Why Kant Thinks All Persons Deserve Respect

Immanuel Kant considers respect to be the most fundamental moral attitude; every individual is entitled to it, regardless of personal achievement. Respecting someone means treating people as beings capable of acting rationally; therefore, to deny respect to a person suggests denying his/her individuality, that is, to deny that he/she is a person. Kant precisely expressed the idea of respect for a person in the principle of his moral theory. He did not use the word “respect” in a categorical imperative; it is reflected in his perspective on a morally correct attitude towards a person as a whole. In most cases, Kant used the word “respect” in relation to the law. Individualism is an orientation towards personality, respect, and trust. It demands the indispensable fulfillment of the requirement, using one’s own mind according to the principles of duty and responsibility to humanity in general. The main goals are the improvement of society.

Moreover, the personality in Kant’s philosophy appears as the creator of social norms, ideals, and cultural values. To be human means to feel, think and believe; it also reflects being a social creature, an active subject of freedom. In a state governed by the rule of law, it is crucial to be a citizen and a representative of humanity. Kant respects the individual and his/her human dignity; it is not about the human being but the man of worth, striving to fulfill a duty. That person should avoid pursuing personal goals or empirical happiness.

Utilitarianism adheres to the opposite position; people’s desire for happiness is the basis for all human actions. Only happiness is valuable; everything else is necessary only insofar as it contributes to its fulfillment. Consequently, morality can exist only as a method of achieving contentment. With regard to a person as a subject, according to utilitarianism, nothing concrete can be said about an individual except that he/she is characterized by the pursuit of happiness. Thus, people have the ability to rationally determine the components of their well-being and ways to achieve it. This leads to the principle of utility, which is based on the premise that the greatest happiness appears to be the true and proper goal of human action. The concept is the only rule to be followed since it has objective coercive power.

Kant’s argument proved the impossibility of justifying morality on the principle of happiness and, consequently, on utility. Kant’s theory determines that when choosing how to act, a person should consider not only his/her desires but also the social norm. The latter is the categorical imperative for the person. According to Kant, the fundamentals that determine the will always come from feelings of pleasure and discontent; consequently, it cannot relate to the same objects. Every individual has his/her own perception of happiness and utility, accompanied by personal interests and goals. Hence, Kant concluded that the basis of morality should be sought in the nature of reason since empirical definitions of will are unsuitable for general legislation, neither external nor internal.

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