On intellectual humility

On intellectual humility

We can describe intellectual humility in different ways: the opposite of intellectual arrogance (Whitcomb,, 2017); the low concern for social status (Roberts and Wood, 2003); a virtuous mean (Church, 2016); an attitude (Tanesini, 2018). In this small corner of the world, I’d like to shine a different light on intellectual humility. I hope we can use it as we learn from each other.

Willingness to learn

It’s possible that the willingness to learn is a sign of intellectual humility. It’s when someone is willing to grow because they realise that there is room for growth. Even though the learning is too challenging, or labeled too easy by others. That could mean having the initiative to connect the dots yourself, awareness of your own limits, and the grit to take on tasks deemed impossible.

Failing better

With intellectual humility comes many failures. In other words, it may be alright to fail  as long as you fail better. When you find out why you failed and try to improve on it next time, or take that lesson and apply it somewhere else, that’s failing better. Mistakes are part of the journey.

Openness to diverse perspectives

It’s hard to flourish with narrow thinking. On the other hand, it’s exciting to learn different perspectives. There’s a delightful moment when you realise that something that has always been one way can be done or seen another way. That stands for many aspects of cultures, societies, disciplines, and  domains.


Church, I. (2016) ‘The Doxastic Account of Intellectual Humility‘, Logos and Episteme, 7(4), pp. 413-433. doi: 10.5840/logos-episteme20167441.

Roberts, R. and Wood, J. (2003) ‘Humility and epistemic goods‘, Intellectual Virtue: Perspectives From Ethics and Epistemology. In Zagzebski, L. And DePaul, M. (eds.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Tanesini, A. (2018) ‘Intellectual Humility as Attitude‘, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 92(2), pp. 399-420.

Whitcomb, D., Battaly, H., Baehr, J., Howard-Snyder, D. (2017) ‘Intellectual Humility: Owning Our Limitations‘, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 94(3), pp. 509-539. doi: 10.1111/phpr.12228.