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Is it correct to have pride in one's culture, family and ancestors? For example in Samoan society a Pe'a is a traditional male Samoan tattoo. According to my friend the pe'a tells him that the wearer has pride in their culture, their family and their ancestors. It is not just a physical marking but an indicator of his/her soul according to him.

asked Jan 01 '11 at 06:45

Fareed's gravatar image


edited Jan 01 '11 at 11:38

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

This discussion reminds me of a joke.

A legal firm once received a letter of recommendation for an employment candidate. The letter writer knew the candidate's family and wrote in great detail of the wonderful noble geneological history.

The legal firm replied as follows: "We are recruiting for a position as a junior lawyer, not a human breeding machine."

(Nov 22 '12 at 21:56) Louise Louise's gravatar image

The short answer is: no. It's not right to take pride (or guilt) in the actions of other people. What they did is what they did, what you've done is what you've done.

What then, of pride in being an American? It depends what is meant by "being an American".

If, to you, "being an American" simply means being born on American soil, of American parents, then there is, literally, nothing to be proud of. But if, to you, being an American means upholding and defending rational American values, such as freedom, independence, and productiveness, then there is a lot to be proud of.

In general, one should be very suspicious of any kind of group pride. Associating yourself with a group, and taking pride in that group, can serve to discourage you from acting independently of or against what you consider to be the group's consensus. You can lose your self in a group.

The most important American value to be proud of is individualism, the idea that each man is to be judged by reference to his own actions -- not by reference to groups which he belongs to through no choice of his own.

Take pride (or guilt) in what you do -- and nothing else.

answered Jan 02 '11 at 13:30

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

edited Jan 02 '11 at 18:13


Exactly. If one is proud of American values, it is the pride of living up to those values, never letting the actions of another determine your own self-worth.

(Jan 02 '11 at 15:15) garret seinen garret%20seinen's gravatar image

Great answer.

(Nov 17 '12 at 20:55) dagny dagny's gravatar image

I answered this question in a recent edition of my Rationally Selfish Webcast.  An audio recording of my response is available as a podcast here: NoodleCast #55: Live Rationally Selfish Webcast. The discussion of this question runs from 55:33 to 1:01:56. 

My basic view is that pride, whether as virtue or feeling, must be selective and based on your own choices and achievements. To speak of "pride in one's culture" is to distort the term beyond all sensible meaning.

answered Jan 29 '11 at 00:23

Diana%20Hsieh's gravatar image

Diana Hsieh ♦

edited Feb 03 '11 at 03:07

Ayn Rand defined pride as "“moral ambitiousness.” It means that one must earn the right to hold oneself as one’s own highest value by achieving one’s own moral perfection..." Pride refers to one's evaluation of himself only.

But while it is inappropriate to take pride (properly defined) in the achievements of ancestors or of one's cultural group, this does not mean that that it is always wrong to identify oneself with a cultural group. The phrase "proud to be an American," for instance, has a legitimate meaning: that one is "proud" to adopt and share the rational values present in American culture and history. Note that in proclaiming oneself "proud to be an American", he does not imply that he agrees with / supports every element of American culture, only those that he consciously embraces.

Identifying with a cultural group can be a way of unifying individuating elements of one's character into a perceptual concrete (or stereotype). For instance, I would say that I am "proud" to be a Southerner in a similar way that I am "proud" to be an American. The stereotypical southern gentleman is tough, masculine, honest, honorable, and polite -- all traits I value and am proud to possess. I also identify with other positive southern stereotypes, like kindness to strangers, welcoming households, and a fondness for rich foods and simple pleasures. This doesn't mean that I embrace the negative elements of southern culture (ignorance, racism, religious fanaticism, etc.), nor do I deny their existence. I choose to identify with certain positive attributes of the southern gentleman that I value -- attributes stressed and celebrated in my upbringing.

