Valuable Intellectual Traits
- Intellectual Humility: Having a consciousness of the limits of one's knowledge, including
a sensitivity to circumstances in which one's native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively; sensitivity
to bias, prejudice and limitations of one's viewpoint. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should
not claim more than one actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack
of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the logical foundations,
or lack of such foundations, of one's beliefs.
- Intellectual Courage: Having a consciousness of the need to face and fairly address ideas,
beliefs or viewpoints toward which we have strong negative emotions and to which we have not given a serious hearing.
This courage is connected with the recognition that ideas considered dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally
justified (in whole or in part) and that conclusions and beliefs inculcated in us are sometimes false or misleading.
To determine for ourselves which is which, we must not passively and uncritically " accept" what we have
" learned." Intellectual courage comes into play here, because inevitably we will come to see some truth
in some ideas considered dangerous and absurd, and distortion or falsity in some ideas strongly held in our social
group. We need courage to be true to our own thinking in such circumstances. The penalties for non-conformity can
- Intellectual Empathy: Having a consciousness of the need to imaginatively put oneself in the
place of others in order to genuinely understand them, which requires the consciousness of our egocentric tendency
to identify truth with our immediate perceptions of long-standing thought or belief. This trait correlates with
the ability to reconstruct accurately the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions,
and ideas other than our own. This trait also correlates with the willingness to remember occasions when we were
wrong in the past despite an intense conviction that we were right, and with the ability to imagine our being similarly
deceived in a case-at-hand.
- Intellectual Integrity: Recognition of the need to be true to one's own thinking; to be consistent
in the intellectual standards one applies; to hold one's self to the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof
to which one holds one's antagonists; to practice what one advocates for others; and to honestly admit discrepancies
and inconsistencies in one's own thought and action.
- Intellectual Perseverance: Having a consciousness of the need to use intellectual insights
and truths in spite of difficulties, obstacles, and frustrations; firm adherence to rational principles despite
the irrational opposition of others; a sense of the need to struggle with confusion and unsettled questions over
an extended period of time to achieve deeper understanding or insight.
- Faith In Reason: Confidence that, in the long run, one's own higher interests and those of
humankind at large will be best served by giving the freest play to reason, by encouraging people to come to their
own conclusions by developing their own rational faculties; faith that, with proper encouragement and cultivation,
people can learn to think for themselves, to form rational viewpoints, draw reasonable conclusions, think coherently
and logically, persuade each other by reason and become reasonable persons, despite the deep-seated obstacles in
the native character of the human mind and in society as we know it.
- Fairmindedness: Having a consciousness of the need to treat all viewpoints alike, without
reference to one's own feelings or vested interests, or the feelings or vested interests of one's friends, community
or nation; implies adherence to intellectual standards without reference to one's own advantage or the advantage
of one's group.
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