PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Friday, March 02, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Respect

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Respect

But before my essay, I'd like to remind you that we are still looking
for a quiet place in Madrid. If you know of a location, please let me know.


We are brought up to respect other people's opinions and beliefs, even
when we find these opinions or people abhorrent. We are taught to
respect other people with our behaviour. Indeed we accept that respect
is one of the key features of a civilised country or society. We are
told to respect public property and the property of others.

Respect is a way of saying "tolerating" others or to behave in such a
way that we do not annoy others with our behaviour or actions. We
associate respect with being polite, considerate, and even educated. In
our Sunday discussion interrupting others when they are speaking is a
serious disrespect.

So where does respect feature in a philosophical analysis? Let me focus
on the respect of the opinion of others.

Ideas, beliefs and opinions of others are a good start for a
philosophical discussion on the subject of respect, since philosophy is
also about ideas and opinions. And especially opinions that are
different from those of other people. Disagreement is part of the
philosophical process; but can we disagree with others whilst still
respecting them i.e. their ideas and opinions?

Respecting others or rather the opinions or beliefs of others does not
imply an obligation to accept and follow those opinions or beliefs of
others. When we respect the opinions of others we are under no legal or
moral obligation to adopt those ideas.

So what do we mean when we are asked to respect the opinions of others?
At first instance we mean that we recognize that the other person has
put some mental and emotional effort to have that opinion. We accept
that to have beliefs and opinions we are performing something as human
beings. And the first rule of a species is to respect other members of
the spices; some might have problems with this.

But as I said there is no question that when we respect other people's
opinion we are also subscribing to their opinion. That's not even an
issue. Respecting other people's opinions might, however, oblige us no
to be aggressive or belligerent towards those people.

There is also a difference between having and respecting other people's
opinions and accepting that those people implement their opinions or
beliefs on others. If we are under no obligation to accept other
people's opinions we are definitely not under an obligation to accept
the implementation of those opinions. Of course, there is a difference
between accepting a democratic process that involves the rule of law and
others to accept that that opinion is good or the best option. We are
not allowed to break the law but we cannot be forced to think that a
given law is a good law.

The problem becomes difficult when we end up in a dilemma that abiding
by the laws of the land, in a presumably democratic process, and
breaking the law on the grounds that such a law causes harm to others.
It's one thing no wanting to pay higher taxes and another obeying a law
that discriminates against a minority in the country.

Simply respecting the beliefs of others even if enacted into a law does
not provide us with an ethical test, let alone a legal one, on whether
we should follow such a law; eg legalising guns, Brexit, spending more
on armaments, gender discrimination etc. Of course, the categorical
imperative and the utilitarian doctrine do not help us here. The
categorical imperative might be too rigid to the extent that we do not
follow laws that we are convinced cause us (or others) harm. And the
utilitarian principle is too lax to the extent of rewarding cowardice
and spineless attitudes; go with the flow.

Civil disobedience and conscientious objections are indeed attempts to
overturn laws that were established under some sort of rule of law. So
how do we get from respecting the opinions of others to civil disobedience?

Today we have two options, in reality one option. Use some form of
theological doctrine which basically means we agree to accept the
opinions of a few elite thinkers until their thinking fails to make
sense. This religious approach will suffice when we're, maybe,
overwhelmed by nature and our environment. When we do begin to
understand our environment and we can tame nature we look for our
standards in probability. So basically we respect the opinion of others
up to the point where those opinions do not fall foul of the tyranny of
beliefs or the tyranny of probability.

But the bottom line of respecting the opinion of others is that we are
under no obligation to accept those opinions and/or implement them as if
they were truths. A good guide would, no doubt, be: do no harm to others.

Regarding other forms of respect, such as respecting other people with
our behaviour/being polite, this respect is more manageable. Basically,
we should try to be polite to others because aggression is not conducive
to a peaceful society. Aggression is a very inefficient use of resources.

At the end respect is maybe the first tentative attempt at trying to be
civilised towards each other and how to avoid aggression whenever possible.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813

PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Café Madrid
Calle del Meson de Panos in Opera

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Respect

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