Humility & Hubris

[Notes & Ruminations for a future lecture at the International Symposium of Cognitive Irrationality at Reno, NV, USA, dtbd]

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What the world needs now is love, sweet love, if it were indeed the only thing that there was just too little of. You know what else there’s too little of in this world of ours? Humility. While no opponent of love, although 3 of my ex-wives might disagree with that assertion [worth the joke? since most people will know me as that life-long solitary ascetic I’ve been, but this isn’t me, the real me, different from Lecturer me], I believe there would not be, could not be, such a thing as ‘love’ without the proper degree of humility. Humility, the Delicate Art of Being Humble, must be the basis, the very foundation of everything else we aspire to be as Human Beings.

Without humility, our species is nothing more than an atomized sack of striving, grasping self-interest, violent-minded and status-seeking with an insatiable weakness for deep-fried food. Why deep-fried? Simple frying not good enough for you mere mortals?! This is why I’m subject to perpetual suffering!?! Prometheus bellows to the gods. Funnel cake cheeseburgers?!?

PRIDE GOETH BEFORE THE FALL! it hath [has? too much?] been intoned from up on high. And what is pride but for a lack of humility. Have we not fallen far?

Fallen? I hear you reply. Look at how lofty our buildings soar! We’ve sent men to the moon! Soon we’ll colonize Mars! We will outlive our sun, existing among the stars in distant galaxies! Fallen? We once dwelt in caves, pinned terrestrially by the gravity of one measly planet. Fallen? Our advance continues, unabated, relentless, indefatigable. Always has, always will. That’s what history tells us, tells us what it’s all about.

[another pop culture reference? I’m A Stranger Here… O! You Crazy Fools Don’t You Know You Had It Made?! too frivolous? too dated to be sure. who’ll get it?]

Of course, not all of us, we humans, suffer from this lack of humility. I would conjecture a good majority of us live our lives humbly, seeking not the ‘Good Life’ but only our ‘Best Life’, that life being a decent roof over our heads, enough food to eat, hospitable companionship in the form of family and friends. What more can you ask for?

A lot, is the answer that comes from those born and raised in circumstances that have been built on the foundations of more, more, MORE! A Lot more. Animals are content with these barest of essentials, we tell ourselves. We are not animals. We are humans. We think. We sing. We dance. We put two and two together and come up with four. We are special. We possess the divine spark. We are from animals, but we are not of animals. Those days are behind us.

Pedal to the metal. Full throttle. Don’t look back, you can never look back. [just can’t seem to help myself] Innate is our instinct to overcome obstacles, to identify, to tackle and overcome them. And then to put them behind us and move on to greener pastures, always greener pastures. Problem solved.

We are problem solvers not problem deal-withers(???) [must be a better word for that, in German probably] We don’t accept the problems, the obstacles we encounter in our daily lives as just part of life. That’s what animals do. They adapt to the problems they face. We humans adapt in the face of these problems, adapt and overcome so that these problems or obstacles are no longer problems or obstacles. They no longer exist in our minds. And if they no longer exist in our minds, they no longer exist at all. Out of mind, out of sight.

That is our human reality. That, I should say, is the human reality of the supercilious. [I have always wanted to use that word in the proper context… please, please, let this be the proper context] Of those who lack humility.

Hubris is the word. Hubris is the time, is the place, is the motion. Hubris is what we’re feeling.

Hubris submits to nobody and nothing. Why would you want to climb that mountain? Hubris responds with a haughty, ‘Because it’s there’. Because I could. Because I could not stop for death, I climbed the mountain instead. [insert slow clap here?] Hubris climbed the mountain and left behind a garbage strewn trail of proof of hubris’s [hubris’?] existence. Because it’s there, hubris had to mount it, had to top it, had to best it.

‘So,’ the wise man offers, ‘you’re equal now to the snow leopard, the black bear, the tahr and yak. You have finally risen as high as the lowly Himalayan jumping spider. Bravo. [insert slow clap here?] Now, take your trash back home with you when you go’.

The Scottish skeptic, David Hume, said of man, of Man, of supercilious [yesssss!] Man, ‘Through the power of invention they could ease their lot, but they could not overcome it’.

What is so wrong with simply desiring to ease your lot, to ease everyone’s lot? Every human being on the planet. Every living thing on the planet. Isn’t such a goal the most rational of pursuits and endeavours, the easiest by far to achieve. We know how to do it. We know it can be done. That’s when we move forward the furthest. When we look to ease everyone and everything’s lot in life, this life, the only life any of us will have. [will there be many of the religious in the crowd? at an irrationality symposium? hmmmm]

It is the seeking to overcome our lot rather than simply being content with the easing of it that paves the way to our lack of humility, or hubris. I am better than all that, we tell ourselves. I deserve more than that. If there are to be Kings, I deserve to live like one. I accept no limits, no constraints. Nietzsche, the prophet of Superman, told us, ‘Man is something to overcome’.

And then what? I ask

Overcome to become what?

Posthuman. Is that what we’re calling it? Posthumanity. What will that consist of?

Robotics attached to a human brain or vice versa?

As a posthuman, what part of humanity, of being human, will we leave behind? Nothing more than our mortality? Just like this [some sort of grand gesture self-identification], but forever?

Like this [a grand gesture toward the wider world] but forever.


I’d trade immortality for a lifetime of morality. [worth the rhyme? ‘morality’ means so many different things to people] An easy morality, free of Kant. [pause for the delayed laughs] Morality doesn’t have to be complicated. A morality comprised simply of being better to other people, being better to all people. It isn’t that difficult.

Does this look like a humanity worthy of eternity?

[will have to check if venue has proper A/V capabilities? do I have the proper A/V capabilities? haha]


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