Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Real Sins: 1. Arrogance

This series of articles entitled "The Real Sins" is dedicated to all enlightened individuals that I came across in my life till now and who know or don't know how important they are to the world. Without them, our race will undoubtedly crumble like a poorly made building into the ground from which it was raised.

Arrogance is the first in our list but not because it's more important than the rest or that the list is alphabetical, it is nonetheless one of the most widespread. If by now you already said something like "well, yeah, it's obvious", then you just committed this sin, if you think I'm wrong, just take some time to think. All the sins I will present in this series of articles are strictly related to the mind so I hope nobody will say that I try to promote some new religion and other nonsense like that. All you need is an open mind and by opening your mind you traveled past the most difficult part.

Arrogance has two forms of expressing itself (as I observed through experience), first is the classical arrogant individual which is with nothing better than the one he is arrogant with or, even, is of much lower quality and second is the type of individual that feeds on his superiority without necessarily being perceived as arrogant by others. So, we should have arrogance that originates in ignorance and arrogance that originates from natural development, differences among people and a wrong attitude towards his own abilities (some could argue that this is not arrogance but pride). Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism identifies nine types of arrogance:
Nine kinds of arrogance explained in The Treatise on the Source of Wisdom and The Dharma Analysis Treasury. They are
(1) thinking that one surpasses one's equals;
(2) thinking that one is equal to those who are superior;
(3) thinking that one is only slightly inferior to those who are far superior;
(4) assuming false humility in affirming the superiority of those in fact superior to oneself;
(5) asserting equality with one's equals;
(6) asserting the inferiority of one's equals;
(7) thinking that one is not surpassed by one's equals;
(8) thinking that one's equals are not equal to oneself, i.e., that they are inferior;
(9) humbly acknowledging the superiority of superiors and vaunting one's inferiority (a form of false humility).
I strongly recommend people read the list many times, stopping at every point till a complete understanding is achieved. You are not obligated to agree with the ideas and if this is the case please write a comment and let me know. There are four actions, to think, to assume, to assert and to acknowledge meaning that arrogance is evidently connected to the mind, it's a conscious process which you can control. First of all, by thinking you are better than your equals you think "arrogantly" and by taking control of your mind you will start to control these thoughts. But another problem arises, how do you know who are your equals, who are superior to you, who are inferior. As you probably observed by now, there is a heavy emphasis on hierarchy and if you are a Christian for example you may think that everyone is equal, I actually encountered people who think this way. Aside from the fact that this idea has something slightly communist in it, where everyone is equal but some are in the end more equal than others, nobody is the same. Everyone has his own road, his own destiny, he makes his own decisions (more or less conscious of them). Some are better than others in different activities so it should be normal to acknowledge that you are "superior" to someone but "inferior" to another. If you feel that this hierarchy is not a "nice" thing you may not be arrogant, but you commit another sin, which is pride. 

Richard Chappell writes about humility and arrogance on "Philosophy, et cetera" and is of the opinion that arrogance originates in some kind of "inflated self-evaluation". This evidently means that you are not true to yourself, the problem anyway comes in relations with other people. You may be better than many others in a particular field, arrogance doesn't come from here, arrogance is a symptom of the ignorant.
Of the lessons also gained from the history of mankind is the fact that greed and arrogance, when combined, lead the oppressor to do injustice not only to others, but to himself as well; once this combination of greed and arrogance has misled him into a sense of undefeatable capability and power, as he takes the road of falsehood and aggression, committing the most heinous acts and proceeding from that sick imagination, to fall down the precipice and then into hell. - Saddam Hussein
I really don't know if Saddam actually is the author of this statement, to be honest, I was not able to verify the quote, not a scholarly thing to do, I know. Nonetheless I liked it so here you are, a (possible) quote on greed and arrogance from (former) Iraq president Saddam Hussein. Ironic isn't it?
Arrogance on the part of the meritorious is even more offensive to us than the arrogance of those without merit: for merit itself is offensive - Nietzsche
Nietzsche, one of my favorite thinkers. One of the things I like in his work is his courage to see the truth and to show it to others. I am nonetheless reticent to glorify him too much, after all, he was just a man and as a man he evidently wasn't always right. This quote is crucial for this article because it states a simple truth, an envious person can perceive the meritorious, as arrogant. Remember the two categories I mentioned at the beginning of the article? I will remind you the second category: the type of individual that feeds on his feeling of superiority without being perceived as arrogant by others. Nietzsche doesn't say that the meritorious are falsely perceived as arrogant, but that arrogant meritorious individuals are more offensive because of the offensive nature of merit itself.
"But no man has the right to set himself up as a purely moral judge and requiter, and punish the misdeeds of another with pains which he inflicts upon him, and so to impose penance upon him for his sins. Nay, this would rather be the most presumptuous arrogance" - Arthur Schopenhauer in "The World as Will and Idea", vol 1, seventh edition, page 449.
Moral judgments have a long history, mostly in Christian and Islamic countries/communities although all the world has suffered at least once from this form of ignorance. Morality appeared with the intention to make humans reject the bad and love the good, theory is once more very far from practice because this concept steadily developed into a weapon in the hands of frustrated, envious and ignorant people. Those who apply moral judgments to others usually do this because they try to hide their own moral weaknesses.
"Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change." - Frank Lloyd Wright, from "The World's Best Thoughts on Life and Living" edited by Eugene Raudsepp
The well known architect makes an interesting point here, in the pursuit for an "arrogance free mind" one can develop a false kind of humility. This gives rise to another problem, is arrogance actually characteristic for some individuals, can some never learn to overcome it? Hypocritical humility is basically a form of arrogance which the individual only tries to hide because of moral and social norms, the existence of only these two options clearly shows that Wright does not see (for himself at least) the option of true humility, understood as knowing one's true place in the world.

I can go on and on with this but I would like to finish with a definition of arrogance given by the Abrahamic tradition (Judeo-Christian-Islamic) and for this I chosen a hadith narrated by 'Abd-Allah ibn Mas'ood where the Prophet said: "(...) Allah is Beautiful and loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people". Due to the tragic situation in the world today where ignorance is overwhelming I feel compelled to add that this quote isn't in contradiction with Christianity and I recommend to my Christian readers to study the Quran and the hadits, and to my Muslim readers, to study the Holy Bible. Few people know that The Christian Bible is a canonical book in the Islamic religion.

If you have any questions or comments please write a message and I or maybe other readers will try to answer.
Related:
- Golden Verses of Pythagoras: 1.the Practical Virtues
- Not Knowing God
- Truth is

[article slightly modified on May 4th, 2012]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

simply stopping by to say hi