Wall of Barriers Activities: Intellectual Humility Versus Intellectual Arrogance
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Intellectual Humility Versus Intellectual Arrogance
Intellectual humility entails awareness of the limits of your knowledge, including sensitivity to circumstances in which your native egocentrism keeps you from seeing the truth in situations. It entails sensitivity to your biases and prejudices, and the limitations of your viewpoint. Intellectual humility is based on the recognition that people should not claim more than they actually know. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack of intellectual boastfulness or conceit, combined with insight into the strengths or weaknesses in your beliefs. The opposite of intellectual humility is intellectual arrogance.

Intellectual arrogance is the natural egocentric human tendency to believe that you know more than you do, that your thinking is rarely wrong, that you don’t need to improve your thinking, that you are in receipt of THE TRUTH.

One of the most powerful barriers to the development of human thought is the egocentric tendency to think that whatever we believe is true.

Those who think critically are keenly aware of this problem in human thought, and are on the look-out for it in their own thinking. They work to develop the intellectual virtue of intellectual humility; they are committed to diminishing the power and likelihood of intellectual arrogance in their thinking. But they recognize that they will always be, at times, subject to this tendency.
Activity:
Distinguish Intellectual Humility From Intellectual Arrogance
State your understanding of intellectual umility and intellectual arrogance.
Complete these statements:
1. Intellectual humility is...
2. In other words...
3. The following is an example of intellectual humility...
4. Intellectual arrogance is...
5. In other words...
6. The following is an example of intellectual arrogance...



Activity:
Identify Your Prejudices
Try to construct a list of your most significant prejudices and define them, using the outline below.

1. Construct a list of your most problematic biases and prejudices. (Think of what you believe about your country, your religion, your company, your friends, your family simply because others – colleagues, parents, friends, peer group, media – believe these things and/or conveyed these prejudices to you.)
2. Do you ever argue for or against views when you have little evidence upon which to base your judgment? Give examples.
3. Do you ever assume that your group (your company, your family, your religion, your nation, your friends) is correct (when it is in conflict with others) even though you have not looked at the situation from the point of view of the others with which you disagree?



Activity:
Distinguishing What You Know For Certain From What You Do Not Know
People tend to have an inflated view of their knowledge, even about things and people of which they should have significant knowledge. This is a natural defect in the human mind, and one we all must combat if we are to develop a healthy amount of intellectual humility.

1. Name a person you think you know fairly well.
2. Make two lists. In the first list include everything you know for sure about the person.
3. In the second list include everything you know you don’t know about him/her. For example: “I know for sure that my spouse likes to garden, but I’m also sure that I have never really understood her deepest fears and personal desires. I know many superficial things about her, but about her inner self I know little.”
4. Support what you claim by writing out an explanation of your thinking.



Activity:
Target Your Assertions
Think of a situation you were in recently wherein you stated something to be true which you in fact were not sure of, and then analyze the situation.
Complete these statements:
1. The situation was as follows...
2. In the situation I said...
3. What I really should have said (which would have been more accurate) is...