PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Friday, March 03, 2017

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Arrogance

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing again the subject of arrogance. We
discussed this in September 2012, so maybe it's about time that we had
another go at arrogance.

Indeed, it is quite fortunate that we should be discussing arrogance
again now because last time I concluded my essay with:
-- Maybe the popular saying that power corrupts and absolute power
corrupts absolutely is true and bound together by the strong sense of

Nearly four and a half years later we are in the mist of global
political uncertainty because of two arrogant world leaders who are
precisely today exercising extreme political power with a full swing of
arrogance. A necessary condition of extreme (political) arrogance is
that one does not care if one might be wrong in one's (political
policies) actions.

I am of course referring to President Trump and Prime Minister Theresa
May; they are both pursuing policies that are based on complete
disregard to the needs and conditions of other people including many who
voted for them. And their arrogance is not only based on the fact that
they are pursuing xenophobic ideologies that Britain and the United
States, with other allies, helped destroy when they defeated the forces
of fascism in Europe and Japan; but more importantly because they are
also intentionally destroying the social and political achievements of
these past 60 or so years.

And like their predecessors in Germany and Italy, these two leaders
today justify their arrogance by hiding behind the political mantra "the
people have spoken" whilst at the same time exploiting centuries old

But what are the implications of this political arrogance? Will the
present President of the United States divide the nation into civil
disobedience between racists and freedom loving people? Will the present
British Prime Minister revive some form of classical European fascism
but maybe with some sort of modern mutation? Or is this arrogance the
pride before the fall of the once two super powers who were the
guardians of freedom and democracy? Will history repeat itself?

I am not convinced that history will repeat itself, but I am also
convinced that the situation today is equally dangerous. The problem is
not only that at face value both the President and the PM seem to have
certain character traits that might, under different circumstances, make
them unsuitable for their office.

The problem today is that the official opposition parties in both
countries are completely ineffective. In the United States the two
Democratic contenders for the White House were more concerned about
discrediting each other than coming up with cogent political arguments
against the now incumbent of the White House. The Democratic party
candidates in the 2016 presidential elections were more like two alley
tomcats in the Reichstag during the Weimar Republic, than a flotilla of
ships about to liberate Europe on D-Day.

In British English we have a term that changed its meaning after WW2:
collaborator. This term changed meaning from cooperation with others to
working or helping the enemy and was used to describe those people who
helped or cooperated with the Nazis in France. For many, many years this
was a very serious pejorative term although some attempts were made to
rehabilitate this word, with some success, mainly because the Americans
did not have the pejorative meaning.

The negative term of collaborator can easily be applied to the leader of
the Opposition in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn, not only because he lead the
Labour Party during the referendum pretending to be against Brexit, but
he intentionally undermined the efforts of the Remain campaign. But more
importantly because he has given the Prime Minister a blank cheque to
pursue her racist and xenophobic policies without even any attempt to
hold the government to account. Trump and May are not only the product
of extremism but also the consequence of the absence of any checks and
balances. In other words unchecked arrogance can only spiral into
extremism of the unsocial kind.

Political arrogance is like an infectious disease, it is as virulent as
much as the antiviral is ineffective.

In the meantime, I have corrected as many typos as I could find from the
2012 essay.

Arrogance (Friday, September 14, 2012)

We all know from instinct that arrogance is bad. We also know from
instinct whether someone is being arrogant or self confident.

Indicators of arrogance, amongst many, are a feeling of superiority over
others, self importance and in many cases condescending attitude towards
others. Pride is also implied in the meaning of arrogance. However, the
emotion of pride comes in two manifestations, 1) a strong sense of
personal status and of course 2) a sense of personal achievement when
conferred by others for meritorious behaviour or acts.

The pride we feel due to merit is usually also shared by those around us
(and vice versa) and of course this pride is rather positive. For
example, the pride we feel when our team wins the cup, pass an exam, and
the achievements of our country for that matter. Positive pride is
respected. Negative pride is not respected by others since we are
claiming status which we might not deserve or an ostentatious exhibition
of feelings. Thus an arrogant person takes pride in their achievement
especially when dominating or belittling people.

