Words of wisdom

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Philosophy 101: Respect v. Admiration

No, it's not a court battle ...

Dunno why, but a while back this dichotomy (if it is indeed a dichotomy) came to mind.  I was thinking about various people, and it occurred to me that some I respect, some I admire and some I both (great grammar there ...).  And it occurred to me that there definitely IS a difference between the two feelings.  But what is the difference?  Here comes some stream-of-consciousnesses ... I think I'll begin with their "official" definitions (those I like the best, anyway):

Respect = esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.

Admiration = a feeling of wonder, pleasure, or approval

At first glance I thought I had it licked.  But with another look, esteem for vs. a feeling of wonder are not all that far apart from one another.  My impression has been that I would rather have respect for someone than an admiration for them.  To me, respect implies that there is something about that person that you really ... uh ... admire.  Hmmm ... I guess I'll have to be careful or else I'll find myself in one of those circular arguments.  A person I respect is someone that has some quality or qualities that I, sometimes, wished that I possessed myself.  Someone who acts just the right way at just the right time, handles situations correctly, says all of the right things.  Someone who has a great deal of knowledge, experience or insight (or a good combination of those) in various issues that are of interest to me.

Counter to this (or perhaps directly in line with it ... we'll see) is admiration.  Someone whom I look up to, perhaps would like to strive to be like in some ways.  AAHHH!  I think I just figured out the difference!

I can admire someone for something that is not a personal quality.   I can admire someone for their position, their financial situation or perhaps something they own (i.e. a nice house or a sweet Harley).  These are tangibles, material items (mostly).  For these types of things, I can admire someone, but not necessarily respect them.  So that is it.  Very interesting, considering the fact that I have always looked at myself as an incredibly materialistic sumbitch (something with which my wife disagrees about me, or so she says).  And yet, here I am saying that I covet, at least at times, intangibles over tangibles.

Huh ... whodathunkit?

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