Monday, July 8, 2013

Arrogance is a virtue?

One of my former philosophy professors (I'll keep the name anonymous) at the University of North Texas think so.  In his words, "Being a philosopher is the highest calling.  Everyone should be a philosopher."  He meant this not in an "everyone is a philosopher" type of way, but to the extent that everyone should spend most of their lives pondering philosophical questions and attempting to provide reasonable answers.

Now, it would be too easy to dismiss this professor's conviction that "arrogance is a virtue," without understanding the context in which he said it, which was partly tongue-in-cheek ("Are you students paying attention to what ridiculous thing I just said?").  I think a more charitable interpretation would be that he meant that confidence is a virtue.  On a virtue ethics interpretation, confidence is the Golden Mean between self-deprecation and arrogance.  Strictly speaking, one engages in self-deprecation if he thinks of himself as less than he really is.  Likewise, one engages in arrogance if he thinks of himself as greater than he really is.  The most ethical attitude to possess, therefore, is confidence.

The question remains: is being a philosopher really the highest calling?  I won't attempt to answer this question, except to say that engaging in philosophy ought to be a very important aspect of every person's life.  Nevertheless, my former professor's contention leaves him in some good company.

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