I'm working on an essay that distinguishes between "interpersonal humility" and "environmental humility" in order to try to make (better) sense of the charge that anthropocentrism falls prey to the vice of arrogance (in a way that is not question-begging). Currently I'm working out a sketch of interpersonal humility (humility understood in terms of our relations with other people) and have suggested the following. The interpersonally humble person:
1. Is mindful of his or her dependencies upon others, and thus is inclined, on the one hand, to acknowledge privately and publicly the role that others have played in his or her own successes, and on the other hand, to be receptive to assistance offered by others (i.e. is not “proud” in the sense that he or she refuses help or benefits from others);
2. Regards him or herself as one among others, and thus not deserving of special (inequitable) moral consideration (viz. is not arrogant); because of 1 & 2 the humble person;
3. Sees his or her own well-being as interconnected with the well-being of others; furthermore, he or she
4. Understands our psychological propensity to self-enhancing bias and egoism, and so strives to counteract this propensity by giving special attention to the well-being of others (that is, he or she does not think that the well-being of other matters more than her own well-being, impersonally considered, but recognizes the risk of personal bias);
5. Recognizes his or her own epistemic limitations, and thus that giving special attention to others, caring well for others, requires attending to the perspectives of others, learning from others and not merely about others; and,
6. Acts in ways that reflect these various recognitions and evaluations.
The ultimate goal is to use considerations flowing out of the fifth point (both the need and the value of learning from others) to ground an understanding of "environmental humility" as a virtue, too. Roughly, we can learn from nature, too, but this requires a kind of attention and openness and absence of self-absorption that go along with interpersonal humility, too. In addition, our dependency upon the natural world makes the idea that we can coherently value human life as superior to that which sustains it seem a bit suspect; the achievements and abilities of humankind don't occur without the cooperation, as it were, of the natural world. Of course, some of the things we can learn from nature are scary and dreadful, and our dependence upon nature has a dark aspect, too (the natural world can crush us). So, I'm hoping to pull this off without being sentimental about "nature." I realize this may seem a bit messy at this point, but just as I was about to abandon the project, a path seemed to reveal itself. Thoughts?
(Apologies for the recent silence. Busy teaching.)