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Extending respect to all human beings: a personalist account

I start from the ancient Greek distinction between “Greek” and “barbarian,” which seems to express an inveterate, incorrigible way of thinking about other human beings. People who are cast into the role of “barbarians” are exposed to violence and injustice at the hands of the “Greeks.” They are deprived of a certain moral protection; the “Greeks” can with a good conscience commit crimes against humanity as long as humanity is thought of as “barbarian” humanity. I then ask how we as philosophers can overcome the Greek-barbarian way of thinking, and how, at the level of philosophical reflection, we can protect people from being degraded to “barbarians.” I argue that we can raise a strong intellectual bulwark against all such degradation if we think of the encounter with others in terms of personalism. I develop the personalist distinction between “environment” and “world” and I show why it is that through our world-openness we destroy the aspect of others as barbarians. I also consider and reject a plausible “cosmopolitan” misunderstanding of my “personalist” way of extending respect to all human beings.

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