Why Do You "Intellectually Respect" Someone?

The other day I heard someone say, “I like Joe, but I don’t intellectually respect him.” Intellectual respect? Interesting concept!

Intellectually respecting someone, to me, does not mean:

a) you agree with him or her

b) you think he is as or more smart than you.

In fact, I don’t think it has anything to do with that person’s actual intellectual abilities or analytic horsepower. You earn intellectual respect by:

a) being self-aware of your mental abilities, strengths, weaknesses. In other words, if you think you’re really smart in something where I think you’re dim, then I don’t intellectually respect you.

b) engaging in a process of trying to figure stuff out in a rational, ethical, open-minded way, and rigorous (evidence-marshaling) way. It doesn’t matter if I ultimately agree or disagree, but so long as your thinking process seems sound, then respect is earned.

c) being intellectually honest. Intellectual honesty is about conceding when you’re wrong and not being stubborn when your opinion has been eclipsed by a wiser one.

Your thoughts? Are there people in your life you like but don’t intellectually respect, or vice versa?

(Hat tip to Brad Feld for helping think through this idea)

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