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Daoist Humility: How Ancient Chinese Wisdom and Modern Psychology are Telling Us to be Natural by Going Against the Flow, by Benjamin Birkenstock

Location: Virtual (link below)

Department: Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Humanities

Thesis Supervisor: Myron Penner, PhD (MAIH)

Second Reader: Yonghua Ge, PhD (ACTS)

Third Reader: Edward Slingerland, PhD (UBC)

Exam Chair: Marvin McDonald, PhD (CPSY)

Abstract: This paper develops a Daoist account of the virtue of humility in light of psychological research. Warry of self-deprecation, contemporary psychology has redefined humility as comprised of accurate self-perception and other focus, but provides little explanation as to how these “twin dimensions” coincide and produce humble behavior. The Daodejing (5-3rd centuries BCE) provides a helpful perspective on humility. Any effort or ambition pushed too far becomes counterproductive. By embracing lowliness and identifying with socially-undesirable conditions, we subvert self-destructive vanity. Psychological studies over the past century tellingly suggest that the human mind only has limited capacities for cognitive control, and that prescribing symptoms—ironically intending the very outcomes we usually avoid—is often more productive than trying to control them. I propose that a conception of humility as the tendency of choosing to accept unwanted outcomes and situations when necessary is more practical and realistic than the current “twin-dimensional” account.

Event contact: Alethea Cook, Graduate Studies Coordinator

AUDIENCE: Please arrive early, as this event is locked once it begins.