Intellectual Arrogance is a Mental Disability

ImageI recently read a blog comment where the poster refers to himself as the “poster child for failing big, early and SLOW”. Adding to that, I would be the poster child for similar failings that are both repetitive & recursive.

A peculiar and difficult to ignore trait I recognize in myself is what I’ll call ‘wisdom dyslexia’.
What I refer to as ‘wisdom dyslexia’ is the condition that renders what seems obvious to everyone else a profound revelation to me. It doesn’t help that if I do realize this has happened, I make that realization a decade or two later than the average bear (usually ‘realizing’ means that one of my kids clued me in to my error).

So, as disappointing a deficit that may be, the upshot is that I seem to have a related, almost flip side of this same limitation:  I often have unusually uncommon sense that affords me the ability to understand immediately what is much less obvious to others. My ‘fair world bias’ leads me to believe this is an equitable trade.

On the topic of insight and accurate assessment of personal limitations and abilities, is a subject that has vexed me the last 15 or more years (since entering the world of software
development)–intellectual arrogance.

I have come to a conclusion that a legitimate comparison can be made between acting from intellectual arrogance and operating from an inherently difficult to treat neurological disability.

I also think the latter is a much more onerous problem to solve.

Other types of mental impairment, regardless if the person afflicted is or isn’t motivated or capable of improving, include in their population a very tiny ratio of individuals with power and influence. 

In contrast, the intellectually arrogant is found in abundance among those who make up segments of our societies that are not only quite powerful and influential, but that also control access to the resources shaping the course and direction of our common existence. 

As dramatic a hyperbole that may be, and it is admittedly dramatic, if it is true that the most intelligent of our academics, scientists, leaders and visionaries also happen to assume they can never be wrong, that (inability to improve) can (and does) prove costly to the longevity of: a good idea, a person, a family, a company, a nation, an ethnicity, a gender, a species, a hopeful future…you get the idea.

When this type of thinking exists in more humble populations of people, it is called delusional thinking, narcissistic personality disorder or grandiose and the condition is either medicated and/or the person’s ideas and contributions discounted as irrational, lacking credibility and unproductive, thus,neutralizing any potential influence they may have had.

This is very unlike the outcome of those powerful individuals operating from intellectual arrogance. 

The possibility exists, therefore, that there is an inherent risk of failure lurking,
 for example, in any progressive technological and scientific discovery and implementation, because the individual genius that forms this political body of people is probably accompanied by the intellectual arrogance I’m talking about that is defined by a refusal to question or doubt what is believed must be true by virtue of the person believing it and by a systematic discrediting of any alternative beliefs.

A modest exercise of critical thought and historical study supports this idea better than anything I could attempt, but my point is that it is an important subject that impacts everyone and it is a topic we should encourage more and more discussion about with overt acceptance and invitation to differences of opinion.
I would love to see a world-sized brainstorming effort, in fact. Right after the global consortium on “why being an introvert isn’t a bad thing”..



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