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Kant on Self-Respect STEPHEN J. MASSEY SELF-RESPECT FIGURES PROMINENTLY in recent moral and political philosophy. Philosophers have argued that it is central to an understanding both of the nature and value of rights and of why character traits such as benevolence and generosity are properly regarded as virtues.' Many of the most important writers on self-respect regard themselves as writing within the Kantian tradition or as developing Kantian themes about the nature and value of self-respect. ~ Yet there has been no adequate explication of Kant's views on self-respect. As a result of this gap, Kant's discussion of servility has been regarded as his major contribution to the theory of self-respect? This emphasis has, in turn, lent Kant's prestige to the prevailing philosophical preocMy position in this article has benefited from criticisms by Thomas Donaldson, Chin-Tai Kim, Nick Perovich, Nicholas Sturgon, Vickie Wike, and a referee for the Journal of the History of Philosophy. I would especially like to thank Terry Irwin, David Lyons, Richard W. Miller, and Allen Wood for their comments and encouragement in seeing the article through its many drafts. ' For the former, see John Rawls, A Theory ofJustice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), esp. secs. 67, 82; and Joel Feinberg, "The Nature and Value of Rights," Journal of Value Inquiry 4 (Winter 197o): 243-57. For the latter, see James D. Wallace, Virtues and Vices (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978), esp. pp. 152-58. For the former, see Rawls, sec. 4o, "The Kantian Interpretation of Justice as Fairness." For the latter, see Thomas Hill, "Servility and Sell-Respect," Monist 57 0973): 87-1o4, esp. sec. 4. 3 See Hill's "Servility and Self-Respect," one of the most highly regarded and frequently anthologized recent works on self-respect. Hill disavows any intent "to explicate Kant directly" (p. 87). Rather, he is "interested in making sense of Kant's puzzling, hut suggestive, remarks about respect for persons and respect for the moral law" (p. 87). In explaining why the servile person (who disavows his own moral rights) is morally deficient, Hill's purpose "is not to interpret what Kant meant but to give a sense to his remark" (n. 5)- Although Hill is careful to insist that he is not explicating Kant and that he is concerned with only one of the "kinds" of self-respect, the natural inplication of his article is that Kant's main contribution to the theory of self-respect consists in his having identified a kind of failure to respect oneself, i.e., being servile, that involves a failure to properly value one's moral rights, and in having suggested why servility is a moral failing. Though at times I disagree with Hill's emphases, 1respect his article for having drawn attention to the important issues in this area. [57] 58 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY cupation with the view that it is a conceptually necessary (and perhaps sufficient ) condition of self-respect that a person believe himself to have equal basic rights? Kant has a far richer and more problematical view of self-respect than is suggested by recent Kantian accounts. He does indeed believe that servility, the tendency to act as if one did not share equal basic rights with every other person, displays a lack of self-respect. But he offers an explanation of this claim in terms of a more general theory about the worth of persons. I shall argue that the principles Kant uses to reach the conclusion that servility displays a lack of self-respect show that he holds the view that all immorality, all failure to treat others (and oneself) as ends and not simply as means, displays a lack of self-respect. If we are interested in Kant's position on self-respect, we must come to terms with this position and not with the more restricted view that respecting oneself primarily involves believing oneself to have equal basic rights. We must first consider Kant's theory of value and then determine what features of persons make them distinctively worthy of respect. His fundamental distinction in the theory of value is between beings with relative value--value...


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