What Is Modesty?

Francis Allhoff

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    This paper examines the virtue of modesty and provides an account of what it means to be modest. A good account should not only delimit the proper application of the concept, but should also capture why it is that we think that modesty is a virtue. Recent work has yielded several interesting, but flawed, accounts of modesty. Julia Driver has argued that it consists in underestimating one's self-worth, while Owen Flanagan has argued that modesty must entail an accurate'as opposed to underestimated or inflated'conception of one's self worth. Neither of these accounts providesa satisfactory characterization of modesty as a virtue. Driver leaves us wondering why modesty, understood, at least in part, as misunderstanding one's merits, should earn the status of virtue, whereas Flanagan's characterization does not adequately and uniquely pick out the concept of modesty. These criticisms have been presented by G. F. Schueler who goes on to defendthe doctrine that modesty is, roughly, the lack of one's desire for other people to be impressed by one's accomplishments. My goal is to provide an account of modesty that improves upon those currently before us. My own positive account will draw off of Schueler's account as well as work done by Jean-Paul Sartre and Gabriele Taylor on the moral emotion of shame.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)165-187
    Number of pages23
    JournalInternational Journal of Applied Philosophy
    Volume23
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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