Humility and Understanding

Philosophical Papers 39 (3):427-455 (2010)
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Abstract

?Understanding?, as I use the term, is an affective state which results from the dissolution of condemnatory judging in the face of non-standard sorts of considerations leading to such a dissolution. Rather than being a response to excuse, justification, or lack of responsible agency, understanding flows in a variety of ways from careful attention to the particulars of a wrongdoer's circumstances and situation. In this paper I try to explore why I think it is good to be the sort of person who is willing to thus empathetically identify with wrongdoers and be such that exposure to those circumstances and particulars leads to the dissipation of condemnatory judgement. The suggestion I try to defend is that humility calls for it. I sketch what I take to be a normatively attractive cluster of traits which I identify with humility. And I then try to show how the person who has them will be disposed to understand wrongdoings without denying their wrongness, nor condoning them

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Brian Penrose
Last affiliation: University of Witwatersrand

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