Kant: Respect, Individuality and Dependence

  • Victor J. Seidler
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 128)


In elucidating a notion of respect in terms of the distance we want to maintain from others, we are not simply clarifying an aspect of moral language which helps us understand the nature of our moral lives. To analyse a particular notion such as respect, we have to become clearer about a particular form of social relations within which this notion is embedded and comes to life. It can be misleading to think that we can give a neutral and impartial account of a concept we involve in our moral understanding of ourselves, without bringing into focus the form of life of which it is an integral part. It is not enough for us simply to work out the different contexts within our everyday lives when we might say that we respect someone, though this might be an important aspect of our analysis. This can never be the whole story. In acknowledging the ways in which a notion such as respect is embedded in a particular form of life, we are acknowledging the dangers of analysing a concept as if it were not an essentially historical formation. Forms of life are essentially historical, involving particular relations of power and dominance, even though particular social theories often do their best to hide their historical character.1 Rather we need to understand the different ways in which moral theory so often presents itself in universal terms. To recognize the historical character of our moral conceptions does not have to concede to a form of historical and sociological relativism, though it does raise new questions about the nature of moral theory.


Social Relation Medical Knowledge Moral Theory Moral Worth Moral Life 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victor J. Seidler
    • 1
  1. 1.Goldsmiths College University of LondonUK

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