Self Appraisal and Intellectual Arrogance

By Sheharbano  //  General  //  2 Comments

In my mind, I maintain a dynamic list of things I don’t want to be in my life. After stepping into academia, one recent addition has been ‘intellectual arrogance’. When one is in a seat of power, there is a natural urge to flex one’s muscles every once in a while. I bet Spiderman derives some evil pleasure in watching fellow human beings feverishly drag along roads below him when he is weaving his way up the tallest buildings. Superman’s ego must soar hand in hand with his flight, as the objects below him shrink to the size of dots. Similarly, when one is in the academia for some time, there is a predisposition to fall prey to what is called ‘intellectual arrogance’ (IA)–thinking low of others because of one’s superior mental/intellectual capabilities, or the reverse; thinking high of oneself because of others’ lack of mental/intellectual capabilities.

I came across an interesting/related proverb a while back:
He who knows not and knows not he knows not: he is a fool – shun him. He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple – teach him. He who knows and knows not he knows: he is asleep – wake him. He who knows and knows he knows: he is wise – follow him.

To summarize:
State————–Aware of state?———Verdict/Action
Knows not———-Unaware—————Fool/Shun him
Knows not———-Aware—————–Simple/Teach him
Knows————–Unaware—————Asleep/Wake him
Knows————–Aware—————–Wise/Follow him

This is closesly related to the concept of self appraisal; the ability to correctly and fairly assess one’s own capabilities. It is through the process of self appraisal that one identifies his weaknesses (with a view to improve them) and strengths (to channelize them judiciously). However, this last case of realization of one’s strengths can transform into IA if not handled carefully. Intellectual development should be a proactive process that reinforces itself by achieving targets and overcoming challenges. IA manifests itself when belittlement of others’ work begins to feed one’s self-esteem/ego. IA is when someone asks you a ridiculously simple question and you find it amusing to reiterate the question in your head, or make it the butt of your jokes among friends/colleagues.

To wind up, one’s spirit should be like Ghalib:
“Rutbe me mehr-o-mah se kamtar nahii hoon ma”
(I am no less significant than the moon and the sun)

and mindset like Socrates:
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

2 Comments to “Self Appraisal and Intellectual Arrogance”

  • I don’t know about you but personally, my increasing experience and knowledge with both academic and practical engineering continually makes me realize how little I really understand… leaving very little room for intellectual arrogance

    To me, he who knows, and knows he knows little, probably knows best… Does that make any sense?

    • Humility is a good thing but like I mentioned in my post, self appraisal is equally important to properly utilize one’s strengths. It’s tricky because humility can be confused with low self esteem, and self appraisal can lead to arrogance Smile For example, if I believe that I know more about something than others through self appraisal, then I really should write a book to share it with rest of the world. But if this realization makes me think low of other people, or that I am entitled to special treatment, then that’s arrogance. Makes sense Smile

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