Acta Cogitata: An Undergraduate Journal in Philosophy


In their paper, “Humility and Epistemic Goods,” Robert C. Roberts and W. Jay Wood classify the intellectual virtue of humility in terms of its instrumental value such that humility becomes a component promoting truth and other epistemic goods. Roberts and Wood see humility as a good that is always working insofar as it relates epistemic knowers to each other and facilitates the pursuit of truth. Essentially, Roberts and Wood envision a kind of humility that aims towards certain intellectual ends. Central to their argument is a two-tier structure of epistemic humility, where humility helps the individual who possesses it, as well as promoting a social function. In this system, humility is on both levels instrumental. However, I argue that, from the basic frame Roberts and Wood give, there is a way of teasing out an intrinsic dimension to the virtue of humility if we analyse the first of the two tiers closely. I argue that there is a way of imagining a non-social, or at least an inner, kind of humility, a comportment towards the self as a knower that can give intrinsic value to the virtue. In the inner dimension of humility, we see the self as epistemically flawed and prone to mistake. Humility, in the internal sense, is the recognition of this truth. With such a shift, the instrumental value is not lost; it is simply to say that humility has both intrinsic and instrumental dimensions, and that the intrinsic dimension derives from a comportment towards the self as a flawed knower.

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