False Intellectual Humility

In Mark Alfano, Michael Lynch & Alessandra Tanesini (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Humility (2021)
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This chapter explores a species of false modesty, false intellectual humility, which is defined as affected or pretended intellectual humility concealing intellectual arrogance. False intellectual humility is situated in a virtue epistemological framework, where it is contrasted with intellectual humility, understood as excellence in self-attribution of intellectual weakness. False intellectual humility characteristically takes the form of insincere expressions of ignorance or uncertainty – as when dogmatically committed conspiracy theorists insist that they just want to know what’s going on – and, in such cases, false intellectual humility is a kind of false skepticism or false fallibilism. In connection with this, the chapter further explores the relationship between the concepts of intellectual humility, skepticism, and fallibilism. A distinction can be drawn between the virtues of intellectual humility, skepticism, and fallibilism, but the traditional association of skepticism and fallibilism with intellectual humility is vindicated by the fact that the virtues of intellectual humility, skepticism, and fallibilism overlap.

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Allan Hazlett
Washington University in St. Louis


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