Modesty, asymmetry, and hypocrisy

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