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Plato Is a Moron

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Vizzini: I can't compete with you physically, and you're no match for my brains.
Man in Black: You're that smart?
Vizzini: Let me put it this way — have you ever heard of Plato? Aristotle? Socrates?
Man in Black: Yes.
Vizzini: Morons.

This is a form of boast wherein Bob claims that he is the best at something by listing people who are well-known for being good at that thing and then declaring them inferior to himself. It's generally a sign that Bob is a Narcissist or a Small Name, Big Ego character — whose faith in his own superiority will be proven very false very soon — or otherwise Feigning Intelligence, but sometimes Bob really is that good.

Note that the insulted persons do not have to be Real Life experts; they could be characters known for their skill in-universe. In this case, their fame will have to be established beforehand to get the best use out of this trope.

For the even more outrageous claim that Bob is better than God, see Blasphemous Boast. For actual anti-platonism (which is the position that "abstract entities" don't exist) see Meaningless Meaningful Words. Distant cousin to Famous, Famous, Fictional, where a fictional person is established as a great [whatever] by having his name placed next to two Real Life [whatever]s, albeit without the unfavorable comparison. Compare Wrote the Book, where someone claims to have written the book on something or invented it because they are or think they are so good at that thing.


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    Comic Books 
  • Three stories of The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius begin with the titular character quoting a famous intellectual and then proceeding to insult him.
    2nd Issue: When asked if he felt like a failure for failing 1000 times to make a light bulb famed inventor Thomas Edison said "I did not fail, I just discovered 1000 ways that don't work"... What an asshole! Smart guy, sure, but also a patent thief with an ego rivaling the amount of self-importantance I possess.
    5th Issue: Ernest Hemingway once said "true genius is the ability to learn fast"... For a suicidal drunk with a pathological fear of his own patent homosexuality, papa did all right.
    7th Issue: Jane Goodall once said "Chimpanzees, more than any other living creature, have helped us to understand that there is no sharp line between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom"... All those years living among apes, eating wild berries and adopting their behavior and this is her big revelation? That we are a lot like monkeys? This was a lady in serious need of a pizza and good lay.
  • The Chessmaster in the 2000 AD strip Caballistics, Inc. is one Ethan Kostabi, an eccentric 1970s former rock star strongly resembling David Bowie. Whenever Kostabi's success as a musician is described, comparisons are always made to Bowie, and Bowie is always described as having been greatly inferior—having sold fewer albums and having "scavenged a career out of the discarded fads and influences that Ethan left in his wake".
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Reed Richards is widely regarded as the smartest human in the universe. Even his enemies — The Wizard, The Mad Thinker, The Mole Man, and others — have great respect for his intellect, if only because they think he is the one man on Earth capable of appreciating what they have done. But then we get Doctor Doom, the one man in the entire Marvel Universe who thinks Reed is a hack, a fraud, and a complete and utter moron, and is fairly fond of reminding everyone in earshot of his feelings Every. Single. Issue.
    • Also involving Reed: The heroes who have used the name Ant-Man get their powers from mass-shifting "Pym Particles" discovered (and named) by the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. At one point in the Dark Reign era, in front of both of their respective teams, Reed makes the claim that he knows more about Pym Particles than Pym does. Hank's response?
      Hank Pym: It's on, bitch.
  • According to Senator Rector of The Nightly News: "Chomsky's a fucking retard."

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animated 
  • Thrax, an anthropomorphic virus, in Osmosis Jones: "Ebola is a case of dandruff compared to me!"
  • In The Sword in the Stone, Madame Mim brags about being a better wizard than Merlin, "The world's most powerful bungler."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The murderous ghost in The Frighteners is obsessed in death, as he was in life, with racking up the highest body count of any serial killer in history. Whenever he passes one of their records, he crows with joy about it. His last words in life were "Got me a score of 12, sir, one more than Starkweather." Later on, his astral form brags about beating Gacy, and says he can't wait to break Bundy's record so he can rub it in his face.
  • According to the killer in Mindhunters, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy are "tired old hacks."
  • The Princess Bride: While boasting of his intelligence, Vizzini claims that he's much smarter than Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. While his long speech is just a ploy to convince the Man in Black that he's deduced which of the cups is poisoned, he does seem to believe that he's that intelligent.
  • In The Usual Suspects, when preparing for an impressive sniping feat, MacManus mumbles to himself, "Oswald was a fag."
  • At one point in the film adaptation of Watchmen, Adrian Veidt of Veidt Enterprises boasts to the heads of major corporations that he's worth more than all of them combined and can "buy and sell them all three times over". At least one of the other corporate representatives Adrian is addressing directly is a Real Life figure—Lee Iacocca, who is known for having revived the Chrysler Corporation in The '80s.

