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Understanding Kant’s Duty of Respect as a Duty of Virtue

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In the Doctrine of Virtue Kant declares that “Only an end that is also a duty can be called a duty of virtue” (MS 6:383). In the same text Kant refers to the duty of respect for others as a duty of virtue. It follows that the duty of respect must correspond to some end that is also a duty. What is this end? This paper endeavors to answer this question. Though Kant explicitly identifies two obligatory ends—one’s own perfection and the happiness of others (MS 6:385)—neither is a good candidate for the end which corresponds to the duty of respect. This paper examines two plausible candidates—others’ humanity and others’ self-esteem—arguing that the latter is preferable insofar as it accords better with what Kant says about the vice of defamation, respecting others in the logical use of their reason, and respectful beneficence.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, University of Georgia Athens, Georgia, USA,


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