Communities of respect are communities of people sharing common practices or a (partial) way of life; they include families, clubs, religious groups, and political parties. This book develops a detailed account of such communities in terms of the rational structure of their members' reactive attitudes: emotions like resentment, gratitude, guilt, approbation, and indignation, whereby people hold each other responsible to certain norms. Helm argues that these
communities are fundamental in three interrelated ways to understanding what it is to be a person. First, it is only by being a member of a community of respect that one can be a responsible agent having dignity; such an agent therefore has certain rights as well as the authority to demand that fellow
members recognize her dignity and follow the norms of the community, compliance with which norms they likewise have the authority to demand from her. Second, by prescribing or proscribing both actions and values, communities of respect can shape the identities of their members in ways that others have the authority to enforce, thereby revealing an important interpersonal dimension of the identities of persons. Finally, all of this is grounded in a distinctively interpersonal form of practical
rationality in virtue of which we jointly have reasons to recognize the dignity and authority of fellow members and so to comply with their authoritative demands, as well as to respect (and so comply with) the norms of the community. Hence we persons are essentially social creatures.
Bennett Helm is the Elijah E. Kresge Professor of Philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College, Pennsylvania. His work focuses on understanding what it is to be a person and, in particular, the role the emotions and various forms of caring play in making us persons be moral creatures. He has received fellowships and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Science Foundation, Templeton Foundation, and Princeton's Center for Human Values. He is the author of Emotional Reason: Deliberation, Motivation, and the Nature of Value (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and Love, Friendship, and the Self: Intimacy, Identification, and the Social Nature of Persons (Oxford University Press, 2010).