Respect-Worthiness and Dignity

Dialogue 51 (4):587-612 (2012)
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In this paper I consider the possibility that failing to fulfill the Kantian obligation to protect one’s rational nature might actually vitiate future instances of this obligation. I respond to this dilemma by defending a novel interpretation of Kant’s views on the relation between the value we have and the respect we are owed. I argue, contra the received view among Kant scholars, that the feature in virtue of which someone has unconditional and incomparable value is not the same feature in virtue of which she is owed the respect that constrains how she may be treated. So, even though someone who fails to attempt to protect her rational nature fails to respect herself in the right way, and even though this moral failing does make her lose a certain kind of value, her obligations to respect herself do not go away.

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Carol Hay
University of Massachusetts, Lowell


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