The Humility Gap

How can we become more open-minded?

Open-mindedness is generally perceived as a positive trait, but how do we cultivate it?

Does open-mindedness require a certain set of beliefs or can we bring deeply divergent convictions, identities, experiences and emotions into dialogue in open-minded ways?

Could practices and habits of intellectual humility help us to become more open-minded?

Each week through summer 2019 we will release a new podcast in which we explore these questions and more with leading academics, journalists and politicians.

Podcast Series

  • Episode #10: Sarah Williams primary image

    Episode #10: Sarah Williams


    May 20th 2020, 12:12

    The Oxford Character Project

    Bethan Willis talks to Sarah WIlliams, Professor of History at Regent College, Vancouver. They explore whether the virtue of intellectual humility makes sense for women referencing Sarah's research on 19th Century campaigner and mother of ideological feminism, Josephine Butler. The conversation touches on themes of the academy, knowledge, power. freedom and feminism.

  • Episode #9: Nigel Biggar primary image

    Episode #9: Nigel Biggar


    February 20th 2020, 13:53

    The Oxford Character Project

    Nigel Biggar reflects on his own experiences as he talks to Bethan Willis and Ed Brooks about open-mindedness.

  • Episode #8: David Goodhart primary image

    Episode #8: David Goodhart


    January 31st 2020, 13:45

    The Oxford Character Project

    Bethan Willis speaks to journalist and author David Goodhart. They discuss how becoming aware of our tendency towards 'group think', evaluating our emotional responses and recognising the common humanity of our opponents can all contribute to the development of open-mindedness.

  • Episode #7: Philippa Stroud primary image

    Episode #7: Philippa Stroud


    January 23rd 2020, 11:15

    The Oxford Character Project

    Bethan Willis speaks to Philippa Stroud, member of the House of Lords and CEO of the Legatum Institute. They discuss why trust, humility and other virtues are important for a flourishing society; why listening is a vital political skill and the importance of focusing on common ground in seeking to become more open-minded.

  • Episode #6: Uncomfortable Oxford primary image

    Episode #6: Uncomfortable Oxford


    January 20th 2020, 17:11

    The Oxford Character Project

    Olivia Durand and Paula Larsson speak to Bethan Willis about engaging with the difficult parts of Oxford's history in their Uncomfortable Oxford walking tours.

    Download Episode #6: Uncomfortable Oxford

    Episode #6: Uncomfortable Oxford


Project overview

One way to think about open-mindedness is through the lens of the habits and practices we might develop to bridge the gap between divisive debate and open-minded dialogue. In recent years many philosophers have focused in on the idea of “intellectual virtues” and one in particular—the virtue of intellectual humility—as a potential way forward.

Intellectual virtues are concerned with the character traits which enable us to be ‘good knowers’, people who acquire, share and use knowledge in morally excellent ways. As one of these intellectual virtues, humility stands in contrast to arrogance on the one hand and diffidence on the other, we might understand it as an awareness of the limits of one’s knowledge.

Drawing on perspectives from history, technology, philosophy, theology, politics and the media the Humility Gap project, an initiative of the Oxford Character Project, seeks to catalyse a constructive discussion on the nature and place of intellectual humility in academic enquiry and wider public discourse. Through a series of podcast interviews with a range of academics, journalists and politicians we hope to identify both the barriers to open-minded debate and the possibilities for nurturing open-mindedness.

Taking the challenges to open-mindedness and intellectual humility seriously we hope to question the role of open-mindedness in issues of justice; what humility means to those on the margins of public debates; and the difficulty of presenting convictions founded in personal experiences, emotions or identities in ways which both command attention and leave room for ongoing dialogue.

Over the academic year 2018-19, the Humility Gap will produce a series of podcasts, host an event in Parliament and release a number of editorials to catalyse wider conversation around these complex questions.

The Humility Gap project is funded by a fellowship from the University of Connecticut’s Humility and Conviction Project and is led by Dr Bethan Willis.


This project is is made possible through a subaward agreement from the University of Connecticut with funds provided by Grant No. 58942 from John Templeton Foundation. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of UConn or John Templeton Foundation.


  • Introducing the Humility Gap podcast series.