We may learn both that our lives together go better when we respect the things that deserve to be respected and that we should respect some things independently of considerations of how our lives would go.
We may also learn that how our lives go depends every bit as much on whether we respect ourselves.
Although honor, esteem, and prudential regard played important roles in moral and political theories before him, Kant was the first major Western philosopher to put respect for persons, including oneself as a person, at the very center of moral theory, and his insistence that persons are ends in themselves with an absolute dignity who must always be respected has become a core ideal of modern humanism and political liberalism.
In recent years many people have argued that moral respect ought also to be extended to things other than persons, such as nonhuman living things and the natural environment.
One general distinction is between respect simply as behavior and respect as an attitude or feeling which may or may not be expressed in or signified by behavior.
We might speak of drivers respecting the speed limit, hostile forces as respecting a cease fire agreement, or AIDS as not respecting national borders, and in such cases we can be referring simply to behavior which avoids violation of or interference with some boundary, limit, or rule, without any reference to attitudes, feelings, intentions, or dispositions, and even, as in the case of the AIDS virus, without imputing agency (Bird 2004).(5) What moral requirements, if any, are there to respect certain types of objects, and what is the scope and theoretical status of such requirements? What, if anything, does it add to morality over and above the conduct, attitudes, and character traits required or encouraged by various moral principles or virtues?(6) Are there different levels or degrees of respect? It is widely acknowledged that there are different kinds of respect, which complicates the answering of these questions.The value of self-respect may be something we can take for granted, or we may discover how very important it is when our self-respect is threatened, or we lose it and have to work to regain it, or we have to struggle to develop or maintain it in a hostile environment.Some people find that finally being able to respect themselves is what matters most about getting off welfare, kicking a disgusting habit, or defending something they value; others, sadly, discover that life is no longer worth living if self-respect is irretrievably lost.For example, answers concerning one kind of respect can diverge significantly from those about another kind.Much philosophical work has gone into explicating differences and links among the various kinds.Essay text: We should be trying to reach farther then the standard, going beyond the call of duty or respect.If the teacher calls you down, that is not the line but should be considered past the line. As children we are taught (one hopes) to respect our parents, teachers, and elders, school rules and traffic laws, family and cultural traditions, other people's feelings and rights, our country's flag and leaders, the truth and people's differing opinions.And we come to value respect for such things; when we're older, we may shake our heads (or fists) at people who seem not to have learned to respect them.