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One of the seven “ deadly sins ”: pride

Under arrogance ( Hebrew גָּאוֹן ga'on ; ancient Greek μεγαλοψυχία megalopsychia ; Latin superbia ), also known as presumptuousness , arrogance and arrogance , has been understood since early modern times to mean the habitus of people who value their own worth, rank or abilities as unrealistically high.

Since its emergence in biblical times, the term - parallel to the change in the image of man - has undergone a constant change in meaning.

Word field and rating

Arrogance and pride

The Roman Catholic Church also translates the Latin superbia as pride . Pride can be felt to be entirely justified and by no means sinful. The term is now mostly used in this sense: the negative connotation has, if not disappeared, at least reached the margins of possible nuances of meaning. Accordingly, expressions such as arrogance or presumption , in which the religious reference has largely faded, are more contemporary . Most contemporaries will be able to define arrogance more easily than hubris or arrogance , for example, and will come to the conclusion that especially "people who look down on others and consider themselves to be something better" are arrogant .

A behavior , which is evidence of pride is, the specifying , Brag , magnify and Wichtigtun , for example in the form of Bildungshuberei . The opposite of pride is humility .

If overestimation of one's own ability means an overestimation of one's own abilities, pride and arrogance aim at social distance . In their demeanor and manners , they are curbed by decency and courtesy . Vanity and narcissism favor pride .

Conceit, on the other hand, is supposed to compensate for secretly felt emptiness and is perceived as presumption. Foolish conceit makes its wearer a snob .

The vernacular puts pride in a row with smugness, arrogance and pomposity.

Self-righteousness is pride, which is based on the (supposed) moral and moral superiority of the haughty.


Other synonyms are:

  • imagination
  • Smugness
  • Pretention
  • hubris
  • Pride (out of date)
  • Conceit

Concept history


There are already numerous passages in the Old Testament in which pride is denounced. The best-known sentence is found in the Proverbs of Solomon : “He who is to perish first becomes proud; and pride comes before the fall ”( Prov 16:18  EU ). Hebrew גָּאוֹן ( ga'on ) and Latin . superbia are translated as "haughtiness", "arrogance", "self-arrogance", "pride" and "arrogance". The Old Testament makes it unmistakably clear that God alone is great: “The beginning of man's pride is falling away from God: when his heart deviates from his Creator. And pride is the beginning of all sin: whoever persists in it will be showered with a curse and finally overthrown ”( Sir 10: 14-15  EU ). "Humiliate your pride deeply, because what awaits people is rot" ( Sir 7,17  EU ).

Greek and Roman antiquity

In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle developed the concept of megalopsychia (μεγαλοψυχία; "high sense", "large-mindedness", "soul size"), appropriate self-confidence and justified pride. Aristotle considered megalopsychia to be an important virtue and reserved this term for people who were worthy of great things. Megalopsychia is the self-esteem of people who can consider themselves to be honorable in their pursuit of ethical virtues. Those who are only worthy of small things and assess them realistically are not magnanimous, but merely prudent . Those who place themselves lower than they are entitled to are "fainthearted". The reverse case is marked by the chaunótēs (χαυνότης; "folly", "pride", "inflatedness"): "Whoever considers himself worthy of great things without being it is inflated".

Three centuries later, Cicero the magnanimitas ( "generosity", "greatness of soul") next to the bravery (fortitude) and explained this connection to the cardinal virtue , especially the virtue of good statesman. Its characteristics are the commitment to the moral good, the care for fellow human beings and community, the disregard for external values ​​(especially money) and equanimity with which the strange turmoil of fate is endured. The magnanimitas can therefore be seen in stark contrast to arrogance. Cicero described immodesty as a degenerative form of high-mindedness: “And even in happiness, since everything goes according to our wishes, we especially want to avoid arrogance, disdain and presumption. Because it shows instability, like the misfortune, also the happiness uncontrollably, and balance is excellent in every situation, as we have heard it from Socrates and also from C. Laelus. ”() In the first century AD Seneca pointed to another strength of magnanimitas : they make people resistant to external attacks; a generous person would never think that he was being abused.

The term hubris , already in use by Homer, denoted, as Walter Arnold Kaufmann has pointed out, neither a vice nor a feeling, but the outrageous character of an action , and in this respect has only indirectly to do with arrogance.

