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The Groundwork


We define intellectual humility (IH) as a kind of attentiveness to and owning of one’s intellectual limitations (Whitcomb et al. 2017). Intellectual limitations include, cognitive mistakes, deficits in intellectual skills, and ignorance and gaps in knowledge. Intellectual humility, on our conception, consists of a suite of dispositions that enable a person to be attentive to and to own her intellectual limitations. Those dispositions include, for instance, being aware of (as opposed to oblivious of) one’s limitations, accepting and admitting one’s limitations to oneself (as opposed to being in denial about them), acknowledging one’s limitations to others (as opposed to denying them or pretending they don’t exist), feeling regret about one’s limitations (as opposed to feeling threatened or defensive), and caring about one’s limitations and taking them seriously (as opposed to not caring about them). Intellectual humility as limitations-owning is often, but not always, virtuous. When it is virtuous, the aforementioned dispositions will be motivated by a love of truth, knowledge, and understanding (Whitcomb et al. 2017). Intrapersonal expressions of IH include the awareness of one’s own intellectual limitations and biases (Haggard et al., 2018), and the motivation to revise one’s beliefs according to sufficient empirical evidence (Leary et al., 2017; McElroy et al., 2014). Interpersonal expressions of IH include admitting when one is wrong or does not know, an eagerness to learn from others, and regulating selfish impulses in order to express beliefs nondefensively.


Previous research on intellectual humility has been organized around different topics, and different theoretical approaches have suggested various mechanisms hypothesized to enhance intellectual humility. 

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