make us so.  There is only an appearance of respect when we pretend to do so.  Respect does not come from a denial of our differences but from a reverence in our differences.  A banker has different life and work perspectives than a janitor.  Both bring unique perspectives for any given problem.  It is the acknowledgement of the value that we give to these different perspectives that fosters respect.

One thing that I failed to mention until now, maybe because it seems self-evident or maybe because the topic of respect jarred it from my brain is that, ethics also requires self respect and respect of others.  I suppose I could go into great depth on this topic but I am not sure I need to.  I think it can be simply stated as such: self respect is needed so that you treat yourself with care and fairness.  If your personal frame is sufficiently warped, such that you do not have respect for yourself, then your ethical frame will be warped.  Introspection will not provide you with the right answers under such a warped condition.  Respect for others starts with respect for yourself.

Similar problems arise of course if you do not respect others.  We could discuss the nuances of this condition but we would be entering into a larger discussion on psychology and neurosis that would be a distraction.  As noted in the discussion, “when things go wrong” earlier, the argument that ethics is knowable requires a certain level of emotional and intellectual intelligence, as well as normalcy; in other words falling under many of the designations of “abnormal psychology” would likely impair your ethical bearing.


2 thoughts on Respect

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