pseudointellectual (plural pseudointellectuals)
- A person who claims proficiency in scholarly or artistic activities while lacking in-depth knowledge or critical understanding.
- A person who pretends to be of greater intelligence than he or she in fact is.
Usage is fraught, and pseudointellectual may be used as a general term of abuse for intellectuals one dislikes or disagrees with. Nevertheless, in more careful use a rather clear distinction is drawn: a pseudointellectual is someone dishonestly or insincerely using the language, style, or topics of an intellectual, but who lacks the goals, morals, or ability of a “genuine” intellectual. It is someone who acts pretentiously and wishes to win an argument or impress, rather than modestly trying to find the truth – a focus on surface and rhetoric over content. These often involve a superficial understanding of a subject and condescension to the audience, as well as possible self-delusion (not being consciously dishonest, but rather sincerely thinking oneself to be behaving as a genuine intellectual despite one's incompetence).
- Pretentiously or insincerely intellectual.
- ^ See the Sydney Harris reference for detailed criteria.