Praise, unlike blame, is generally considered well intended and beneficial, and therefore in less need of scrutiny. In line with recent developments, we argue that praise merits more thorough philosophical analysis. We show that, just like blame, praise can be problematic by expressing a failure to respect a person’s equal value or worth as a person. Such patronizing praise, however, is often more insidious, because praise tends to be regarded as well intended and beneficial, which renders it harder to recognize and object to. Among other things, a philosophical analysis of patronizing praise helps people on the receiving end articulate why they feel uncomfortable or offended by it, shows patronizing praisers how their praise is problematic, and provides input for further philosophical analysis of blame. In the first section of the paper, we discuss how hypocritical praise, just like hypocritical blame, can fail to respect the equality of persons by expressing that the praiser applies more demanding moral standards to the praisee than to themself. We further discuss obstructionist praise, which loosely corresponds to complicit blame, and can similarly express that certain moral standards apply to others but not to the praiser. In the second part of the paper, we discuss another variety of patronizing praise. Praise can be an inaccurate appraisal of a person based on irrelevant considerations – like race, gender, or class – and thereby constitute a failure to recognize their equal worth as a person. We identify three ways in which such praise can manifest.
- Equality of persons