LIfe of the Mind, Part 3: Intellectual Virtue

Rick Mattson Devotion Leave a Comment

You’ve heard of moral virtues, such as honesty, selflessness, courage, generosity.

“Intellectual” virtues are similar: When a person exercises virtues of the mind, such as humility and honesty, she’s more likely to find truth.

Take, for example, the person who’s trying to settle a dispute between two parties regarding the agreed-upon price of a used car.

One party says the asking price was $10k. The other insists it was $12k.

To complicate matters, the person mediating the dispute is a sister of the $12k party.

But if the sister is “intellectually virtuous,” she will set aside her natural biases and seek the truth in this dispute, even if it means ruling against her brother.

In contrast to such virtue, intellectual vices such as greed or prejudice tend to cloud our judgment and obscure truth.  We see what we want to see. We ignore counter-evidence. We arrive at false conclusions.

* * *

Below is a partial list of intellectual virtues developed by philosophers. Christians should be good at these, but I’m afraid we often are not.

Check all that apply (or don’t apply) to you:

  1. Honesty: you seek the truth no matter what.
  2. Humility: you’re not arrogant, you’re open to dialogue with opposing views.
  3. Careful with facts: you don’t twist things to gain advantage. No spin!
  4. Studiousness: you engage in “due-diligence” before deciding the truth of a matter.
Me? Intellectual virtue is definitely a work in progress.  

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