Kant expressed his newly discovered sense of human equality by saying that he has learned to respect human nature, instead of despising people for their ignorance. His sense of respect for human nature has helped establish our liberal conception of equality. However, I want to show that Kant’s respect for human nature is a respect for a particular conception of the nature of people. It involves a particular conception of human freedom and moral action. Kant’s respect for a person is respect for the rational noumenal self. In his desire to restore people to a sense of what is ‘essential and permanent’ in human nature Kant identifies our morality with our rationality. Even though this is supposed to assert our freedom and independence from our emotions, feelings and desires which would otherwise determine our behaviour, I argue that a systematic denial of important aspects of our experience can undermine the very independence and autonomy which Kant cherishes.