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Blupete's Weekly Commentary

October 8th, 2000.

"Love, Respect and Justice."

I got to thinking about, "love, respect and justice," when, once again, I read one of the brilliant lines of Sir James Fitzjames Stephen: "It is not love that one wants from the great mass of mankind, but respect and justice."1

Love is something that is peculiar to, and something that is normally found amongst the members of the family unit; it does not extend to the larger order of society. (See "The Family Unit & The Extended Order.") While both, love and respect, can only come about as a feeling for a specific other, through, some personal knowledge of the other -- love, not respect, is involuntary.2 Respect for another is given or lost depending on the virtue or lack of it which one perceives in the other. You may, both, love and respect another person; or, indeed, you may love someone that you do not particularly respect; or, you may just respect another. However, for love or respect to operate: there must be a personal connection to the subject of the love or respect. You cannot love or respect someone you do not know, even though the knowledge may be little, or, indeed, incorrect.

Love (to cash in on the words of the OED) is that disposition or state of feeling with regard to a person which arises from instincts of a natural relationship, or from sympathy which manifests itself in solicitude for the welfare of the object, and usually also in delight in his or her presence and desire for his or her approval. To those of us who have experienced it, love is really quite a mystery: it comes when one least expects and often lost before one realizes it.3 It is a subject I have dealt with, elsewhere.

Respect, as I have pointed out, unlike love, is voluntary. It is "a deferential regard or esteem felt or shown towards a person or thing." It can only be felt by one for another, where that other is virtuous. Where one determines he is mistaken as to the virtue or virtues of another, or where the other's virtues are outweighed by correctable faults, then, respect will be lost or lessened.

As for Justice: It is not, unlike love and respect, a feeling one has for another. It is, like charity, a commodity, a quality or condition of things, which finds expression in the feelings of man. Justice is expressed in the principle of fair dealing; and, in its expression, is one of the four cardinal virtues.4 Justice is often represented in art as a goddess holding balanced scales and/or a sword, sometimes also with veiled eyes, betokening impartiality. The sword, of course, represents one of the integral parts of justice, viz., it is just to inflict punishment, or legal vengeance on an offender.

We have a right, a right which accrues to human existence5, to expect justice in our dealings with one another -- one to one, group to one, or group to group. Respect is something which each of us has to earn and does not come as a matter of right. Love, well -- it is not rational, it is, as Shakespeare expressed it; "to be all made of fantasy."



1 Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, 1873 (University of Chicago Press, 1991) at p. 221.

2 As Lord Byron wrote, "Why did she love him? Curious fool? be still; Is human love the growth of human will?" ("Lara.")

3 "Love is begot by Fancy, bred By ignorance, by Expectation fed, Destroy'd by Knowledge, and at best. Lost in the moment 'tis possess'd." (Lord Lansdowne.)

4 In "scholastic philosophy" the four chief or natural virtues, the cardinal virtues, are: justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude. These are to be distinguished from the "theological virtues" of faith, hope, and charity. Some modern writers speak of the "seven" cardinal virtues.

5 Elsewhere I have written "On Rights."

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Peter Landry

October, 2000 (2019)