One day, I hope, I will be the smartest person I know. If I can (I’m sure I can’t) I will be the smartest person in the world. Arrogant? Hubristic? No, I don’t believe so, though certainly it is at best aspirational, and unlikely nearly to the point of impossibility.
That’s my goal, and I think it’s a good goal to have. It’s a high bar, obviously. I’ve met some smart people in my life, and in reality I have no desire to upstage them or outshine them. I love that they are smarter than I am, and I bear them no ill-will for their brilliance.
Still, I think it is no insult to them, is maybe indeed a compliment to them, for me to set my mind to competing with them.
In a way, it is my way of recognizing my debt to them, communicating my admiration for them, my sympathy with their goals.
Socrates in a few places encourages his listeners to adopt this attitude of intellectual competitiveness. I think it is the best sort of competition there can be.
I want to be better at Greek than any of my amazingly talented friends and professors, though I know I am currently a long way from that. I want to have a mastery of modern logic or economics that would impress authorities in those fields (I’m even further from attaining those goals!). I want to grasp the facts and patterns of history and be able to call them to mind readily when I need them.
I don’t think it’s likely that I’ll succeed in any of these goals, especially while pursuing them all simultaneously. I also don’t think any of them are completely impossible or out of reach, however unlikely. But most importantly, I have no doubt that in aiming for goals like these ones, I will make progress on a scale that I could never have imagined without such goals.