Methods and Findings in the Study of Virtues: Humility
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I sketch and respond to Ryan Byerly’s distinction between a Value-Based Approach to assessing proposed accounts of a virtue-here, humility-and what he calls a Counterexample Based Approach. My first section, on method, argues that, though distinct, the two approaches are not mutually exclusive and answer different questions. Engaging his claim that the former approach is superior to the latter, I suggest that we apply Byerly’s own idea that there are different kinds of value to show, contra Byerly, each approach may be better than the other in different ways, and for different purposes. Adapting and applying a point from Aristotle and Aquinas, I suggest that Byerly’s core question--what kind of values a virtue has--may rely on a mistake, that of misunderstanding a virtue’s work of making people and things good as its possessing goodness itself. My latter section, on results, points out difficulties for Byerly's altruistic conception of humility and defends my own view, developed in an earlier “Philosophia” article, that humility is essentially a matter of remaining unimpressed with oneself. I conclude by (apologetically) engaging and rebutting Byerly’s contention that his analysis of humility best captures a certain religious view.
KeywordsHumility Virtue ethics Ethical methodology
I am grateful to the Editor, Asa Kasher, for his encouragement, and to Mr. Matthew Ray and Ms. Carlin Menzin for assisting my research. An anonymous referee also offered suggestions.
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