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On diffidence: the moral psychology of self-belief

Smith, R.D.



The language of self-belief, including terms like shyness and diffidence, is complex and puzzling. The idea of self-esteem in particular, which has been given fresh currency by recent interest in 'personalised learning', continues to create problems. I argue first that we need a 'thicker' and more subtle moral psychology of self-belief; and, secondly, that there is a radical instability in the ideas and concepts in this area, an instability to which justice needs to be done. I suggest that aspects of deconstruction are helpful here, and offer a deconstructive reading of Kipling's poem, If—, in order to illustrate the power of literature and a certain kind of philosophy to destabilise and resist closure.


Smith, R. (2006). On diffidence: the moral psychology of self-belief. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 40(1), 51-62.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2006-02
Deposit Date Jul 7, 2008
Journal Journal of Philosophy of Education
Print ISSN 0309-8249
Electronic ISSN 1467-9752
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 1
Pages 51-62
Keywords Self-esteem, Shyness.