What is being humble?

What is humility; what does it mean in folk pyschology to be intellecually humble? It is good or bad? ScienceDaily has an item on a study of this topic (here). The researchers are looking for the real world definition. “This is more of a bottom-up approach, what do real people think about humility, what are the lay conceptions out there in the real world and not just what comes from the ivory tower. We’re just using statistics to present it and give people a picture of that.

Being humble is the opposite of being proud. A humble person has a real regard for others and is “ not thinking too highly of himself – but highly enough”.

...analysis found two clusters of traits that people use to explain humility. Traits in the first cluster come from the social realm: Sincere, honest, unselfish, thoughtful, mature, etc. The second and more unique cluster surrounds the concept of learning: curious, bright, logical and aware.” These occur together in the intellectually humble person who appreciates learning from others.

It seems to me that such a person has self-esteem but also has ‘other-esteem’ to coin a phrase. It is not just the opposite of proud but it contrasts with narcissistic and individualistic. The idea of humility would seem to fit well with the Ubuntu philosophy, a very underrated way of approaching life. Other-esteem is important.

Here is the abstract of paper, (Peter L. Samuelson, Matthew J. Jarvinen, Thomas B. Paulus, Ian M. Church, Sam A. Hardy, Justin L. Barrett. Implicit theories of intellectual virtues and vices: A focus on intellectual humility. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2014; 1):

Abstract: “The study of intellectual humility is still in its early stages and issues of definition and measurement are only now being explored. To inform and guide the process of defining and measuring this important intellectual virtue, we conducted a series of studies into the implicit theory – or ‘folk’ understanding – of an intellectually humble person, a wise person, and an intellectually arrogant person. In Study 1, 350 adults used a free-listing procedure to generate a list of descriptors, one for each person-concept. In Study 2, 335 adults rated the previously generated descriptors by how characteristic each was of the target person-concept. In Study 3, 344 adults sorted the descriptors by similarity for each person-concept. By comparing and contrasting the three person-concepts, a complex portrait of an intellectually humble person emerges with particular epistemic, self-oriented, and other-oriented dimensions.”


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