Stuff I'm Actively Working On


02/2022 APA Central Division (Colloquium)

11/2021 72nd Northwest Philosophy Conference, Portland State University

03/2021 Struggle and Liberation Today, University of Texas El Paso

01/2021 Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Cal State Fresno

02/2021 Defining Justice in an Age of Turmoil, University of Denver

02/2021 APA Central Division (Colloquium)

10/2019 71st Northwest Philosophy Conference, Pacific University Oregon

05/2017 Philosophy of Social Science Roundtable, University of British Colombia

Dissertation Abstract

Philosophers have argued that modesty and humility are special and mysterious: we can’t reflect on our virtue or self-attribute humility without also spoiling our humility; modesty concerns an individual’s private mental life about their own worth as opposed to their interpersonal life; humility isn’t a virtue in contexts of injustice or oppression, because there doesn’t seem to be anything good about lowering oneself in such circumstances; if modesty and humility are about not being arrogant or having an inflated sense of worth, then they don’t seem to be good on their own; instead, they seem to require virtues such as sincerity, kindness, self-respect, justice or other virtues that one must be humble about.

This dissertation shows that modesty and humility are not special or mysterious, but in fact, are interesting and valuable in ways that directly oppose these claims. I argue that modesty and humility are self-attributable and inoffensive forms of self-presentation; they can be elicited by both praise and criticism, can promote justice in contexts of oppression, are valuable independently from other virtues, and involve objectively good or meaningful qualities to be humble about. This dissertation consists of five papers on these themes:

In “Demystifying Humility’s Paradoxes,” I explain how having and developing humility avoids pragmatic paradoxes arising from the utterance “I am humble.” In “Modesty as Inoffensive Self-Presentation,” I offer an interpersonal view of modesty based on ideas from William James and Mary Wollstonecraft that accounts for traditional norms in dress and other regulations of self-presentation. In “Compliments as Virtue Tests for Modesty,” I argue that it is morally objectionable to compliment others if the compliment invites one to knowingly downplay one’s skills and achievements. In “Humble Provocateurs,” I identify a moral exemplar whose humility shines in contexts of oppression and injustice. In “Humility’s Independence,” I show that humility’s value does not uniquely depend on any other virtue, and propose and defend an alternative view that one must possess objectively good qualities fitting for one’s humility.