Pseudointellectual Narcissism

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By Hadrian Israël

Pseudointellectual Narcissism (PN) is a specific form of mental illness which shares a number of traits in common with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but with an addition of one or more of the specific traits listed below.

Like sufferers of NPD, Pseudointellectual personal narratives, self-perception, and self-esteem centre around what they believe to be other people’s perception of them. They spend a marked proportion of their time cultivating an air of intelligence, and comparing that intelligence to others within their own internal dialogue.

The Wiktionary says that:

... a pseudointellectual is someone dishonestly or insincerely using the language, style, or topics of an intellectual, but who lacks the goals, morals, or ability of a “genuine” intellectual. It is someone who acts pretentiously and wishes to win an argument or impress, rather than modestly trying to find the truth – a focus on surface and rhetoric over content. These often involve a superficial understanding of a subject and condescension to the audience, as well as possible self-delusion (not being consciously dishonest, but rather sincerely thinking oneself to be behaving as a genuine intellectual despite one's incompetence).

Pseudointellectuals are everywhere and always have been. But the advent of social media has given them more to fear, as the pool of people who they can see are smarter than they are now extends beyond their proximate social groupings.

Although they usually have slightly above average intelligence, Pseudointellectuals shy away from autodidactic pursuit. As a result, they don't usually know anything more than what they’ve been taught, or could gleen from popular sources such as textbooks and the media. Because of this they usually repeat either the status quo opinion on a matter, or utter nonsense.

The causes of this disorder are thusfar unknown, but psychologists ability to identify such people is improving. So how do we identify such people in social media?

They lash out against the people who they most feel they can't compete with. This is often done in a passive aggressive way, since they are too insecure about their own intelligence to attack others directly.

But they may even randomly attack people who they think might have weak position on a subject, or who take a position in oppostion to the status quo. It is easier to make yourself look smart if there are a lot of people who agree with you, so they take the easy route. Supporting the status quo, also gets the the greatest affirmation from the largest number of people.

If you look them up, you will find that they usually haven’t published much of anything in the way of unique work; because they are afraid of looking bad if their findings are ever falsified. (Hint: Real scientists don't do science to make themselves look better…)

They criticise without offering alternatives, often without a working understranding the subject matter. They also don't offer explanations of their own, or they offer nonsensical or illogical explanations.

They frequently attack the messenger rather than the message. Because it takes less thought to attack a person than it does to overturn an idea.

When they do attack ideas, they generally latch onto single points rather than addressing whole arguments. Because whole arguments are too big for them.

They criticise typos. Everyone makes typos, but only mentally ill people criticise them.

The Pseudointellectual will often tell you about themselves rather than the subject at hand. If they have a title, degree, or have managed to get themselves an important sounding affiliation, they make sure to mention it. They're also much more likely to use their associated prenominals (I.e. “Dr.”, “Professor”, “Rev.”, et cetera) as shields to protect themselves from criticism.

Their lack of personal self worth means they are easily offended, and lash out, usually in a less than sensical way.

If you know a Pseudointellectual personally, you know that they offer frequent anecdotes with the sole purpose of sounding smart, buy books to pretend to read, and do other behaviours with the sole purpose of propping up their personal intellectual narratives. Some go so far as to wear glasses they don't need, because there is a myth that they make you look smarter.

Of course not all Pseudointellectuals demonstrate all of these traits, but a person exhibiting one or more of them simultaneously is very possibly a Pseudointellectual. Naturally, the more of the above traits someone has, the more pathological their behaviour, and the more detrimental that pathology becomes for others.

Such people cause the rest of us to be distracted from the free flow of ideas, which for better or for worse, underlay the growth of real science and philosophy. What's more is that they do these behaviours solely in support of their own need for narcissistic supply. This is done at the expense of real intellectuals who are doing the heavy lifting to improve our world.

The best thing you can do if you find yourself wasting your time with such a person is to forward them this article. Once you confirm that they received it, block them from your social media forever. You can't help or heal them, because they don't think they have a problem. But you can get them to stop wasting your time. And time is a precious commodity few people have enough of.


Harris, Sydney. Distinctions Between Intellectuals And Pseudo-Intellectuals, Detroit Free Press, (20 November 1981)

Wiktionary, Entry on Pseudointellectual, edited on 19 November 2017.