God (= lion) punishes man's arrogance (= soldier) - San Pietro fuori le mura (Spoleto)

Early Christianity

The Christian New Testament initially continued the Jewish doctrine in a straight line: "But if someone lets himself be believed to be something, if he is nothing, he deceives himself." ( Gal 6,3  EU ). Arrogance is man's refusal to recognize the rule of others (and be it the rule of God) over himself. When - presumably starting from Euagrios Pontikos - the Christian eight-truck doctrine arose in the 4th and 5th centuries , arrogance was part of it from the beginning. While Johannes Cassianus had classified it as the lowest of the eight main vices around 420, Gregory I put it at the top in the 6th century.

This re-evaluation was influenced by Augustine , who had described arrogance as the most reprehensible vice in his major work De Trinitate, among other things . In contrast to the Old Testament concept of arrogance as a rebellion against God's claim to power, Augustine admittedly represented a refined term that has incorporated the Christian doctrine of redemption : the haughty one does not rebel against God so much, but he believes he can cleanse himself out of his own strength . Because he is trying to withdraw from the redemption through the Savior Jesus Christ , which forms the foundation of Christian teaching, he is in maximum contradiction to divine law.

middle Ages

In the Middle Ages the magnanimitas were revalued in parts of the culture and temporarily got back some of the luster it had possessed in antiquity.

A contribution to this was made in the 13th century by Thomas Aquinas , who, like no other doctor of the church, endeavored to reconcile Christian thought with that of the Greeks. Thomas stood in the tradition of Augustine and held - with Jesus Sirach 10.15 - pride (superbia) for the origin of all sin. He saw the foundation for the Christian prohibition of pride in the Ten Commandments , the first of which have one main purpose: to subject people to God's will so that they may fulfill God's law. On the other hand, Thomas made a clear distinction between superbia and the Aristotelian magnanimitas (generosity), whereby he now gave generosity a Christian interpretation: "If God gives a person the gift of a virtue and considers him worthy of great things, then it is up to the person concerned, To live up to God's gift and to seek a good use of virtue. ”A person who generously seeks to practice a virtue can - if he is aware of his own shortcomings - feel humility at the same time. In this respect, generosity and humility are not mutually exclusive.

In Middle High German , the word hôchmuot appeared for the first time - as a loan translation of Magnanimitas . The word component -muot or -mut means "mind" and "state of mind". The word formation followed the same pattern as with the words arrogance , melancholy or fickleness .

However, the aristocratic knightly culture of southern and central Germany soon supplanted this term, which was fraught with sinfulness, and put in its place the hôhen muot , i.e. the joyful enhancement of life, self-esteem and the pursuit of high things, the motor of which was not least the Hohe Minne . The high courage - a revival of the ancient magninimitas , of controlled self-respect - was a purely noble privilege.

When the knight culture lost its importance in the 14th and 15th centuries, the concept of sinful pride again appeared in literature in place of "high courage".

Early modern age

Martin Luther translated the Latin magnanimitas in 1545 as "proud courage".

Social historical perspective

In the case of the estates society, arrogance criticism is directed against the nobility and also the clergy ; the accusation is directed against elements of noble etiquette and their use as a tool of social exclusion . The pejorative meaning, however, is based on a positive term in the history of the word: Arrogance originally meant high courage , i.e. high spirits , and is an expression of the attendant mood of an elegant disposition .

In the development of modern individualism , the renunciation of Christian virtues and the change in the way people understand themselves and the world lead to a further change in meaning. In modern societies, pride is replaced by arrogance , here also representing the more common terms used in contrast to pride . This arrogance tends to disregard social structures (estates, classes) in favor of emphasizing a conflict between de iure individuals with equal rights who are in dispute in terms of personal self-esteem and social validity against the background of a diverging value pluralism : The unambiguity of Christian values ​​with regard to pride is replaced by an ambivalent term that at best pathologizes this (in the absence of a universally recognized canon of values) insoluble conflict between the fundamental demand for equality and the more or less realistic or presumptuous personal superiority (compare with " coolness " as a contemporary personality ideal) of an individual and therapeutic him as narcissism can encounter: the narcissism of one (was and is) the arrogance (arrogance) of the other.

