By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial
The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. – Aristotle
There are people in this world who walk around, touting their political and philosophical beliefs like nobody’s business. They act smart, and at first glance seem smart. It is as if they have absorbed the knowledge of a wise teacher and wish to dissipate the newfound knowledge into the populace.
But then you begin to peel back the surface, and you realize this person knows absolutely nothing. They cannot defend their ideas when they clash with those of others. All they seem to be able to do is repeat a mantra or soundbite that sounds good.
“Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
“Equal pay for equal work.”
“The freer the market, the freer the people.”
The mental complexity of people like this is lacking. They seem to not understand how to open a book. Their views probably come from PragerU or NowThis videos, or badly-made political YouTube “documentaries.”
We all know someone like this. You’re probably thinking of someone specific in your life right now.
There’s a reason for the confidence of such people. The reason is science.
A Political Psychology study (linked above) outlines the phenomena in those that are politically inept. The reason this happens is because of something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It is a cognitive bias in which people of low ability suffer from perceived superiority.
We all face the unknown, it is a fact of life. Whether or not we know how many unknowns there are varies from person to person, though. A more intelligent person realizes that there are more known unknowns than knowns within their mind. They realize that there is a vast amount of skills, areas of expertise, and pearls of wisdom that they have yet to master, and probably will never master.
The less knowledgeable person, though, is not knowledgeable of these unknowns, turning them into unknown unknowns. They are ignorant about that which they do not realize. They do not realize that there is an insurmountable sea of political, philosophical, and economic thought that nobody can fully absorb and comprehend.
Because they do not see all of the things they don’t know, they assume they have reached a high level of intellectual prowess. In reality, they are on the lowest level around.
As the study says:
This “double burden of incompetence” means that low-performing individuals often overestimate their own objective performance. A second and related aspect of the Dunning-Kruger effect is that these low achievers will be less capable of rating and comparing peers’ performances.
If you have read this article and been faced with an uncomfortable conviction, do not worry. All hope is not lost. There are ways to realize humility in this ocean of ideas. My personal favorite method is the one which I have taken up myself.
I have created an “anti-library.” I am 17 years old, yet I have over 100 books on politics, economics, psychology, and philosophy sitting on my overflowing bookshelves. I add more books faster than I can read them.
Having more books than I know I can read, and always adding more, gives me a healthy dose of intellectual humility in life. Each book that I have in my room but have yet to read shows me that there is knowledge I do not have.
If you know a pseudointellectual, let them borrow a book. If you are a pseudointellectual, start collecting books and read a lot of them.