Craig A. Boyd & Kevin Timpe have provided an outstanding introduction to The Virtues in Oxford’s “Very Short Introductions” series. I found their entry on humility contra pride to be especially helpful and clear. They write:

We can differentiate three specific kinds of pride: vanity, conceit, and arrogance. All involve a disproportionate desire for pre-eminence, but in different ways. Vanity requires an audience. The vain person perpetually needs to be the centre of attention. Conceit requires a comparison to others in a way that elevates the individual over all other competitors. And the arrogant simply consider themselves superior to others without bothering to investigate the competition. The narcissistic tendencies of all three of these versions of pride support the social science research that points to narcissists being excessively competitive, aggressive, domineering, angry, and hostile to others. As a result, the desire for pre-eminence naturally results in feelings of isolation and alienation from their communities. Humility has historically been viewed as the cure for pride. The same research indicates that since humble people lack the excessive desire for pre-eminence, they tend to value others much more than the proud do and so they also have healthy relationships…


Humility is that inward disposition that enables people to rightly value themselves as they ought. It provides a corrective to pride since it guards against the unhealthy overreaching we are tempted towards. Since pride desires a kind of inordinate excellence for the soul at the expense of others, humility tempers this desire by helping us to embrace our rightful place in the overall scheme of our various relationships. It provides a check on our tendency to falsely inflate our own value and importance… Where pride creates a kind of moral distance between ourselves and others, humility heals us — and our relationships with others — by providing a bridge where we see others as possessing the same kind of value we are ascribing to ourselves. (pp 93, 95).

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