I did promise to have a new post each Monday. I failed. Sue me.
Last week, we engaged had a discussion about humility. What is humility? Is it a virtue or a vice? Are people being humble when they give glory to God?
Normally, you cannot do philosophy by dictionary. A dictionary definition tells us how we use words, and there is no truth that is uncovered by simply showing how we use a word. moreover, people may use a word in one way, but the philosophical impact of the concept may lie in a different place. Be all that as it may, I find it useful in the present circumstance to think about the dictionary definition. To be humble is to have a low estimate of one's importance. The other connections we were making to humility seem to follow loosely from this definition.
Hence giving glory to God is an act of humility in a way: you are saying I did nothing, it was all God's doing, which is why He gets the glory, not me. But 1) most people who say this are basking in the glory while saying it. Then it becomes at best an empty gesture, even if in some sense heartfelt. 2) Conceiving of yourself as the instrument of God's will is not humility. True, he could have used someone else as his instrument. But that only marginally lowers the importance of the actor. In fact, conceiving of yourself as the instrument of God raises your importance in another way: you are like a prophet! God choose you! Your god given talents make you special, and special in a divine way, as it is God's power that you have and use. Being God's tool makes you almost divine. Giving God the glory is false humility.
Nietzsche criticizes humility for two reasons. The first is that we value humility not because it is good to be humble, but because lack of humility makes unimportant people feel bad about themselves, and creates rage and depression amongst them. Even if true, saying "I am smarter, stronger, faster, prettier than you" makes other people feel bad, rocks the boat, offends the herd. Valuing "I am worthless, unimportant" is the value scheme of the slave.
The second criticism he makes is far deeper: Valuing claims like "I am worthless" strips life itself of value. To live, to value life, you must think positively of this life. The humble monk, sitting in his hut, does not live life, he denies it, denies life has value. The monk does this for a variety of reasons, but the main Christian one is to see this life as a punishment for our sins. If so, reveling in life is reveling in our punishment, turning it from punishment to reward. Humility is essential to thinking of this life as a punishment. Humility is thus life-denying.
So is that right? And even if it is right, are there true virtues to humility? If so, what?