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In the Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant points to the heart of respect, a crucial resource for humanity. Kant says, “Humanity itself is a dignity, for a man cannot be used merely as a means by any man” (p. 255). He argues further that respect for dignity is owed to all humans, not just to those with a standing in the community. Earlier, Confucius had grappled with the concept of respect (jen), placing a keen emphasis on what ought “to occur when two people come together” (quoted in Wawrytko, 1982, p. 237). Confucius conceived of jen, often translated as “humanity” or “humaneness,” as the essence of what makes people human.

Admittedly, respect is a very difficult concept to apprehend, but nevertheless, it has invited close scrutiny. ...

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