Sunday, May 1, 2011
Braggin' and Boastin', Boastin' and Braggin': the ethics of tooting your own horn
If you know Black Socrates personally, you know that I'm playfully arrogant. If you ask me what I've been working on lately (in philosophy), I'll likely respond, "Something great" or "A paper that will change the way everyone thinks about [whatever topic I'm on that week]."
At the more grimy Pittsburgh dives, I've been known to declare "Clearly, we can never come here again" and "We can't live our lives like this, "and "These are not our people."
Sometimes I just let boastful statements slip out. (I won't give examples, you'd think less of me). But, generally, I'm okay with the way I am. I brag a lot, but in a self-conscious and playful way (well, most of the time).
I appreciate others who do the same (and, who can back it up, of course). I love Kanye's attitude, at times. His verse on the "Ego" remix is great. Check it:
But, as you may suspect, my way of being is often met with resistance.
My friends held a mini intervention for me on the beach in Miami (spring break, '99):
"Brandon, we know you best. You're very, very arrogant." I resisted, but was convinced after they offered multiple pieces of evidence to back up their claim.
The clearest statement of resistance has come from two of my classmates at Pitt. Here's a paraphrase of their position:
"People who are really good don't brag. The truly talented (or cool) don't need to talk themselves up, they just let their actions (or style, or work) do all of the talking. People will notice your talent if you just keep doing what you're doing. No need to brag."
The first claim is just false. There are plenty examples of talented people who brag: Muhammad Ali, Kanye, Kobe.
The second, questionable. Sometimes people take notice of talent. Sometimes not. There are plenty of talented artists, athletes and academics who are slept on. It seems that one needs to do more than just produce good work (or perform well) to garner recognition. Clearly, I think it's perfectly acceptable to talk oneself up to avoid being slept on.
My question is this: If you've got the skills, what's wrong with being arrogant (playfully or not)?
Sure, people are often put off by arrogance (by boastin'and braggin') but we can't conclude that there's something wrong with being arrogant from the fact that people are often put off by arrogance.
Am I missing something?
Posted by Brandon Hogan at 10:50 PM