Respect, Self-respect, and Self-knowledge

The Monist (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Respect appears to generate a puzzling self-other asymmetry: Respect for others can demand that we avoid knowledge of others or ignore that knowledge in deciding how we treat others. This demand for epistemic distancing lies behind the imperatives not to violate others’ privacy or to treat them paternalistically. Self-respect, in contrast, mandates that we pursue knowledge of ourselves and that we choose and act light of that self-knowledge. Individual agents thus do not have a duty to epistemically distance themselves from themselves; a fortiori, they have self-regarding duties to reduce such distance. This article elaborates this asymmetry and offers a plausible solution to it, rooted in the distinctive importance that self-knowledge (and acting in the world on the basis of that self-knowledge) has for self-respecting rational agents: Self-respecting agents have reasons to have others defer to their ‘surfaces’ or self-presentations in order to inhibit making themselves vulnerable to others in ways that undermine their self-respect by subordinating their wills to the wills of others. A measure of control over what others know about us and over what they do with that knowledge thus undergirds self-respect by enabling self-knowledge to play the role that it should play in the lives of self-respecting agents. Epistemic distancing thus operates in concert with the ways in which self-respecting agents value and pursue epistemic intimacy with themselves.

Author's Profile

Michael Cholbi
University of Edinburgh

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