Cultural perspective

Which behavior is perceived as haughty is not least influenced by culture. So has Margaret Mead observed that British Americans accuse often showing off, while, conversely, Americans feel British as snooty. On closer inspection, it turns out that young people in the United States learn from an early age to present themselves and their successes well, while young Britons, on the contrary, learn to be humble. The behavior of the Americans (which they see as an expression of openness and straightforwardness) is then perceived by the British as boastful, while the Americans see the British understatement (which is meant as an expression of modesty) as a sign of arrogance.

Psychological perspective

In particular, some social psychologists have described arrogance as distance from insecurity . “Much of what appears to the outside as arrogance and arrogance is in reality insecurity or even fear.” () In addition, however, arrogant people are observed who show no signs of inner insecurity.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Arrogance  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiversity: The Dangerous Bet  - Course Materials
  • to delimit the term within the term context, see Johann August Eberhard's Synonymic Concise Dictionary of the German Language (1910) online

Individual evidence

  1. Quoted from: Franz Xaver Himmelstein: Sermons on all Sundays and Holidays of the whole year , Volume 4, G. Joseph Manz, Regensburg 1852, p. 64 ( limited online version in the Google book search)
  2. a b Martin Doehlemann: Courage to pride and arrogance. Conditions of a higher culture. Lit-Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-643-11397-9 , p. 59 ( limited online version in the Google book search)
  3. Nicomachean Ethics, Chapter 46
  4. Cicero: De officiis , 1st main part, paragraph 90
  5. Seneca: De constantia sapientis ; quoted from Klaus-Dieter Nothdurft: Studies on the influence of Seneca on the philosophy and theology of the twelfth century. EJ Brill, Leiden / Cologne 1963, p. 84 ( restricted online version in the Google book search)
  6. ^ Walter Arnold Kaufmann: Tragedy and Philosophy. JCB Mohr / Paul Siebeck, Tübingen 1980, ISBN 3-16-942682-6 , p. 75.
  7. ^ Karl Hörmann: Arrogance. Lexicon of Christian Morals. Retrieved August 2, 2014 .
  8. ^ Willemien Otten: The Texture of Tradition. In: Irene Backus (Ed.): The Reception of the Church Fathers in the West. From the Carolingians to the Maurists. Volume 1, Brill Verlag, Leiden / New York / Cologne 1996, ISBN 90-04-09722-8 , p. 30, ( limited online version in the Google book search)
  9. ^ Burghard Meyer-Sickendiek: Affektpoetik. A cultural history of literary emotions. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2005, ISBN 3-8260-3065-6 , p. 150f ( limited online version in the Google book search); Augustine: De trinitatis, 4th book, 15th chapter. The haughty believe that they can come to see God on their own. Retrieved August 3, 2014 .
  10. ^ Thomas Aquinas: Summa theologica , 2nd part, Quaestio 170, 2nd article
  11. ^ Thomas Aquinas: Summa theologica , 2nd part, Quaestio 129, 3rd article
  12. Online Duden: muot. Retrieved August 6, 2014 .
  13. German dictionary. Retrieved August 3, 2014 . ; Martin Doehlemann: Courage to be proud and arrogant. Conditions of a higher culture. Lit-Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-643-11397-9 , p. 60.
  14. ^ Martin Doehlemann: Courage to pride and arrogance. Conditions of a higher culture. Lit-Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-643-11397-9 , p. 60.
  15. Proverbs, 16:18, issue of the last hand
  16. Margaret Mead: Applications of End-Linkage Formulations to Anglo-American Relations in World War II. In: Margaret Mead, Rhoda Métraux (Ed.): The Study of Culture at a Distance. Volume 1, Berghahn, 2000, ISBN 1-57181-215-6 , p. 422 f.
  17. Gabrielle Pollr-Hartig: The pride: Between self-confidence and arrogance . In: , November 8, 2013.
  18. Psychology Lexicon (Palverlag)
  19. Oswald Bumke: Memories and considerations. The way of a German psychiatrist. With a collection of aphorisms [“wood shavings”] . Edited and with an introduction by Walter Gerlach, Richard-Pflaum-Verlag, Munich 1952, p. 207.