Monday, January 30, 2012

The three prides

It's clearly the case that many Westerners lack pride. But when I write that I'm referring to positive rather than negative forms of pride. So how do we distinguish between them?

I can think of three kinds of pride, two of them of the positive variety, one of them negative.

Self-full or egoistic pride

This is pride in its negative aspect - the one that many religious traditions, including Christianity, condemn.

It is not necessarily bad in its origins. To live well we do need to exercise a controlling or directing will, one that at its best is guided by reason and prudence. This controlling will then regulates our appetites, thoughts, actions and impulses for our larger well-being.

When, instead of being controlled by our appetites or impulses, we do instead control them, we can feel a sense of self-mastery, of enhanced being and of masculine strength.

And the risk is that these benefits can lead us to think that the controlling will is itself the end good in life. And that can lead to a self-worship, an egotism, a will-full pride in self which then sets the limits of what we are receptive to very narrowly at the borders of self.

Little wonder that, as a counterbalance, many religious traditions then emphasise humility as a virtue. But we should understand humility as a counterbalance and not as a quality that should lead to self-erasure or to a lack of assertion of controlling will in its positive aspect.

Loving pride

This is the inspired pride that we feel on perceiving the good in that which we are closely related to, for instance, the beauty of our spouse, the cuteness of our child, the achievements or the finer qualities of our compatriots or ancestors or race. To feel loving pride is a sign of health, of wholesomeness of spirit.

The lack of such pride in many Westerners is an aspect of an alienated existence, something we should seek to overcome.

Masculine pride

I take masculine pride to be a mostly good thing - that is, unless it spills over into egotistic pride. What, after all, does masculine pride often involve? It involves a willingness to prove ourselves in life's challenges; to pit ourselves against adversity; to be emotionally strong; to keep to standards of honour; and to be courageous and loyal. There are good reasons for this kind of masculine pride to be fostered amongst boys, not the least of which is that it cultivates those qualities which men need to effectively fulfil an adult male role in society.


  1. If someone does not see that pride can be a positive thing, I stop listening to them.

    Hubris on the other hand...

    OT Mark, an essay here from an American journal on the ideological evolution of Liberalism and its current crisis from a Liberal perspective.

    Very interesting reading in that it openly states both "Left" and "right" in the modern U.S are simply trying to defend differing versions of the same ideology.

  2. James,

    Thanks for the link. It's interesting - when I get some time I'll write something up.

  3. Mark, you may find this opinion piece interesting:

  4. Off Topic....just wanted Mark to see it...

  5. I liked the advise column article. Unfortunately for many guys the skills needed for holding down a gf with emotional niceness aren't the same as for pushing on with a career. I've met plenty of career girls with puppy dog boyfriends.

  6. It's unfortunate that the English language doesn't have different words for the different notions expressed by the word pride. One means contempt and arrogance toward other people, while the other expresses simple self-respect.

    Some people claim that the two are no different. Such folks quite often are very proud of their pridelessness--which in my estimate is one of the worst kinds of pride.

    An arrogant egotist is preferable any day to a "humble" egotist.

  7. The way the word ‘pride’ is used does seem to suggest that there are different types of pride, but the difference lies not in the nature of the thing itself, but in its various objects. There’s only one type of pride and it is always an assertion of superiority, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the object of pride, of which there are two basic categories, internal and external. If the source of pride is internal, a quality of self, the idea that your intelligence, strength or race etc., reflects credit upon yourself, it is a claim of meritorious superiority over others lacking those qualities, which invariably leads to arrogance and condescension, or worse. If the source of pride is external, assuming it is an object worthy of pride, say your culture, traditions, family or nation, it’s an assertion of the superiority of the good in it, and rightly tends to inspire loyalty and commitment.