Humility In the Wrong Place


"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert--himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason . . . We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table".

-G.k. Chesterton

Chesterton was right about the danger (and consequences) of being "humble" about the truth. Such modern "humility" promotes ideological relativism and thus obliterates the the certainty which is required for true humility. Man ought to be certain in his convictions and confident about the truth. Conviction is no place for modesty and the truth is not properly suited for humility. But, is Chesterton right about where humility and modesty are appropriate?

Rather than being modest about conviction, Chesterton implies that man ought to be modest about ambition. Rather than be humble in regard to truth, Chesterton says that man ought to be humble in regard to himself. But in prescribing this alteration, Chesterton merely delays the same ultimate relativism which he sets out to destroy.

Man cannot be modest in ambition without consequently being modest in conviction - it is his ambition which pursues and solidifies conviction. Man cannot be doubting about himself without doubting the truth - it is his self which seeks and discovers the truth. Uncertainty about oneself necessarily produces uncertainty about the truth which one's self has discovered. Confidence in oneself (particularly in one's ability and right to understand truth) is essential to certainty regarding objective truth.

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