Food for Thought: Love and Respect

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been pretty busy delving deep into the abyss that is business ethics. It has me curious at to who is reading publications such as The Journal of Business Ethics: businessmen or philosophers? My money is on the latter. And oh look I’m off topic already and I’ve barely started…

A N Y W A Y S . . .

I’m a big fan of Immanuel Kant. I’m not going to pretend that his ideas are the be all and end all of moral philosophy but they certainly do provide an excellent framework for determining how you should treat others. Whenever something has thrown me for a loop (ethically speaking), going back and reading Kant reminds me of how the world should be (providing it were all sunshine and daisies and everyone was required to study moral philosophy).  For those that are not familiar with Kant, allow me to introduce you to the Categorical Imperative. There are three formulations, but I just want to go over the first two. Ok now…

“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction.”

In simplespeak this means don’t do things unless you think it should be ok for everyone to do it.

“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.”

In simplespeak this means don’t use people.

The idea of treating others as ends rather than means has many implications in everyday life, but for Kant it is not enough to simply not treat one as a means. It is a twofold process. To be indifferent to someone means that you are not treating them as a means, but you are also not treating them as an end. For Kant we are morally responsibly for treating ALL people as ends. What this means is that we should find ways to promote the positive and negative freedom of individuals and be concerned for their physical and moral well being.

I am currently in the process of doing research for a paper applying Kantian ethics to corporate employee relations (fun right… I think so). So far a lot of what I have read relies heavily on this second formulation of the categorical imperative, and there was a citation from an article by Ornora O’Neill that really caught my eye in regards to how it relates to everyday life. Simply put O’Neill said that benevolence (and in turn-morality) creates a tension between love and respect. We are morally compelled to care about the well-being and happiness of others (love), but we should not go so far as to assume we know what is best for them and force our ideas of happiness upon them. Rather, we should allow them the autonomy and independence to seek out their own happiness (respect) (providing they are acting as moral agents).

I bring all this up because I feel that I see a lot of “you should do this” “you shouldn’t do that” “I think that’s wrong so you are wrong” in today’s society. In a country so deeply divided on every. single. issue. this doesn’t come as a surprise. I think that part of the problem is that we have had the “love” part drilled into our brains so much that it has stymied the “respect”. We are so self-interested and concerned with our own way of life that we fail to see the merit in ways that differ. This is not to say that we should tolerate morally reprehensible behavior in the vein of respect for individual autonomy, but we should recognize that we are all of different paths with varying experiences, purposes, capital, beliefs, etc. And to assume that there is only one way to properly live life is…for lack of a better word (and for minimal shock value) arrogant. What we should strive for as rational, moral people is a minimal level of physical and moral welfare for EVERYONE regardless of any differences among us.

In an effort to practice what I preach I will say that I am not telling you that you NEED to do this, I am merely opening your eyes to a different way of moral thinking. Take it or leave it.


*If you are interested, this is the citation for the article I was reading today…*

Bowie, N. E. (1998). A Kantian Theory of Meaningful Work. Journal Of Business Ethics17(9/10), 1083-1092.


What Do You Live For?

Last week, fellow blogger at A La Modeand my best friend since sixth grade, Baille, attended a Shoot For Change  event in the DC Metro area. The theme for fundraiser was “What I Live For”, which allowed attendees to portray their life’s passions in professional photographs. In a participatory spirit, everyone brought something with them that represented their passion in life; the photos were put on display along with short essays about what each attendee’s passion meant for them.

Had I not been clear across the country trying to teach myself how to run, I would have loved to have the opportunity to attend such an event. Not only because proceeds went to a great cause, but I love to getting to know other people and what they are passionate about.

Passion is a powerful force that can will you to do things beyond what you thought was possible. When you find something that you brain finds so amazing that it lights a fire inside of you, it can lift you from the deepest of funks and pull you away from the brink complacency.

I could easily say that I am a human of many passions. I love cooking. I love dancing. I love music.I love getting to know people very well (I also love figuring them out before they think they’ve revealed themselves). I love movies. I love exploring new places. I love taking pictures. I love hugging people.I love being philosophical. I love watching shows on Discovery Health about rare genetic diseases and 200 pound tumors. I could go on for days. But really… as I have come to discover quite recently… all of these things stem from what is apparently my true passion: learning.

Who would have thought? The girl who has been dragging her feet through her undergrad years kicking and screaming and changing majors several times, as it turns out, loves learning (this actually could explain the numerous major changing). I can’t get enough of it. I love learning new things about people, places, things, life, myself, the old hippie that hangs out in Pike Place… everything. If I ever get to a point in my life where I feel as though I have nothing more to learn and no more growing to do.. I might as well end it right there.

And this is how I know that learning is my passion… because my longing to learn new and more awesome things prevents me from becoming complacent. It influences my actions without me even realizing it. It causes me to put my body and mind in new and interesting situations and I long to gather meaning from those experiences. I love finding new and different ways to view the world around me and everything that is in it. And I never want to stop.

So what is your passion? What do you live for?