intellectual humility

understanding the limits of your knowledge and reasoning, and loving the truth more than your own beliefs

a.k.a. open-mindedness

Counteracts the bias in which we seek out, approve of, and are less skeptical of evidence that confirms what we already believe.

Complementary virtues

Contrasting vices

  • arrogance
  • close-mindedness
  • fanaticism
  • being a know-it-all
  • prejudice
  • stubbornness

Virtues possibly in tension

How to acquire or strengthen it

  • “When you realize someone you disagreed with in the past was actually right, email them and let them know (even if the disagreement was months / years ago). Benefits: (1) It’s nice for them to hear it (2) It makes the update stickier for you” – Julia Galef
  • practice “ideological turing tests”? It is easy to come up with arguments for “your side,” but people tend to have to try harder (or be explicitly prompted) to come up with arguments for the “other side”. (,
  • Fake out hindsight bias. Pretend that some possible future event has already happened as/not-as predicted. Now explain why of course it happened that way.

Notes and links

Mentioned elsewhere


Inspirational quotes

  • “A strategy for thinking clearly: Rather than trying to be right, assume you are wrong and try to be less wrong. Trying to be right has a tendency to devolve into protecting your beliefs. Trying to be less wrong has a tendency to prompt more questions and intellectual humility.” — James Clear
  • “When the Master first entered the Grand Temple he asked about everything, whereupon some one remarked: ‘Who says the son of the man of Tsou knows the correct forms? On entering the Grand Temple he asks about everything.’ The Master hearing of it remarked: ‘This too is correct form.’” (Analects of Confucius, III.XV)
  • “The nobler type of man is broad-minded and not prejudiced. The inferior man is prejudiced and not broad-minded.” (Analects of Confucius, II.XIV)
  • “If you desire improvement from others, you should not at the same time express yourself fixed in your present opinions; modest and sensible men who do not love disputation will leave you undisturbed in the possession of your errors.” ―Benjamin Franklin
  • “Clever people study in order to know more. Undeserving people study to be more known.” ―"Eastern Wisdom" (attributed by Tolstoy)
  • “In a joint philosophical investigation he who is defeated comes out ahead in so far as he has learned something new.” (from the Vatican collection of Epicurean sayings)
  • “It is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.” ―Epictetus (Discourses 2.17.1)
  • “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.” ―Francis Bacon