One smarter than me.

One smarter than me…

… can never be.
would you agree?

But seriously, everyone, me included, thinks of him/herself as much smarter than he or she really is. And this, sometimes, creates problems for everyone around.

A side note:

Dumb people thinking they are smart are one thing – you can easily (if you’re smart that is – do you see the beginning of a paradox here) see them for who they really are. The real problem lies with people who are smart but think of themselves as even smarter (and let me tell you, there are lots and lots of them). It’s not that easy to tell, is it? I mean, especially if you are not as smart as you think.

Back to the main point:

In order not to be deluded by self-pride into thinking you’re the brightest crayon in the box, the sharpest knife in the drawer and whatever other silly metaphor you can think of, it’s good to find someone unquestionably smarter than yourself and take comfort in your own inferiority, finally knowing that there’s someone up there, who must be more lonely and misunderstood than you yourself are.

Now, the point of this post is to introduce such a person. I don’t know his name nor other personal details, other than he is an Englishman of partial Irish descent and two passports (I wouldn’t mention that much, were it not for the Irish part). I don’t think he recognises me even by my nick, as I am not an active poster on the forum we both frequent.  He thinks sharp and he writes extremely well – you can have a taste at his blog.

Some things should be obvious from that, but as the topics he takes are sometimes esoteric, the blog writing does not give him justice. For that check this forum and search for posts by ‘Salmoneus’ – the range of topics is much wider so it should be more accessible. In particular, take a look at his analysis of Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” in this thread (the best parts are on the fourth page, but the whole of it is worth reading; btw, another poster there, ‘Pthug’ is also one of the smartest people I know).


A meta-comment:

this blog has just had a three-fold increase of the number of visits/day, but there’s nothing much in the way of comments (I can count on Jade and Eskandar, but I know they would still comment  if they were the only visitors – heck, for a long stretch of time, they were the only visitors). So, @the silent majority: what’s going on? Cat’s got your tongue/fingertips? In writing a blog, the bigger half of satisfaction comes from a healthy debate/argument/exchange of insults.

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  • vacuouswastrel  On November 20, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Awwhh! Thank you! I’m touched!

    I’d add a link in the same vein, but I don’t know anybody smarter than me, I don’t think. I don’t mean that as boasting, because I don’t think I’m particularly smart. I just think that a lot of “smartness” isn’t about intelligence at all – it’s reputation, or demeanour, or application, or sociolinguistics, or something else that distinguishes one person from another and intimidates the other in a way, without actually meaning an increased intelligence. I’ve met a lot of people who were believed to be smarter than me, and a lot of people who were better than me at this or that activity, but none I could really say were, tout court, simply “smarter” than me.

    I’ve also met surprisingly few people who were more stupid than me. Most unsmart people, I think, are intellectually lazy, or intellectually disinterested, or intellectually induced into bad habits of thought (in particular, leaps of generalisation and excessive dedication to beliefs once acquired). And then there are of course some genuinely stupid people – but it’s remarkable how little impact stupidity has on their lives. Hardly anything in modern life poses an obstacle to a stupid person, provided they are personable and willing to work.

    So I guess my point is: don’t be too hard on yourself, if you acted like a smart person, people would think you were smart – and that’s probably what most of the people you think are smart are doing.

    I, for instance, am actually pretty stupid in some ways. Abstract puzzle solving (cryptic crosswords, or those lateral-thought brainteasers you get, and anything that MENSA people like to do) and above all real-time problem-solving (I think quite slowly, and am prone to panic when forced to think faster!) are things I’m terrible at – and relatedly, small talk, which I guess is a subset of the latter (I talk faster than I think, which results in lots of pauses and gaffs). If I’m smart at anything, it’s a) being able to interpret facts into different frameworks of explanation (eg that literary thing you linked to – if I have a thesis to explain a book or something, it comes naturally to me to frame facts in a way that supports it), and a general fluent facility with language (eg in university I could usually write my essays without serious editing, because I could usually work out a way that flowed and cohered as I went along). So I guess I ought to be a spin-doctor…

    [Pity that the board pruned that thread, actually, as I quite liked what I said too… but then again, I’m more enamoured with the process of speaking than of any particular products of it].

  • peterlin  On November 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Hello Salmoneus! It is really good to see you here.

    Intelligence and stupidity are notoriously hard to define, aren’t they? I used the word “smart” and tried to avoid the word “intelligent” because I was talking about imprecise (yet strong) impressions and not something quantifiable or thought-to-be-quantifiable. At least in these parts of the world, ‘intelligence’ is tainted with associations with IQ testing and all that MENSA/puzzle solving idiocy (incidentally, Polish chapter of MENSA, uses, or used to use, only one type of puzzles [the ‘pick the matching element’ kind] in its tests). I know a number of MENSA members (by definition ‘highly intelligent’) of whom I don’t think as ‘smart’ at all.

    What I see as stupidity is, similarly to what you say, the intellectual laziness, the unwillingness to look at a problem from a different angle than one’s own and -above all- the apparent inability to recognize one’s errors of judgement and limitations of one’s knowledge. Technically speaking, these are perhaps faults of character more than shortcomings of intellect, but as I said, I am talking about impressions not definitions.

    Conversely, what I associate with ‘smartness’ is the ability to tackle a problem from different viewpoints and explanatory framework, the willingness to challenge one’s own beliefs and positions, the sensitivity to errors in one’s own reasoning. And also having a way with words and being well-read. Your writing struck me as writing of somebody possessing all that characteristics and I thought it would be good to a) let you know that what you write is read and appreciate and b) pass the word to people. Hence my PM and my post.

    Lastly, I don’t think I am too hard on myself. Or too preocuppied with the opinion the others have of my intellectual capacity. My ‘problem’ (not really a problem) is not how to appear smart to other people but rather how not to appear [i]too smart[/i] (or too arrogant) to them. Having this sort of concerns (and moreso admitting to have them) kind of betrays my arrogance, doesn’t it?

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