knowing your place in the world? a good thing?

Concepts: proper pride, self-love (narcissism), Amour-propre, arrogance, self-esteem

Summary: There are differences between “self-esteem,” “pride” and “vanity.” “Proper pride” is ok, but pride can turn into arrogance when man starts thinking he is better than others, which can lead to vanity. Vanity is greed for admiration, also component of Amour-propre, a French term for comparing your life with that of others. Conceit is to be so sure of your abilities as to need no reassurance. Narcissism occurs when man thinks he is the only that exists.

Quotations: “Although Rousseau is right to warn us off contempt or envy, he arguably exaggerates the benefits of this complete independence.”

“In nearly all contexts it is better not to estimate things too highly or too lowly, and it is the same with estimates of the self.”

Commentary: Amour-propre, a term coined by Rousseau to highlight the way people tend to compete with one another, can only be rid when man is completely free of any comparison they have with other men. Blackburn argues that while Rousseau is correct to condemn contempt and envy — two traits associated with amour-propre — he forgets that importance of self-awareness derived from proper pride. Proper pride allows man to produce self-esteem deservedly and acts as a balance between too little and too much “self-awareness of one’s standing.”

This ties in to the earlier notion of balancing one’s self-esteem. Contrary to popular culture, high self-esteem is harmful, especially for children after they inevitably fail at something they were told they are great at. Blackburn argues we need modest self-confidence in order to accomplish what we can. In other words, we should know our place in the world and live within what we believe is our limit.

This is a statement that will always garner some debate. To say that it is a waste of energy to attempt an act beyond our presupposed limit would mean that all attempts to change history — the suffrage movement, Civil Rights Era, basically all other revolutions — would have been considered a waste of energy. For a man to believe that he has the capacity to change the course of history, that man must, by Blackburn’s definition, be conceited via arrogance.

Although historic change is commonly composed large-scale movements, so much so that starters of the movement often will die before they are cast as civil rights heroes, there still is the necessity for people to see beyond their limit and perceived abilities to be the one to start the change. Yes, he may, as Blackburn puts it, “head for a fall,” but if all people were to stay in their allotted positions, no change would ever occur. If I were more of a conspiracy theorist, I would make the contention that perhaps Blackburn had enough political mindedness to attempt a stall in revolutionary change, but not enough esteem to actually do anything other than use slippery slope arguments to condemn the act of taking one’s picture.

Question: Is it better to know always act in your self-esteem comfort zone? Or is it sometimes good to attempt to surpass that limit? What if no one has ever acted beyond their pre-supposed abilities?