Being unimpressed with ourselves: Reconceiving humility

Philosophia 34 (4):417-435 (2006)
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I first sketch an account of humility as a character trait in which we are unimpressed with our good, envied, or admired features, achievements, etc., where these lack significant salience for our image of ourselves, because of the greater prominence of our limitations and flaws. I situate this view among several other recent conceptions of humility (also called modesty), dividing them between the inward-directed and outward-directed, distinguish mine from them, pose problems for each alternative account, and show how my understanding of humility captures truths present but exaggerated in several of them. Responding to some problems for my view, including what I call “Driver’s Paradox”(i.e., the strangeness of someone’s proclaiming ‘I’m humble!’), I suggest that some over-ambitious claims about our moral responsibilities may indicate a lack of proper humility. I discuss the relationship of the character trait of humility both to what humiliates and to what humbles, concluding with consideration of the background assumptions against which, and the circumstances in which, humility may reasonably be classified as a moral virtue.



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Citations of this work

Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations.Dennis Whitcomb, Heather Battaly, Jason Baehr & Daniel Howard-Snyder - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (3):509-539.
Intellectual Humility as Attitude.Alessandra Tanesini - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 96 (2):399-420.
Humility for Everyone: A No‐Distraction Account.Laura Frances Callahan - 2022 - Wiley: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (3):623-638.
Modesty and Humility.Nicolas Bommarito - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Modern Moral Philosophy.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1958 - Philosophy 33 (124):1 - 19.
Virtue, Vice, and Value.Thomas Hurka - 2001 - New York, US: Oup Usa.
Modern Moral Philosophy.G. E. M. Anscombe - 1997 - In Roger Crisp & Michael Slote (eds.), Virtue Ethics. Oxford University Press.

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