Modernizing the Virtue of Humility

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (2):259-274 (2012)
Abstract
This paper offers a novel, secular account of the virtue of humility. There are only two such accounts in recent philosophical literature: one defended by Julia Driver, the other by George Schueler. Driver attaches the virtue of humility to people who underestimate their merits, or lack beliefs about their merits altogether. Schueler thinks that humility requires indifference to how we are regarded vis-à-vis our accomplishments. This paper brings out the limitations of those accounts and constructs a new one which is free of them. The new account derives directly from the under-appreciated approach defended a century ago by Hastings Rashdall, who developed a secular (albeit religiously-inspired) account of humility according to which true humility reflects love for one's neighbour. After indicating the flaws in Rashdall's approach, I develop an account based on his intuitions. Specifically, I argue that humility requires suppressing our egos when they lead us to neglect or disregard other duties. Humility comprises two dimensions: a private dimension, for when we uphold self-regarding duties rather than succumb to the temptations of ego; and a public dimension, for when we display fidelity to other-regarding duties at the expense of the pleasures of ego
Keywords Virtue  Humility  Modesty
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