Pretentiousness is an unwarranted claim to importance or distinction.
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- The political science of our day almost entirely ignores ambition. ... The trouble is that ambition smacks of greatness; it is not average enough to be the object of a science that knows nothing of individuality, hence nothing of greatness. Even the word “great” is unscientific because it is pretentious. But we human beings are animals with pretensions.
- Harvey Mansfield, “How to Understand Politics: What the Humanities Can Say to Science”
The courtly person (cortegiano, gentilhomme, gentleman, Hofmann) has gone through a training in self-esteem that expresses itself in many ways: in aristocratically pretentious opinions, in polished or majestic manners, in gallant or heroic patterns of feeling as well as in a selective, aesthetic sensitivity for that which is said to be courtly or pretty. The noble, far removed from any self-doubt, should achieve all this with a complete matter-of-factness. Any uncertainty, any doubt in these things signifies a slackening in the nobility’s cultural “identity.” This class narcissism, which has petrified into a form of life, tolerates no irony, no exception, no slips, because such disturbances would give rise to unwelcome reflections. The French nobles did not turn up their noses at Shakespeare’s “barbarism” without reason. In his plays one already “smells” the human ordinariness of those who want to stand before society as the best.
With the ascendancy of the bourgeoisie, the place of the “best” is awarded anew. The bourgeois ego, in an unprecedented, creative storming to the heights of a new class consciousness won for itself an autonomous narcissism.
- Peter Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason, M. Eldred, trans. (1987), p. 62