The Rationality of Valuing Oneself: A Critique of Kant on Self-Respect

Journal of the History of Philosophy 35 (1):65-82 (1997)
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Kant claims that persons have a perfect duty to respect themselves. I argue, first, that Kant’s argument for the duty of self-respect commits him to an implausible view of the nature of self-respect: he must hold that failures of self-respect are either deliberate or matter of self-deception. I argue, second, that this problem cannot be solved by understanding failures of self-respect as failures of rationality because such a view is incompatible with human psychology. Surely it is not irrational for people, especially members of oppressed groups, to view themselves as having diminished moral worth.

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Cynthia A. Stark
University of Utah


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