Self-Respect and Justice

Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh (1987)

Robin S. Dillon
Lehigh University
In my thesis I investigate the nature and importance of self-respect, its relationship with justice, and its role in moral theory. Drawing on an analysis of respect, I develop a distinction between two kinds of self-respect: Kantian self-respect and evaluative self-respect. Kantian self-respect involves recognizing and responding appropriately to the fact that one is a person; evaluative self-respect involves an appraisal of one's quality as a person as defined by one's self-ideal and the various excellences of character. An examination of Kant's moral theory shows his conflation of the two, and also reveals how respecting oneself relates to participating in the moral project. In arguing against a subjective conception of self-respect I show how evaluative self-respect relates to virtue and to living a worthwhile life, and how it ties individuals into the community through a social practice of E-respecting persons. Finally, I investigate the role of self-respect in Rawls' theory of justice and examine difficulties arising from his failure to distinguish the two kinds of self-respect. I argue that the principles of justice are grounded in and offer support to Kantian self-respect, although what Rawls treats as the most important primary good and as therefore needing the support of the principles is evaluative self-respect. And I show that there is no straightforward way for Rawls to amend his account
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