  • In P. G. Wodehouse's "The Clicking of Cuthbert", Russian novelist Vladimir Brusiloff opines: "No novelists any good except me. Sovietski—yah! Nastikoff—bah! I spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P.G. Wodehouse and Tolstoy not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any good except me."
  • Discworld: Wyrd Sisters has an instance where this is used, but the character in question is being described by the narration rather than doing the bragging himself.
    Compared to the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, Machiavelli couldn't have run a whelk stand.
  • Hannibal Lecter is a world-renowned brilliant clinical psychiatrist, but he has nothing but disdain for his own field. He frankly states to Clarice Starling that he doesn't consider it a science, criticising it as "puerile", and comments that most psychology departments are filled with "ham radio enthusiasts and other personality-deficient buffs".
  • When Deep Thought from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy mentions that it is the second most advanced computer, its operators name some other advanced computers that exist in the universe, but are casually dismissed with comments like "A mere abacus; mention it not" or "That computer could talk all four legs off a donkey, but only I could persuade it to take a walk afterward."
  • In A Study in Scarlet, Dr. Watson praises Sherlock Holmes by comparing him to Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin and Emile Gaboriau's Monsieur Lecoq. Holmes counters that "Dupin was a very inferior fellow" and "Lecoq was a miserable bungler."
  • The James Thurber short story "Something to Say" is built around Eliot Vereker, a supposedly great author whose reputation is based entirely on disparaging really great authors, e.g., "Santayana has weight: he's a ton of feathers. Proust was sick. If Voltaire did not exist, it would not be necessary to invent him, etc., etc."

    Live-Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun:
    Dick: I made the front page of The Daily Badgerian again.
    Tommy: What's it say?
    Sally: [reading headline] "Physics professor calls Einstein idiot; proclaims self much smarter."
  • Sheldon Cooper, the brilliant but highly egotistical theoretical physicist from The Big Bang Theory once agreed that he wasn't like Isaac Newton, because... "Gravity would have been apparent to me without the apple!"
  • Simon inverts this in Firefly, describing how, although he's incredibly intelligent, he's not even second-rate compared to River:
    Simon: I am very smart. I went to the best Med-Acad in Osiris, top three percent of my class, finished my internship in eight months. "Gifted" is the term. So when I tell you that my little sister makes me look like an idiot child, I want you to understand my full meaning.
  • Happens in the Flight of the Conchords episode "Tough Bret":
    "Eminem is not very good. 50 Cent is not very good. Snoop Dogg is not very good. Mos Def is not very good. But the Rhymnocerous is very very good!"
  • House has occasionally referred to other respected members of the medical community as "idiots". A rare example of this being Justified, as House usually does turn out to be smarter than they are (at least in that he's able to solve some puzzle they can't, House himself does some pretty stupid things for a guy as smart as him).
  • On one episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Charlie participates in a trial of intelligence-enhancing drugs. While riding high on superintelligence, he casually insists that, Stephen Hawking, while talented, is really more of a celebrity than a scientist. This is especially funny when we learn that the drug was a placebo, which had no real effect on intelligence but skyrocketed Charlie's arrogance.
  • One episode of Profit has Jim Profit comment on how a spider carefully weaves its web, an invisible inescapable trap... Before stepping on it, calling it an amateur.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Rodney Mckay considers himself the smartest person in two galaxies and believes his own birthday to be as significant as Newton's and Einstein's.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Greek Mythology, Arachne goes around claiming she is better at weaving than Athena. As in, the goddess Athena, who is not amused to hear about this. The two end up holding a contest to determine who is the best. Depending on the version, Arachne either loses handily and gets turned into a spider for losing; or she actually wins and gets turned into a spider anyway because gods hate losing. In at least one take on the story, it was because what Arachne wove for the contest was extremely insulting to the gods. Either way, hubris is very dangerous in Greek myths; especially when she insults the gods with her work.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate: Edwin gives us this if you repeatedly annoy him:
    Edwin: Elminster this! Elminster that! Give me 2,000 years and a pointy hat, and I'll kick his arse!
    • Uniquely, Edwin can have a chance to face off Elminster and prove his claim and the trope. He spectacularly fails. Elminster is no moron, and he proceeds to strip Edwin of his magical abilities and turn him into a woman for good.
  • Mr. Mechanical from Freedom Force is a disgraced architect with an army of giant robots trying to destroy a city both because of its "inferior designs" and because they "sabotaged" one of his buildings (in truth, the building collapsed on its own). In his final rampage, he makes insulting remarks about Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • In an urban legend/conspiracy sort of way, PAYDAY 2 has an example in the form of Duke comparing their current opponent, the ancient crime syndicate known as Kataru, to be of enough influence, reach and power that they make both the Illuminati and the Freemasons look like enthusiastic amateurs.
  • In Portal 2, after being called a "moron" one too many times, Wheatley decides to prove his intelligence by reading Machiavelli (or claiming to, anyway) and commenting on how easy it was.
    Wheatley: Do not understand what all the fuss was about. Understood it perfectly. Have you read it?
    GLaDOS: Yes.
    Wheatley: Yeah, doubt it. Well, on with the test!
  • In Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, the main character says this in reference to a well-known badass named Iggy Van Zandt:
    Main Character: Iggy's a punk. I'm a freaking badass.

