The Puzzle of Humility and Disparity

In Mark Alfano, Michael Patrick Lynch & Alessandra Tanesini (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Humility. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 72-83 (2021)
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Suppose that you are engaging with someone who is your oppressor, or someone who espouses a heinous view like Nazism or a ridiculous view like flat-earthism. In contexts like these, there is a disparity between you and your interlocutor, a dramatic normative difference across which you are in the right and they are in the wrong. As theorists of humility, we find these contexts puzzling. Humility seems like the *last* thing oppressed people need and the *last* thing we need in dealing with those whose views are heinous or ridiculous. Responding to such people via humility seems uncalled for, even inappropriate. But how could this be, given that humility is a *virtue*? The purpose of the paper is to explore this puzzle. We explain what the puzzle is and then attempt to draw some lessons from it: first, the lesson that the importance of humility is limited in several ways, and second, the lesson that humility nonetheless has several important roles to play, even for people who are in the right in contexts of disparity.

Author Profiles

Heather Battaly
University of Connecticut
Dennis Whitcomb
Western Washington University
Jason Baehr
Loyola Marymount University
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