Forward Thinking: What is the Ethical Relevance of Pride?

“Forward Thinking” is a blog series in which Libby Anne and I prompt bloggers and other commenters to write about their views on values questions. Two weeks ago, Libby Anne prompted posts on our responsibilities to our parents (particularly when their effect on our lives has not been all positive). See what the bloggers had to say on the subject.

For the next two weeks what I am interested in seeing blog posts on are questions related to the meaning and ethical worth of pride.

Bloggers, how do you define “pride”? And do you conceive of pride primarily as a virtue, a vice, a morally neutral feeling, or something else? What sort of positive and/or negative roles might it play in our lives? Is it something especially important to develop or to avoid? Is it compatible with, preferable to, or inferior to humility, modesty, or other traits often thought to be contrary? Where is the line between pride and pridefulness? Is pride necessary or is merely self-respect sufficient? Are they the same thing or is pride a distinct good or a distinct temptation above and beyond valuable self-respect? How does pride in a group to which you belong or pride in another person work? How are these kinds of pride good or bad and how do they relate to other kinds of pride? What ethical roles does pride play in marginalized groups and how might this relate to your general understanding of pride?

Put simply and generally, the “Forward Thinking” prompt for the next two weeks is, “What is pride and what is its ethical value?” 

I went ahead and wrote my own answer almost three years ago in my post Rightful Pride: Identification With One’s Own Admirable Powers And Effects. I also recommend the companion post to that one, on humility. Blog about this topic, by answering any or all of the priming questions I gave above or by addressing other issues related to pride that strike you as interesting or important. Remember to e-mail me your post at camelswithhammers at gmail dot com.

Be provoked to think and/or inspired to join in contributing to this series by reading up on previous incisive commentary from our bloggers. So far they have talked about what we owe our parentshow or whether to punish people for moral infractionswhat to tell teenagers about sex, what civic responsibility entails, and how to mourn death collectively while respecting individuals’ distinct beliefs, values, and grieving needs.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Editor B

    Interesting. Very interesting. I’ve had conflicted ideas about the concept of pride for many years. I grew up in a place that billed itself as “The City of Pride and Progress.” I found that strange. My friends and I sometimes called it “The City of Pride and Prejudice.” But I just read “The Other Side of Virtue” which has challenged the way I’ve typically conceived of virtue… so I think I’m going to relish thinking about this.

  • Chris

    I consider pride to be a particular sort of cognitive mode wherein alternative methods or viewpoints receive less attention than they are due, while one’s own viewpoints receive preferential treatment. There’s nothing wrong with ignoring the input of a non-expert with nothing but inflammatory opinions, whereas it would be prideful to ignore informed advice. It’s more of an epistemological issue than a strictly ethical issue, but it ends in poor ethical choices.

    We should be careful to distinguish what sort of pride we’re talking about, though. We would do well to define our terms and set clear distinctions from other common uses, or else we will end up equivocating and talking past one another. What I’m mentioning here is the Christian take on pride as a “sin” or unethical state of being.

  • Mike W. Laing

    Pride is the inner warmth that comes from knowing that you have a special worth. Pride is knowing that you have been given worth to share. It is a gift, and a privilege to be treated with respect.

  • smrnda

    Pride seems to have more negative connotations than self-respect in general usage. I think people should view themselves honestly and take credit where credit is due. There’s no sense in remaining humble about your abilities when you’re around people who know less, and that type of mandated humility can be pretty destructive. We see this with public policy debates where absolute know-nothings have to be treated as if their views deserved respect when instead, they should just be called out as incompetent and told to come back once they know something. Their opponents, even when they know better, would feel wrong being so direct, even if it’s true.

    I think the problem with ‘pride’ is that people can end up taking pride in relatively meaningless things in a way that can prevent clear thinking. Patriotism is a kind of pride that can do this – the proud American who isn’t interested in hearing anything except what’s good about their country and who can’t listen to any discussion of potential faults or shortcomings. That type of pride gets in the way of being honest and prevents problems from being solved since they can’t be examined in the first place. People can be ‘proud’ in an elitist sense; I had a friend who told me that, as a self-described ‘proud man’, his grandfather would never associate with racial minorities or people with less money than him. That type of pride is a bad idea.

    I also think pride isn’t always the same. Gay pride doesn’t strike me as destructive since it’s a lot different when a marginalized group stands up and decides they will be proud (rather than ashamed) of who they are. When powerful groups express pride, it’s more an assertion of superiority and a desire to stay on top at the expense of others.