Monday, April 6, 2009

Epistemic Humility vs. Intellectual Instability

I semi-chided a friend about him not having enough epistemic humility. I was directed to the Stand to Reason's blog-post which compared this virtue to the vice of 'intellectual instability'.

I responded that there’s an important (though maybe not-so-obvious) difference:

  • epistemic humility isn’t primarily about always changing one’s views but about sincerely listening to another person
  • epistemic humility involves accepting the possibility that one hasn’t studied enough or can learn more (hence, the willingness to explore what someone else is saying)
  • epistemic humility is about loving the other person as a thinker and therefore being open to ‘integrating’ one’s view with theirs (if possible)
  • epistemic humility is about realizing that maybe God has more to say than we think


  • intellectual instability is when one is lazy or poorly read, and so is tossed up and down by the wind
  • intellectual instability is when one is AFRAID to make a stand and so relies on what others say to feel secured
  • intellectual instability doesn’t love thinking or love people; it’s just greedy (or indulgent) for more perspectives
  • intellectual instability refuses to accept what God has said

So, hmm, which better fits the church's modus operandi?

I also wrote that it's a moot point, because I didn't see how the strength of our convictions had anything to do with our willingness to listen and explore perspectives.


Alex Tang said...

Hi Alwyn,

I know that when a person has grasped a concept clearly and understood it well, he or she will have epistemic humility.

Intellectually instability stems from personal intellectual insecurity and also from the emotional response of not wishing to give offence.

Alwyn said...

Hi Alex, I resonate with defn of I.I., but I'm not sure about what you said of E.H. Because this would mean that almost all theological scholars have EH(!), no?? :)

Yet, is it their 'grasp of concepts' which determine their humility, so much as their willingness to 'enter/explore the paradigm' of others?

Alex Tang said...

Hi Alwyn,

would 'almost all theological scholars have EH' thus fulfilling my criterion. Nah. They are the most insecure lot. That's why they fight so much.