Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pride's Role in Morality

Our moral dilemma decisions are answers to questions, whether we realize it or not.  Some questions are simple and unconscious: What will please me the most?  What do other people want me to do?  What ought I to do?  It's good to take notice of these subterranean musings and start to take control of them posing our own questions to direct ourselves.  I've started to use one and it's the prompt for this blog.

What decision will I be most proud of?

I've read a good bit from certain religious authors who say that pride is the greatest of all sins, the essence of all sins, the source of all sins.  That's never really sat right with me for a number of reasons.  One of which is that there's so many definitions of the word 'pride' and another reason is that 'pride' has been such an integral part of moral decisions (both actively and just in retrospection).

So, what I'd like to do, with your help, is to dissect out what good and bad pride are, if there is indeed such things.

“I feel good about this” Pride
  • Taking pleasure in something meeting a standard--a decision, a person, an event, your self
  • The 'this' could be
    • Others
    • An action/decision
  • Past oriented
  • Standard--an internalized one
  • Continuum:
    • I beat myself up about my decisions--I don't care about my decisions--I feel good about my decisions
    • Results
      • Likely repetition of behavior since internally rewarded
      • Conscience is strengthened when followed
      • Endearment to others whom you're proud of
    • Attribution
      • You did this
        • Results in endearment and affection
          • Often relationally salubrious
      • I did this
      • My circumstances are responsible for this
    • Helpful questions
      • How is my positive feeling pride affecting my view of myself?  Others?  My standard?
      • How can I motivate myself to repeat the positive action without being puffed up or comparative to others?
    “I’m better than that” Pride 
    • Thinking highly of yourself
    • The 'this' could be...
      • An action, like a vice
        • Often positive
        • If I give an example like, "I'm better than male prostitution for crack,"  it would seem to imply that I'm better than the people that do those things.  Not necessarily if you also firmly believe that the people doing those actions are also far better than that and deserve way more.
      • A situation
        • Can be good--like not turning into a door mat
        • Can be bad--like not serving others because you're too good for it
    • Future oriented
    • Standard--internalized
    • Continuum
      • I deserve punishment/worse than others--I don't deserve anything/the same as others--I deserve rewards/better than others
    • Results
      • Having standards of treatment
        • It is bad for other  people to be allowed to walk all over you.  You lose by being trampled on and they lose by becoming more immoral
      • Isolation from others because of an unwillingness to serve
      • A resistance of evil
    • Attribution
      • I get my worth from how I'm treated
      • My treatment is indeterminate of my worth
    • Helpful Questions
      • What would I want others to do for me?
      • Am I being hawty/conceited/arrogant?
    “I have no flaws” Pride

    • Thinking you have no flaws
    • Standard
      • Fictitious internal one
    • Past/present oriented (and future?)
    • Continuum
      • I am evil/despicable/a failure--I accurately see my flaws--I have no flaws/I'm perfect
    • Results
      • Inability to grow or see flaws
    • Attribution
      • I have made myself perfect
      • I am among the privileged perfect by circumstances or divine appointment
    • Helpful Questions
      • What flaws do I avoid seeing?  
      • What am I in denial about?
      • How can I grow?

    “I’m better than you” Pride

    • High estimation of social ranking/importance/better than others
      • Less bad and/or more good in comparison
    • Standard
      • Others
    • Present oriented (and past?  future?)
    • Continuum
      • I'm worse than others--I'm the same as others--I'm better than others
    • Results
      • Isolation
      • Judgmentalism
      • Inability to grow or see flaws
      • Over estimation of ability--disappointment destination/impending failure
    • Attribution
      • I made me better than you
      • God/genetics/life made me better than you
    • Helpful Questions
      • Is it possible my good is from my circumstances and my bad is from me?  
      • What should I own up to?
      • Is there a circumstantial explanation for others actions that might elevate my opinion of them?
      • What better standard might I use other than those around me?
    • Appreciate the good within you
      • It doesn't have to be conceit if what you're appreciating is moral good, justice, righteousness
        • Are you appreciating in others the same good, though?
    • Realize there is much you can't take credit for
      • I think of Newton who said that he couldn't take any credit for the discoveries he made.  He, "Was standing on the shoulders of giants."  The distance he saw was only because of the height of others.
    • Recognize your flaws
      • It's the only way you can grow
    • “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Phil 2:3


