Hardening Of The Smarteries

Delusions of infallibility may be a bigger problem than narcissism

Posted Nov 02, 2015

I'm amazed that there's no diagnostic term for delusions of infallibility. There's megalomania, narcissism, and delusions of grandeur but these all refer to thinking highly of oneself or thinking oneself all-powerful. Someone with delusions of infallibility may not feel omnipotent, just omniscient. If they had power they’d know exactly how to use it because they know exactly what’s true and right. Always

I asked a forensic psychiatrist friend and he had no name for it. For lack of an existing term, I’ll suggest infalliblosis, -osis meaning pathological. It’s a pathological pretense of infallibility. The Republican Party these days is beset by an infalliblosis epidemic. They are never sorry because they think they are never wrong. They have an explanation for everything and it always puts the error and fault outside themselves.

This is their biggest problem. It’s not their policies, though any policies promoted by someone with infalliblosis are likely to be divorced from reality and evidence. Still, the policies aren’t what make the Republicans so wrong these days. It’s their systematic formulaic belief that they are never wrong.

In folk, or everyday psychology it’s called being a know-it-all or being dogmatic, but these don’t capture how pathological it is at the extreme. We all can be a little dogmatic. It’s when dogma takes over and there’s no talking to you ever, that it becomes pathological.

For years, I’ve called it hardening of the smarteries. Also I once was lost but now I’m blind syndrome, which speaks to its origins at least in some cases. It often besets people who once felt anxious, lost or doubtful and then had an epiphany so powerful and alleviating that they assumed it was the last epiphany they’d ever need, no need to ever awaken from that awakening, no need to wonder or doubt ever again.

From that point on, they felt that they could close their eyes to any reason to doubt their dogma. They had the best interpretation of reality possible, no need for further evidence. Indeed, they felt that that it was their moral duty to combat, deflect, dismiss the corrupting effect of further evidence. Given this origin it could also be called post-traumatic infallibility syndrome.

Obviously not all Republicans have this pathology. And obviously, it’s not a pathology exclusive to Republicans, though they are beset by an epidemic of it at present. I’ve known leftists with it. Communist leaders certainly had it as do dictators of all kinds. There are plenty of spiritual and religious leaders and followers who have infalliblosis. New agers can have it. Isis certainly has it.

And there are plenty of locals with infalliblosis. You may have one or two in your family. You may be having dinner with some on Thanksgiving. 

Perhaps some people are born with a temperamental pre-disposition toward it. Some might fall toward it through personal experiences. Others might fall toward it under cultural influences. 

One could easily succumb to this pathology if surrounded by it. If you lived among people with it, but weren’t as self-certain as they are they would accuse you of being wishy washy. Indeed in extreme infalliblosis epidemics for example, North Korea, not being as dogmatic as your fellow citizen could get you killed. And besides it just feels so good and easy to be among the cognoscenti, the ones who know truth, surrounded by the ones who don’t.

It’s also probably cross-culturally contagious in that a culture that is under attack from the pathologically infallible will tend to fight fire with fire, becoming pathologically infallible in response.

Infalliblosis need not be tied to a doctrine, philosophy or belief system. The only belief that really matters to it is the belief that one knows truth so perfectly as to have become permanently inerrant. It’s not about the content of a belief as much as it is about one’s absolute infallibility. It has also been called being a true-believer, but particular beliefs are not central to it.

I am no expert on psychopathology and this is a speculative essay on a topic that is highly controversial. I’m also not a Republican, so accusing them of suffering a pathological epidemic would be easy to read as me just name-calling in the service of my particular bias.

Still, like I say, I’m not focused on the particular beliefs but the MO, the way of interacting with beliefs, shooting down all but yours and defending yours at all costs. The particular beliefs embraced by someone with infalliblosis are a distraction. It’s not what one believes but how one holds beliefs, and how one believes in oneself that determines whether one has the condition.