ADVANTAGES

In trying to clarify who or what we are obligated to respect, we arenaturally led to a question about the ground or basis of respect: Whatis it about persons that makes them matter morally and makes themworthy of respect? One common way of answer this question is to lookfor some morally significant natural quality that is common to allbeings that are noncontroversially owed respect (for example, allnormal adult humans). Candidate qualities include the ability to bemoved by considerations of moral obligation, the ability to valueappropriately, the ability to reason, and the ability to engage inreciprocal relationships. Some of these apply only to humans, othersto other beings as well. Even regarding humans, there is a question ofscope: Are all humans owed respect? If respect is somethingto which all human beings have an equal claim, then, it has beenargued, the ground quality has to be one that all humans possessequally or in virtue of which humans are naturally equal, or athreshold quality that all humans possess, with variations above thethreshold ignored. Some philosophers have argued that certaincapacities fit the bill; others argue that there is no qualitypossessed by all humans that could be a plausible ground for a moralobligation of equal respect. Some draw from this the conclusion thatrespect is owed not to all but only to some human beings; othersconclude that the obligation to respect all humans is groundless:rather than being grounded in some fact about humans, respect confersmoral standing on them. But the last view still leaves the questions:why should this standing be conferred on humans? And is it conferredon all humans? Yet another question of scope is: Must personsalways be respected? One view is that individuals forfeittheir claim to respect by, for example, committing heinous crimes ofdisrespect against other persons, such as murder in the course ofterrorism or genocide. Another view is that there are no circumstancesunder which it is morally justifiable to not respect a person, andthat even torturers and child-rapists, though they may deserve themost severe condemnation and punishment and may have forfeited theirrights to freedom and perhaps to life, still remain persons to whom wehave obligations of respect, since the grounds of respect areindependent of moral merit or demerit.

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