Arrogance is, on the other hand, at the extreme end of this group of
negative emotions and their manifestation in public. A necessary
condition for arrogance, which pride does not have, is that arrogance is
always directed towards someone, be it an individual, a group or even a

A feeling of superiority over others and condescending behaviour have
not only the effect of trying to establish that one is more important
than other people but that other people are not considered to have any
relevant worth to the arrogant person. Individuals who are rather
sensitive in character are usually emotionally hurt by the attitude and
behaviour of an arrogant person. Others might feel more visceral emotions.

If we accept that arrogance manifests itself when interacting with
others, than we can assume that there is a voluntary act and a belief to
trigger, so to speak, that act. Although arrogance is an act it can also
be a character trait of a person. And as such, maybe it takes its roots
are in the basic aggressive instincts we possess as human beings. Maybe
nice people, who employ a strategy of cooperation to get along, are
equally taking advantage of some rational basic instinct: a monster trap
or a honey trap!

We can also debate whether arrogance is an inherited character trait or
maybe a developed character, which in many cases, have a bearing on
responsibility, I think that this is a side issue since we people are
being arrogant and others are hurt and it does not matter where and how
that emotion originated. We can safely assume that a person, who is not
deranged nor has a mental disease, is acting as a rational agent.

A weak definition of arrogance might be the projection onto others of
one's beliefs and at the same time not only excluding the opinions of
others but that others cannot possibly have any valid opinions to
contribute in the first place. Professional status can easily be a
breeding ground for arrogance to develop in people.

If beliefs (opinions) are a necessary condition for a voluntary action,
then what an arrogant person is implying is that the other person cannot
possibly have any valid beliefs that ought to lead to an action.
Needless to say this simple view of the mechanism of arrogance is very
much determined by the circumstances of the situation. Maybe someone
might be arrogant but also happen to be well informed on a situation
that makes their opinion or beliefs the right sort of opinions to bring
about a positive outcome to a situation. The issue is, maybe, one of
social interaction and social protocol rather than the veracity of a
person's beliefs. Much as we might dislike this idea, even arrogant
people have the right to be correct and to hold true and valid beliefs.

Maybe it is this idea that an arrogant person also has the right to hold
valid and true beliefs, and employ them for action, that makes us feel
revulsion towards giving an arrogant person a fair break. How can we
possibly even listen to an arrogant person, even if they are right? The
suggestion that even they have rights suggests that the weak version of
the meaning of arrogance is not adequate or maybe just that, a weak
version and therefore limited in scope. And to add insult to injury, a
nice and cooperative person might very well be wrong no matter how well
meaning they might be.

This suggests that we might need a stronger version of arrogance and I
therefore propose this: one thinks (believes) not only that one is right
and that others are insignificant and irrelevant but that one also
thinks that one is immune from the effects of even being wrong or doing

Hurting one's feeling is bad, but maybe not disastrous, and as I have
suggested being wrong is not the exclusive domain of arrogant people,
arrogant people can also be right. But maybe the issue is not so much
whether one is right or wrong but rather has one considered the
implications and consequences of maybe being wrong?

So from linking arrogance to a character trait, we are extending this
link to rational value judgements. Considering whether one is right or
wrong is not only to consider the consequences of our actions but also
the possibility that we might have to change our course of action. But
feeling immune from the consequences of being wrong or not considering
that one might be wrong introduces an element of good and bad or evil
which a character trait does necessarily imply.

The idea that a person does not consider the consequences of being wrong
or feel personally immune from the consequences of being wrong is
probably the most unacceptable human trait at the extreme.

In an applied philosophical context and maybe more relevant for us these
days is whether power leads to arrogance, specifically the strong
version of arrogance? Precisely the position one takes that we can
exercise our power how we like and if we get it wrong it is of no
consequence to us. I propose that corruption, including nepotism, is
clear examples of strong arrogance.

I am inclined to think that power in and of itself does not necessarily
lead to strong arrogance, but maybe arrogance, especially of the strong
kind, is an infectious trait that we either pick up from those arrogant
people around us, or maybe a dormant trait that only needs the right
conditions to manifest itself. Maybe the popular saying that power
corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is true and bound
together by the strong sense of arrogance.

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813 <>
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Arrogance

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