Ayn Rand, in Respect of "Respect"

April 20, 2008 by · 5 Comments 

I today received a message from a youtube viewer, who wrote:

I just came across the work of Ayn Rand. What is the explanation of Ayn Rand about what the word respect means.

I replied as follows:

I don’t believe Ayn Rand gave the word any definition that is peculiar to her philosophy. She pretty much used the word in the various ways it is defined in dictionaries.

Generally speaking, to “respect” is to look at or acknowledge the existence/identity of something (e.g., to “respect”/identify the fact that a man is a man and that, because of what that implies for the rational pursuit of ones own happiness, it is wrong to take his life, liberty, or property without his consent…even if his views/beliefs are utterly irrational).

In some, but not all contexts, the word “respect” means, also, to hold a thing in high regard; to value it. In this latter sense, an Objectivist would (for example) “respect”/value rational egoism, but not altruism or irrational egoism (e.g., hedonism).

In yet another context, “respect” means “concerning” (as in “With respect to his politics, he is black and white. With respect to his ethics, he is many shades of gray”) or “manner” (as in “…the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject and in the same respect.”)

I’m not trying to be obtuse. Perhaps you can give me the context in which you mean the word “respect” to be used?