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"A Monkish Kind of Virtue"? For and Against Humility
Unformatted Document Text:  5 acknowledgment of “the burdens of judgment” (Rawls); and third, given the ineradicable confluence of these factors, the moral and political value of an ethos of democratic humility is that it can both encourage and facilitate active and sympathetic forms of mutual understanding and listening to plural others. Democratic humility is a virtue because when it is cultivated as a general orientation towards political action/judgment among plural, interdependent, and bounded selves, it prompts an active attentiveness to others and the positive embrace of the contingency and revisability of coordinated political agreements. Both of these features are central to concerns about justice and democratic inclusion. I. A Brief Conceptual History of Humility: Being and Nothingness The first set of challenges that we face is to show in what sense humility is properly counted as a virtue, and why humility should be thought of as a virtue for pluralistic liberal democracies. Both of these questions are essential because even a cursory analysis of the meaning of humility reveals that it is a concept closely associated with the following terms: the low, inferior, ignoble, base, and vulgar. To be humble, according to the OED, is to have a “low estimate of one’s importance, worthiness, or merits.” To humble oneself is to abase, subject, or otherwise lower one’s condition, status, or self-evaluation in relation to another person or standard perceived as superior in some morally, socially, or politically relevant sense. If humility is, in this regard, the morality of the low, meek, and subservient, or that virtue in accordance with which one assumes such a status or bearing in relation to some higher, more noble, or elevated other, then humility is not only bound-up with a potentially mobile set of class/value hierarchies, but we might also read this etymological record (pace Nietzsche) as offering

Authors: Button, Mark.
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acknowledgment of “the burdens of judgment” (Rawls); and third, given the ineradicable
confluence of these factors, the moral and political value of an ethos of democratic
humility is that it can both encourage and facilitate active and sympathetic forms of
mutual understanding and listening to plural others. Democratic humility is a virtue
because when it is cultivated as a general orientation towards political action/judgment
among plural, interdependent, and bounded selves, it prompts an active attentiveness to
others and the positive embrace of the contingency and revisability of coordinated
political agreements. Both of these features are central to concerns about justice and
democratic inclusion.
I. A Brief Conceptual History of Humility: Being and Nothingness
The first set of challenges that we face is to show in what sense humility is
properly counted as a virtue, and why humility should be thought of as a virtue for
pluralistic liberal democracies. Both of these questions are essential because even a
cursory analysis of the meaning of humility reveals that it is a concept closely associated
with the following terms: the low, inferior, ignoble, base, and vulgar. To be humble,
according to the OED, is to have a “low estimate of one’s importance, worthiness, or
merits.” To humble oneself is to abase, subject, or otherwise lower one’s condition,
status, or self-evaluation in relation to another person or standard perceived as superior in
some morally, socially, or politically relevant sense. If humility is, in this regard, the
morality of the low, meek, and subservient, or that virtue in accordance with which one
assumes such a status or bearing in relation to some higher, more noble, or elevated other,
then humility is not only bound-up with a potentially mobile set of class/value
hierarchies, but we might also read this etymological record (pace Nietzsche) as offering


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