There are many concept in our daily seems very simple, everyone suppose to knows what it means, but when you try to find a precise definition, you realize its meaning is actually very vague. Respect is one of such concepts. Many people respect means politeness, but that is not true. You can totally despite of someone yet be very polite to him. Many people thinks respect means agreeing, but that is also not true. You can pay respect to your opponent yet disagree everything he says. Respect is an altitude, it is inside the mind, it may or may not lead to certain external behaviors.

Respect requires an object to be respected, whether the object is a person, a organization or a religion. Is respect a property of the object or is it a result of something the object had done? I tends to believe in the later. Someone says we should respect elderly, teachers, authority, etc. I think no one deserved to be respect unless he earns it or he loses it. A good teacher, a gentle elderly, a just authority are respectable, but should we respect a bad teacher, a grumble old man, or a corrupted authority? Is it us who disrespect them or they disrespect themselves and their roles in the first place. Even when Kant says every men should be respected, his ground of respect is the rationality of men. Men is no longer respectable if he becomes irrational, on which he cease to be a man.

Instead of using a binary state of respect and disrespect, maybe we should measure respect using a scale. You don’t respect someone or despite of someone if you don’t know him, you are just neutral. The more you know about someone, the more you can tell whether he is respectable or not and you can adjust your level of respect towards him accordingly. You can also slice respect into smaller units according to his relationship with you. Someone maybe a very respectable father to his children, but at the same time he may be a very lousy teacher whom deserve no respect from his students.

10 thoughts on “Respect”

  1. From the dictionary, to respect is to show regard or consideration for someone, or to refrain from intruding upon or interfering with someone. To me, to respect someone is to accept and understand someone. To respect is also to refrain ourselves from prejudice.

    If you treat someone “neutral” first, and then upgrade to “respect” after being earned, the “respect” you are describing looks more like “trust”. I view we need to respect everyone unless he or she has done something that is socially unacceptable.

  2. michael: prejudice is definitely not respect. Your respect is more inline with Kant’s respect. Others are human so they deserve to be respect, but that human respect is a bit different than the respect to elderly, teacher, authority, etc.

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