So I cheer on southern sports teams (college football fiend), I make no effort to veil my southern accent, I use words like "ain't" and "y'all" in everyday conversation. In identifying with the southern gentleman stereotype, I make optional value judgments that individuate me, and at the same time are integrated. This is the psychological mechanism at work when you see a maniacal SEC college football fan sincerely screaming his heart out for a school he never even attended. It's one method of enriching one's life and personality. There is nothing wrong with it if one ensures that he's not taking false pride in the achievements of other members of his chosen cultural group.

answered Feb 04 '11 at 21:26

Dan%20Edge's gravatar image

Dan Edge ♦

edited Feb 04 '11 at 23:51


I think you meant "SEC college football fan".

(Feb 04 '11 at 23:13) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

No, I was referring to the native stereotypical insane screaming footballs common to this area of the southern wilderness. But I liked your quote better, so I used it instead. (Thanks!)

(Feb 04 '11 at 23:53) Dan Edge ♦ Dan%20Edge's gravatar image

Happily, there are good reasons to experience a degree of pride and enjoyment from your friends' and relatives', or your culture's achievements. At the same time, those things must not be fundamental to your self-estimate. One's self-estimate is, properly, based on your own efforts at actively and rationally conducting your life.

Where one's friends, family, and culture exhibit valid mores and practices, they reflect your values. We participate in the lives of these others, and they are involved in ours. So, both abstractly and concretely we share, at the specifically human level of existence, that is, "qua man," as thinking and choosing beings, the overall enterprise of living well.

In this light, pride in one's father, for example, for his genuine achievements, is a form of experiencing the abstraction which produces pride in oneself. Just as it wouldn't be sensible to be proud of being the particular person you are except as you had acted in accordance with certain, abstract, moral precepts, it is not sensible to be aloof from the manifestations of the validity of those precepts in any portion of one's life, including one's social context.

The successes and accomplishments of others you are related to and approve of give you an almost esthetic benefit, confirming the promise of your own efforts and goals.

The feeling of being proud to be an American is one sort of extra-personal satisfaction that is widely recognized and approved of.

The down side of this comes from substituting this derived source of self-satisfaction for the original goodness of self on which it ought to be based. One can't legitimately rest on someone else's laurels. It is false to claim, even in your own mind, any degree of self-approval or pride if you are not actively practicing the virtues that produced those laurels.

answered Jan 01 '11 at 14:49

Mindy%20Newton's gravatar image

Mindy Newton ♦

edited Jan 01 '11 at 14:52

On this one I disagree and think your definition of pride is distorted. I consider 'pride' to be an emotional state that does not rely on the actions of any other being or on an factor that is outside of an individuals control. For the accomplishments of an ancestor one can have admiration. As to cultural achievement, piffle. Individuals act, not cultures. The success of others is just a 'road map' showing us what is possible. Taking 'pride' in what they did is second-handing collectivism.

(Jan 02 '11 at 10:44) garret seinen garret%20seinen's gravatar image

The question is actually stated in a stronger form than my answer suits. It is wrong to get your pride from outside yourself. My answer looks at whether there is any legitimate way, even if minor, to be proud of your significant others.

(Jan 02 '11 at 15:39) Mindy Newton ♦ Mindy%20Newton's gravatar image

On the view that pride can come from "outside of yourself", it follows then that guilt can derive in the same way. I think this is a dangerous thing to accept. While I think it is reasonable to experience some satisfaction or pleasure in the achievements of one's friends and relatives, this comes primarily as a result of the selfish pleasure one gets from this - but this pleasure is not pride. Similarly, it can make us feel uncomfortable when our close friends or family do wrong, however shame or guilt should not follow.

(Jan 04 '11 at 10:52) la_phil ♦ la_phil's gravatar image

Unfortunately pride is one of several terms, similar to greed, which due to how they are popularly defined become almost unusable as they are turned into pejoratives. Many definitions of pride suggest unreasonable conceit and for greed the popular understanding is excessive desire for wealth or possessions. The objectivist definition of pride classifies it as a virtue, as the result of one's own productiveness.

(Jan 04 '11 at 11:01) la_phil ♦ la_phil's gravatar image

In this context, is the opposite of Pride, Guilt or Shame?

(Jan 29 '11 at 15:49) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image
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Asked: Jan 01 '11 at 06:45

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Last updated: Nov 22 '12 at 21:56