Jejudo, South Korea
Hilary Putnam uses this term in attempting to describe his philosophically fundamental differences between himself and Robert Nozick:
I want to urge that there is all the difference in the world between an opponent who has the fundamental intellectual virtues of open-mindedness, respect for reason, and self-criticism, and one who does not; between an opponent who has an impressive and pertinent store of factual knowledge, and one who does not; between an opponent who merely gives vent to his feelings and fantasies (which is all people commonly do in what passes for political discussion these days), and one who reasons carefully. And the ambivalent attitude of respectful contempt is an honest one: respect for the intellectual virtues in the other; contempt for the intellectual and emotional weaknesses (according to one's own lights, of course, for one always starts with them). 'Respectful contempt' may sound almost nasty(especially if one confuses it with contemptuous respect, something quite different). And it would be nasty if the 'contempt' was for the person, and not just for one complex of feelings and judgements in him. But it is a far more honest attitude than false relativism; that is, the pretense that there is no giving reasons, or such a thing as better or worse reasons on a subject, when one really does feel that one view is reasonable and the other is irrational.
Reason, Truth, and History, p. 166.
I don't think that this passage is a long winded version of, "I disagree with your opinion, but I respect your right to say it." That fundamental Liberal point and one I believe in very strongly has (recently? always?) seemed to metamorphized into, "I have a right to an opinion, and you can't tell me I'm wrong." Even in some ways, it seems to have become a way of invalidating the preceding argument, "Well, you have a right to say that, and I respect that but I don't agree with it. "
No, I think the point here is that all opinions are not created equal, but that that equality is not based on what is argued but on how it is argued. Two people with very different opinions can have a substantive, productive discussion regardless of the outcome precisely because of the way it is argued.
The basis for such a discussion are:
--This means the willing to listen to the other side, not blindingly accept the other side. Another way of saying this might be a sympathetic reading or of simply trying to see the other person's point of view. It does not mean that you accept that point of view.
respect for reason
--Reason's a big word and it's often used rhetorically. But I wonder if we can make a distinction between, "It makes sense," and "I agree with that"? You can't agree or disagree with something that you can't understand.
--This doesn't mean, "I don't know what I'm talking about, but . . ." It means that given the first two principles, you can reevaluate your arguments even if you don't change your mind. This can hone your own arguments next time around.