There was once a time where people gave their views. Those were the intellectuals, the people with proven credentials who had specific knowledge on a subject. Now it seems that everyone’s opinion is valid. So has this given rise to the pseudo-intellectual and how are they different from smart people?

What Is a Pseudo-Intellectual?

A pseudo-intellectual isn’t interested in knowledge for the sake of learning or bettering himself or herself. He or she only wants to store facts to appear smart

A pseudo-intellectual wants to impress and show off their smarts. He or she wants the world to know how clever he or she is. However, they don’t have the depth of knowledge to back up their comments. 

Pseudo-intellectuals often use debate or argument to dominate or draw attention to themselves. Another tactic is to pepper their language with inappropriately long or complicated words

So, is it possible to spot a pseudo-intellectual?

6 Signs of a Pseudo-Intellectual and How They Differ from Truly Smart People

  1. Pseudo-intellectuals always think they are right

A smart person can listen and digest someone’s point of view, then make an informed decision based on this new information. This shows a level of flexible cognitive ability.

Pseudo-intellectuals have no interest in understanding the world or indeed, another point of view. The only reason other people matter at all is to boost the pseudos’ self-esteem

The reason a pseudo-intellectual is engaging with you at all is so that they can use you. There is no mistake pseudos do not listen to the other side of an argument. They are too busy formulating their brilliant response. 

2.  A pseudo-intellectual will not put in the work.

If you are passionate about a topic, learning is not a chore. It is natural to want to devour everything you can about your passion. You’ll drink in the subject, your head buzzing with thoughts and ideas.

You’ll be bursting to tell your friends about the latest thing you’ve learned. Your passion excites you and pushes you forward. The pseudo-intellectual is the type of person that will have copies of Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ in hardback on their bookshelf. But, unlike the rest of us, they’ll tell everyone that they’ve read it.

The guy that reads the review of a classic Shakespeare movie so he can recite famous speeches. Or he will read the study guides and pretend he’s read the whole book

3. Pseudo-intellectuals use their ‘knowledge’ as a weapon.

Smart people want to share their knowledge. They want to pass it on, not use it to shame others. The following isn’t a perfect example of the way pseudos weaponise knowledge, but it will help you to understand.

When I was 16 years old, I dated a lovely guy and would visit him at his mother’s house. She liked to play Trivial Pursuit with us. As she was in her late 40s, at the time, she had a lot more knowledge than us kids.

But if any of us got a question wrong, she would exclaim ‘Oh my goodness, what on earth are they teaching you in schools these days?’ Or she would say ‘The answer is obvious, didn’t you know that?

It got to the point where I didn’t want to play anymore. She sucked all the fun out of it. The game was to show off her intellect and put the rest of us down.  

On the other hand, my dad would say ‘There’s no such thing as a stupid question.’ He made learning fun. I credit my dad with my love of words. He got us to help him with the daily crossword and would give us clues, praising us when we got the answer. 

4. They inject their ‘intelligence’ into inappropriate topics.

A pseudo-intellectual will want to make sure you know how smart he or she is. Be warned, they like to do this at every opportunity. One way is to hijack a conversation

Take note if they start to drop in philosophical quotes by Descartes, Nietzsche, or Foucault, or start pushing you to discuss irrelevant ideologies. These will have nothing to do with the subject in hand. 

You might be talking about whether to have a curry for takeout, and they’ll start a debate about the Anglo-Indo Rule and how the British Empire was responsible for the deaths of millions of ordinary working-class Indians. 

5. They are only interested in highbrow topics.

Smart people like what they like, it’s as simple as that. They’re not out to impress people with their passions. It doesn’t matter if you love trash TV such as ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ or you can’t wait to discuss last night’s dresses on the Met Gala catwalk. Perhaps you love anime artwork or visiting Disneyworld. 

Who cares what your passion is? You love it, that’s what counts. But for the pseudo, image is everything, remember? He or she doesn’t have the strength of character to say ‘You know what? I don’t care what people think about my choices.

Their self-esteem is tied-in with other people’s opinion of them. So they will say that they love things, such as ballet, opera, classic novels, Shakespeare, or the theatre. In other words, highly cultured subjects or complicated ones.  

