Cropped iStock 499535669

Intellectual Humility


This blog is part of a series of reflections based on Philip Dow's book Virtuous Minds*


Intellectual humility is probably the most difficult of the virtues to develop because this goes against the currents of our culture, and pride is deeply rooted in all of us (p75).


From an early age, children who show promise are set apart and acclaimed in our culture. Extension classes from kindergarten for children who show promise in reading or maths, accelerated classes for these students in high school, representative sports teams for those who show an aptitude in sports, beauty pageants for the most attractive and a school system that consistently rewards achievement and rarely celebrates effort. Those at the top academically, musically, artistically, in sport or other interests are acclaimed and celebrated.


It is not surprising then, that many become proud and self-important forgetting that their abilities in intelligence, music, athleticism or creativity are a gift from God the creator. Paul reminds us of this in 1 Corinthians 4:7 where he says “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”


CS Lewis explains that pride is essentially competitive in nature and keeps us from enjoying the insights and achievements of others by building up walls of suspicion and resentment between us and the people whose thinking can enrich our lives (p74).


Dow states that intellectually humble people are freed up to admit the limits of their own knowledge because they value truth over their egos need to be right (p72). This freedom produces a teachable spirit and makes them submissive to the truth and capable of expanding their own understanding of the world (p72). Our challenge in training students in this virtue will be to look closely at the structures in our schools that support performance pride and to question the ways things have always been done. 


Philip Dow will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Christians in Teaching Conference in April.


Can we encourage you to delve into his award winning book Virtuous Minds, be challenged by his call to pursue truth and to build intellectual virtues in your students, and join us for the upcoming Christians in Teaching Conference.


*Dow, Philip E. 2013. "Virtuous Minds: Intellectual Character Development". Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press

Back to Top