People often take pride in things that they don't have control over, or events and accomplishments in which they were not involved. For example, an American might be proud of the United State's role in World War 2 even though it occurred long before he was even born. Much the same could be said of pride of one's race, university, local sports team, extended family or ancestry, and so on. How can this kind of pride be justified?

Standardly, philosophers think of pride as closely related to deservedness. Pride, on this view, amounts to taking pleasure in one's excellence or accomplishments. To have proper pride therefore requires that one have an accurate appraisal of one's excellence or accomplishments. To take more pleasure than one's excellence or accomplishments merit is to exhibit vanity. To take less pleasure than one's excellence or accomplishments merit is to exhibit excessive modesty or a lack of self-respect. (This analysis of pride owes much to Aristotle's discussion of pride in the Nicomachean Ethics.)

So what of those who (as you ask) are 'proud of' their nation's past accomplishments, or in the victories of their favorites sports teams, etc.? On its face, pride seems unjustified in these cases. For these are not the person's accomplishments but the accomplishments of others. It would, I agree, be a form of noxious self-flattery for someone born well after the Second World War to take literal pride in the US' role.

But this suggests that "pride" here is being used in a different or looser sense. In being 'proud' of the US role in the War, I am not taking pleasure in what I did. (After all, I didn't do anything!) I would speculate that 'pride' here is a mixture of admiration and identification. It would be strange for (say) Swedes to 'take pride' in the American war effort, precisely because they do not identify as Americans or see themselves as contributors to the ongoing lineage of American history and culture. Swedes could thus admire the American war effort but not really 'take pride' in that effort. Contemporary Americans, in contrast, can both admire that effort and identify with those responsible for that effort. This isn't pride in the classical Aristotelian sense. It's a bit like pride at one remove: a kind of taking pleasure in admirable things done not by oneself but by those one identifies with. Its justification, in turn, depends on (a) whether (as the classical Aristotelian conception has it) these accomplishments are worthy or admiration, and (b) the admirer stands in a sufficiently strong relationship of identification with those responsible for these accomplishments.

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