A modest dilemma : Can the virtue of modesty coexist with the developmental account of virtue?

Journal article


Braun, S. Stewart. (2021). A modest dilemma : Can the virtue of modesty coexist with the developmental account of virtue? The Journal of Value Inquiry. 55(2), pp. 319-337. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10790-021-09818-w
AuthorsBraun, S. Stewart
Abstract

[Extract] “…it is a notorious truth that a modest person does not act under the title of modesty”
– Bernard Williams¹

In the above quote, Williams alludes to what I call the paradox of modesty. According to the paradox, modesty cannot be deliberately cultivated since directly aiming at the virtue requires an acknowledgement of the virtue that is self-defeating. An agent that acknowledges her modesty or attempts to develop it seemingly undermines her claim to modesty by acknowledging that she is accomplished or by highlighting her own virtuousness. Prominent accounts of modesty have dealt with the paradox by treating modesty as a virtue that cannot be consciously cultivated or developed. For instance, Julia Driver has famously argued that an agent is modest because she is ignorant of the value of her own accomplishments.² Other theorists, although disagreeing with Driver that modesty requires ignorance of one’s accomplishments, have nevertheless held that a modest person keeps things in their proper, limited perspective.³ Or, in other alternative accounts, the modest agent is depicted as deemphasizing his accomplishments out of a concern to prevent envy.⁴ So although these accounts differ in important respects, they all treat modesty as a virtue that is not aimed at or developed, but has instrumental value nonetheless.

Year2021
JournalThe Journal of Value Inquiry
Journal citation55 (2), pp. 319-337
PublisherSpringer
ISSN0022-5363
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s10790-021-09818-w
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85104131555
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range319-337
Publisher's version
License
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online11 Apr 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted22 Mar 2021
Deposited20 Oct 2021
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