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Markus Stocker

Between information technology and environmental science with a flair for economics, the clarinet, and the world of soups and salads.

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The one Xmas present that swung on the day into my house this year was rather unusual. I think, I am as close as never before to the place where Santa Claus is said to have his residence but this year it came from across the ocean. It wasn’t delivered by Santa Claus, I argue he wouldn’t have agreed. Shipping cost was zero. It was an email. If nothing else, I know I have never been the receiver of a more offensive (Xmas) present. I assume, it was not meant to be a present; it was perfectly timed nevertheless. Without going further into details, I would like to use this space to think.

I would like to think about respect because, well, in the email I was asked to respect a request. The rationale of my opponent on why I ought to is, in my opinion, based on a misrepresentation of past events. Given the opponent’s apparent unwillingness to find a common reading, I can only rely on how I recall the events – which, for the records, I believe is verifiable – and, thus, I need to assume that the request is based on a flawed rationale. Now, the question is whether a request for respect ought to be respected no matter what, independently of the context.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the focus of contemporary philosophical interest in respect is on “the idea that all persons should be treated with respect simply because they are persons” (Kant’s ethical theory). I cannot disagree with that. For the sake of clarity, the kind of respect relevant here is, I think, Feinberg’s observantia;Hudson’s evaluative respect; Darwall’s recognition respect.Further, the object (to which respect is directed to) is a human being, i.e. my opponent, capable of rational activity, i.e. an end in itself, possessing, thus, a dignity, i.e. objective worth (Kant). I just realize, respect seems to be a respectfully complicated concept.

I like the example of “hostile forces as respecting a cease fire agreement.” I believe, Christmas has been witness of hostile forces magically ceasing fire, without an explicit agreement (I would like to note the compulsory existence of two or more hostile forces respecting). I think, from the article, interesting is,

The idea of […] giving proper attention to the object which is central to respect often means trying to see the object clearly, as it really is in its own right, and not seeing it solely through the filter of one’s own desires and fears or likes and dislikes. Thus, respecting something contrasts with being oblivious or indifferent to it, ignoring or quickly dismissing it, neglecting or disregarding it, or carelessly or intentionally misidentifying it.

Again, I can only agree – to read on the background of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, 4th movement, it sounds veraciously beautiful. Consider this. “Respect is object-generated […], something that is owed to […]. We respect […] not because we want to but because we recognize that we have to respect it.” Sounds natural, doesn’t it? Though, do you always think of respect with this clarity? I don’t think I do. The delicate part is, I believe, to recognize. I think, my opponent is right; I owe respect, no matter what, independently of the context.

If only respect wouldn’t be, too, “a matter […] of reflective consideration and judgment.” Notably,

The subject [here myself] judges that the object is due, deserves, or rightfully claims a certain response in virtue of some feature of […] the object […]. This feature […] is the […] basis in the object, that in virtue of which it calls for respect. The basis gives us a reason to respect the object […].

And this is, I think, the balance. Respect is owned to the object and recognized as compelling by the subject (the left pan of the balance) provided there exists a feature of the object by virtue of which respect is rightfully claimed (the right pan of the balance).

Here, given the context of calling for respect based on a flawed rationale, there seems to be no feature of the object by virtue of which respect may rightfully be claimed. The balance, once again. What sounds, is, veraciously beautiful is only so to the extent of mutually nurtured respect which, I think, is unmet when past events are twisted such that they fit an argument.