6. Intellectual people want to know more.

Truly intellectual people want to keep learning. They want to delve into the subject that interests them. Anyone who has studied a degree course as an adult will know the feeling of excitement when they receive their course books. 

The anticipation of new books. Even the smell of them is exciting. You are entering into a world you can’t wait to explore. This feeling is for you. It’s a gift for yourself. 

Pseudo-intellectuals get excited when they think you think they are intelligent. That’s all that is important to them. 

Final Thoughts

Do you think you can spot the signs of a pseudo-intellectual now? Have you ever come across one in real life? Did you confront them? Why not let me know in the comments section. 



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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Skip Gibson

    Outstanding Article! Thank you!

  2. M. Muir

    Great article! What’s even worse is having a person have signs of a pseudo-intellectual and also have narcissist personality disorder. My mother has both. And at 83 years old she is getting worse. She will parrot exactly what she hears on the news and will even write letters using the exact verbage to make herself look intelligent on subjects she has no real clue about nor has she researched. And she is always right regardless of any facts that would oppose that nor will she accept opinions as valid. Politics is her favorite topic but she will not only discuss things with people but always divert it back to herself or not comment.

  3. inja laufke

    Great article! Yes, the one that is fooling Sweden right now, working in an institute to protect people from being infected by c 19 and the opposite is happening.

  4. Evan Morgen Hancock

    A psuedo-intellectual…

    …I might be this. I know just enough about exactly the types of topics you described to sound “smart”, but I don’t know everything about them.

    I think I know maybe 10% of a lot of topics…Jack of all trades but master of none may apply to me.

    And I don’t know what the hell to do about it.

    I’m currently in law enforcement, I gravitated towards it because…I needed a job that I could do with my skillset (I was an anti tank missleman in the Marines, so…zero transferable job skills)…so law enforcement it is.

    I’ve tried in the past to do other things, I passed my national and state exams to become a realtor, but…I got bored with the idea and went back to being a LEO.

    And now I have a son. I still haven’t had this vision of who I want-to-be yet, and I’m feeling…lost.

    I feel as though there’s no place for people like me in society and that my early investing in an ideal (Being Strong for some higher purpose) might have doomed me.

    I don’t know where I go from here. I’m 31 and I don’t know what I want to do with my life.

  5. Jacob Seavello

    All seems a bit subjective personally. I’ve seen people who are intellectuals act this way. Many of them will use their knowledge in a way that is disgraceful to the major point of knowledge. You learn to better yourself, yes, but many learn to trample over others and destroy them. I’ve seen many stupid ‘smart people’, just as I have seen many intelligent morons.

    One thing I can say, is people often confuse being smart, with being bright; to which I would much rather have my comprehension, than someone else’s subjectivity. Math is a fact, social concepts and ethical debates are always subjective. But I guess I will say it again, someone being proud of their intellect isn’t a shameful concept, but them using said intellect to mentally bludgeon people very much is. Much like disregarding or invalidating those we disagree with because we want to see them as ignorant or unintelligent.

    Hell, I think one of the key reasons why I have developed as much mentally as I have personally, is due to healthy debate and discussion, but I really don’t give a damn what people think of me on the matter. Sometimes I’m objectively wrong when it comes to an actual fact, but it is very difficult to be wrong when it comes to subjectivity. In subjectivity, two people can be right and wrong all at the same time, due to it all being opinioned based, not fact based. Objectivity can help strengthen an opinion, but subjectivity can’t dilute facts. And I see many people attempt to do the later, utilizing subjective articles or notes from *intellectuals* vs their own coherent thoughts, often just regurgitating bias websites or benign outdated statistics in a sad attempt to prove someone wrong. That’s why reason, logic and comprehension are so important to me, they are the great equalizer and the one defense against rampant stupidity masquerading itself around as rational thought.

  6. Joe Yanes

    I agree for the most part, with some reservations. Meaning it is possible that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. I think there may be some romanticism in the “quiet” intellectual. Probably a unicorn. I get it, at the other end pseudos do exist. But for the most part they’re just braggers who are trying to oversell something: almost always themselves for either self esteem or for profit.

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