Reply To: What is humility?


    Thanks Paul.

    This is an interesting perspective on both humility and virtue in general. I am grateful that you answered me.

    I should mention my background. I was introduced to Ayn Rand’s philosophy when I was 16 and considered myself an Ayn Rander from the time I was 20 until I was 52. Although I don’t agree with a lot of her philosophy anymore, there are some things I still do like. In Objectivism, pride is a virtue.

    But you have presented an interesting insight: in general we either believe ourselves to be virtuous, or at least we strive to be virtuous. And we also want to hang around people we consider to be virtuous in the same way that we do.

    And seen from this perspective, virtue is a matter of taste. Thinking about what you said, I realize that I personally like hanging around people with strong egos – who are quite the opposite of “unselved”. I worked for about 15 years at Bell Labs and AT&T Labs and I came across a number of people who justifiably had a high opinion of themselves. And I liked being with them. These are people who have accomplished things at a world-class level – much more than I have accomplished. They are fun to be around. I was also a member of Mensa back in the 1970s. Again, there was the same caliber of people.

    It does seem, in this case, that virtue is a matter of personal opinion. I have not found pride to get in the way of the accomplished people I have known. Arrogance – yes, but the arrogance of “I’m better than you are” is different from the pride of knowing one is accomplished.

    Your description of the virtues that go with self-knowledge is spot-on. I agree entirely. And I do consider self-knowledge to be a virtue. One of the really fundamental ones.

    So our difference of opinion here leads to the next question. Are there absolute virtues, or are virtues a matter of personal taste?