Modesty, asymmetry, and hypocrisy

Journal of Value Inquiry 38 (4):485-497 (2004)
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Abstract

Numerous philosophers have tried to define modesty, but none of them succeeds in articulating the necessary and sufficient conditions for this virtue. Moreover, all existing accounts ignore the striking self-other asymmetry that is at the heart of modesty. Drawing on the analogy with the practice of giving presents, I clarify and further investigate this self-other asymmetry. In the process, I show why Bernard Williams is right in pointing out the notorious truth that a modest person does not act under the title of modesty and why Alan Bennett is wrong in supposing that all modesty is false modesty.

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Hans Maes
University of Kent

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