    Web Videos 
  • In H.Bomberguy's critiques of the works of Steven Moffat, including Sherlock and his final episodes of Doctor Who, part of his central thesis is his belief that Moffat appears to view himself as cleverer or superior to the original source material and often goes out of his way to prove it, often in ways that end up suggesting a certain amount of contempt or dismissiveness for the original material, inadvertently or otherwise. In Bomberguy's view, this ironically often just proves to trip Moffat up, as his ideas of "smarter and more interesting" tend to just end up as overwritten Complexity Addiction and style-over-substance gimmickry, whereas the original material usually just focuses on telling a simple, straightforward story with a hook that is often a lot cleverer in its simplicity.

    Western Animation 
  • In Aladdin: The Series episode "Getting the Bugs Out", would-be world conqueror Mechanicles introduces himself as the "Greatest of the Great Greek Geniuses!" He immediately buttresses this pronouncement with "Archimedes? An amateur! Socrates? Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk..."
  • In The Real Ghostbusters episode "Russian About", one of the Soviet professors declares "Einstein — fraud, phooey!", prompting Egon to argue with him.

    Real Life 
  • Uwe Boll: "I'm not a fucking retard like Michael Bay or other people running around in the business, or Eli Roth making the same shitty movies over and over again. If you really look at my movies, you will see my real genius, you know?"
  • Former world chess champion Bobby Fischer was known to denigrate the skills of previous champions, such as Emanuel Lasker, whom he called a "coffeehouse player", and even took shots at José Raúl Capablanca, saying that much of his analysis on certain games was nonsense. He also accused many of the best Russian players of cheating by pre-arranging games with each other. Notably inverted with earlier American champion Paul Morphy, however, who Bobby Fischer said would probably have defeated him in a match.
  • Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim took this to its logical extent by naming himself as Paracelsus. Aulus Cornelius Celsus was a Roman encyclopedist who had written what had been one of the seminal tracts on medicine from Rome to his era, including such things as surgery, identification of fever as a defense mechanism, and cancer. The name "Paracelsus" literally meant that Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim was "greater than Celsus." The annoying thing? "Paracelsus" was right; he is today remembered as one of the primary forerunners of modern medicine, with his belief in the need to ground medicine in the physical sciences (particularly chemistry), his notion that diseases are entities unto themselves rather than states of being, and his emphasis on specific remedies for specific maladies all being foundational principles of today's medical science. He is more specifically known as the father of the discipline of toxicology; his maxim that "the dose makes the poison" is still taught in medical schools to this day. As for Celsus, he is mostly remembered for being the guy Paracelsus chose to compare himself to (and for being confused for the Swedish physicist Anders Celsius, who was someone else entirely).
  • Ayn Rand was once quoted as saying that, in the history of philosophy, she could only recommend the "three As": Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and herself.
  • Bertrand Russell in his work A History of Western Philosophy expressed his dislike for philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. In addition, he was dismissive of medieval philosophers like Thomas Aquinas, claiming that the medieval thinkers were primarily theologians and thus produced nothing of philosophical value.