person obsessed with detail or process, often negatively perceived
A pedant is a person who is excessively concerned with formalism and precision, or who makes a show of his or her learning.
- A Man who has been brought up among Books, and is able to talk of nothing else, is what we call a Pedant. But, methinks, we should enlarge the Title, and give it to every one that does not know how to think out of his Profession and particular way of Life.
- There are certain inferior or second-rate minds, who seem only fit to become the receptacle, register, or storehouse of all the productions of other talents; they are plagiarists, translators, compilers; they never think, but tell you what other authors have thought; and as a selection of thoughts requires some inventive powers, theirs is ill-made and inaccurate, which induces them rather to make it large than excellent. They have no originality, and possess nothing of their own; they only know what they have learned, and only learn what the rest of the world does not wish to know; a useless and dry science, without any charm or profit, unfit for conversation, nor suitable to intercourse, like a coin which has no currency. We are astonished when we read them, as well as tired out by their conversation or their works. The nobility and the common herd mistake them for men of learning, but intelligent men rank them with pedants.
- The term, then, is obviously a relative one: my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education and someone else’s ignorance.
- H. W. Fowler, Modern English Usage
- The very reason [the Greeks] got so far is that they knew how to pick up the spear and throw it onward from the point where others had left it. Their skill in the art of fruitful learning was admirable. We ought to be learning from our neighbors precisely as the Greeks learned from theirs, not for the sake of learned pedantry but rather using everything we learn as a foothold which will take us up as high, and higher, than our neighbor.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, Marianne Cowan trans., p. 30
- In training a child to activity of thought, above all things we must beware of what I will call "inert ideas"—that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilised, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations.
- In the history of education, the most striking phenomenon is that schools of learning, which at one epoch are alive with a ferment of genius, in a succeeding generation exhibit merely pedantry and routine. The reason is, that they are overladen with inert ideas. Education with inert ideas is not only useless: it is, above all things, harmful — Corruptio optimi, pessima [the corruption of the best is the worst].
- Alfred North Whitehead, “The Aims of Education,” Presidential address to the Mathematical Association of England, 1916