Respect, Jing, and person

Comparative Philosophy 10 (2) (2019)

Authors
Pengbo Liu
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Abstract
While respect for persons is fundamental to many moral and political theories, its nature and ground remain controversial. According to the standard model of respect, respect is primarily a response to certain inherent features of a person or an object. Importantly, it is in virtue of the value, status or authority of those features that respect is justified or owed. This model, however, faces many serious challenges. Drawing on the classical Confucian notion of jing, I develop an alternative model of respect, which construes respect as an expression of agent’s sense of the self and its place in the world. The emphasis is thus on the agent’s own self-conception and the corresponding attitudes and dispositions, as opposed to on inherent features of the objects of respect. To further illustrate this distinction, I contrast the traditional Kantian conception of respect for persons with the Confucian, jing-based, conception along three dimensions: the normative ground, the content, and the distribution of respect. The Kantian respect certainly has its merits, and perhaps is indispensable in some contexts, but there is much more to respect than what Kantians can offer. The Confucian conception of respect, on the other hand, has important theoretical and practical values such that it is essential to an adequate understanding of the role of respect in our moral and political life.
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