    1. 1.
      for the continuum on “I feel good about this” Pride:
      continuum: I beat myself up about my decisions--I don't care about my decisions--I feel good about my decisions--I'M OVERCONFIDENT ABOUT MY DECISIONS/WON'T ADMIT THE FLAWS IN MY DECISIONS

      2. I take it that "I'm better than this" Pride is always oriented toward the actions, character traits, or person of someone other than one's current self. If so, I'd want to call it "I'm better than that" Pride. I think you're right that the action or character trait you're comparing yourself to could either be bad or good (and you just recognize your own superiority).

      3. I think it's consistent with humility to recognize that you deserve rewards for certain accomplishments or are better than others in certain respects; "I'm better than this/you" pride only becomes excessive once it either blinds you to your weaknesses or convinces you that you're superior to other people full stop and/or in ways that you're really not.

      4. I would assimilate "I'm Better than you/him/her" Pride to the high end of the "I'm better than that" Pride continuum. Perhaps that's packing a lot of content into the same range of character traits, but I think the main differences between the last second and fourth kinds of pride you mention is simply the objects the pride is aimed at. "I'm better than that" Pride is generic, can be aimed at actions, character traits, persons, and maybe other stuff, whereas "I'm better than you" Pride is aimed specifically at persons (vis a vis what kind of treatment they deserve, I suppose).

      5. Perhaps "I feel good about this" pride is a species of "I have few flaws" Pride. Here's how I'd want to construe "I have few flaws" Pride's continuum: I have many flaws--neutral--I have a normal amount of flaws--I have few flaws--I have no flaws. One can assess one's own flaws with respect to various things: decisions, character traits, abilities, physical traits, one's own value or social rank, etc., or any or all of the above.

      Thus, the picture I'm getting is that the two main kinds of pride concern 1) how many negative and positive traits one has and 2) one's own ranking of oneself relative to others (others' traits and/or others full stop). Those two types of self-assessment themselves will often be intertwined: if you have an unhealthily low self-assessment of your flaws, you'll probably rank yourself low compared to others; if you have a healthy self-assessment of your own traits, you'll probably have a healthy picture of others with respect to yourself; and if you have an inflated self-assessment of your own traits, you'll probably have an inflated picture of others with respect to yourself. And of course, the chief influence in how you'll self-assess in the first place will be your observation of other people's traits. So ultimately I think that the matter we're considering is simply one of how positively or negatively one assesses oneself as being, and that we should all be somewhere in the middle between shit--decent--beesknees. How we individuate types of pride, or the behavioral tendencies which can come out of different sorts of self-assessment, might not be as important as that general picture.

      P.S. If we take the Philippians verse charitably, we can understand it to suggest that we ought to let others go first, or give special, compassionate treatment to everyone we seriously interact with in the way that people typically give special treatment to guests. I don't think that it would make sense to interpret Paul as commanding self-loathing. Or if he was, he was wrong.

    2. 1. I want to save the flaws part for 'I have no flaws' pride. I also want to emphasize that this is a usually really positive form of pride. You can feel amazing about your decisions and that (it seems to me) only becomes a problem when you start to compare yourself or can't see your flaws any more.

      2. Fair enough. Correction made. :)

      3. Yes!

      4. I agree that they definitely could be lumped together, but I think it's helpful to distinguish between say how I'm better than Milton and how I'm better than stealing candy from a baby. Here's what I just added to (hopefully) clarify, "If I give an example like, "I'm better than male prostitution for crack," it would seem to imply that I'm better than the people that do those things. Not necessarily if you also firmly believe that the people doing those actions are also far better than that and deserve way more."

      I think that's an excellent conclusion. :D


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