The Theory and Practice of Pride

Sep 082010

Unfortunately, my proposal for an optional course on “The Theory and Practice of Pride” for OCON 2011 was declined. I’m hugely interested in the topic — and committed to doing something with it sometime in the next year. I’ll let you know what I decide to do. In the meantime, just to get you a bit enthused too, here’s my proposal:

Objectivists often struggle to understand the nature and demands of the virtue of pride. Many wrongly suppose that pride requires only the consistent practice of the other virtues. Many wonder whether the demand for moral perfection asks too much. Many are not sure how to judge and respond to their own moral errors. Many worry that unwelcome emotions reveal deep character flaws, despite right action. Many wonder what is meant by “moral character.”

This course will survey the Objectivist virtue of pride, with the goal of gaining a better understanding of its theory and practice.

I will focus on developing Ayn Rand’s view of the nature and demands of pride. The dense paragraph on the virtue in Galt’s Speech will be unpacked and fleshed out — not merely using the writings of other Objectivist philosophers such as Smith and Peikoff — but also with examples from Ayn Rand’s novels, particularly the contrasting cases of Hank Rearden and Robert Stadler from Atlas Shrugged. Topics to be discussed include the relationship of pride to the cardinal value of self-esteem; the nature of moral character; the process by which a person’s thinking, choices, and actions shape his character; the importance of introspection for pride; the proper response to one’s own moral wrongs; and the requirements of moral perfection. The purpose of these discussions will be practical: we want to more deeply understand and then more consistently practice the virtue of pride.

In addition, the course will compare and contrast the Objectivist view of pride with that of Aristotle, as well as draw on some relevant (and good) writings by Aristotle on the cultivation of moral character. Also, the course will consider the war against pride waged by religionists and egalitarians, including how Objectivists might best explain and defend the virtue of pride.

Ah, I just realized that you could be helpful in shaping my plans! If you’re interested in this topic, please let me know what medium you’d prefer me to use for this work on pride via this quick poll. You can choose more than one medium, if you’d find them equally good. In the comments, please feel free to add any remarks that you have on your vote or the topic.

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