Can Narcissists really appreciate or even understand art humor or other forms of higher thinking?
You're trying to turn them into some sub-human species. Narcissism just means that they are self absorbed. Technically, the term means "self love", but they are people, have aspirations, concerns, phobias and most even have a sense of humor.
It is true, however, that many narcissists have difficulty "getting" jokes or understanding hints. It has been noted that this narcissistic trait can resemble autism. This may be due, at least in part, to the emotional dissonance they self create and nurture in themselves. They also lack empathy and "other mindedness", which may prevent an understanding of someone else's metaphors or reasoning. And there is often a resistance to understanding humor. Since interpreting "higher" forms of humor can mean deferring one's own sense of reality in order to get into "someone else's mindset", a narcissist may feel that to do so would mean relinquishing his own sense of superiority over the rest of the human race. A narcissist must always be the cleverest and most superior person in the room. To detach from one's "human" qualities and to see the rest of the human race as inferior can limit the scope of humor to sarcasm and crassness. Or simpler imagery. A narcissist will often come to see himself almost as a Spockian computer, and though he may laugh along with jokes when he sees others do so, the response is often a forced one.
Narcissism has been called the mental illness of our time, meaning that our misguided attempts at child discipline hasn't really worked and some of them have turned into self absorbed jerks. But even self absorbed jerks are people.
Don't confuse narcissists with psychopaths or sociopaths. That's a completely different animal, and animal is the right word.
Narcissists Narcissists can be highly intelligent, passionate and for sure have many desired traits, such as a sense of humor.
These traits are how they attract wonderful people to them in the first place.
Narcissists can be extremely dangerous abusive people. Of course narcissists are people, but are lacking in ways we associate with being human, such as having empathy, remorse or caring about others if they hurt them. Narcissists can pretend to feel love and may show loving, generous and kind behavior and actions, but this is for appearances. The people who are close to a narcissist see a person so different that it doesn't seem like the same person.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a pathological disorder and many narcissists are psychopaths and sociopaths, or both.
There are plenty of older narcissists however the media today uses the term loosely by labeling people who are self absorbed, arrogant, competitive and who have grand views of themselves as narcissists.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder far exceeds the mere label of a self absorbed person. Plenty of good people may be self absorbed. The same is true with other labels such as selfish, conceited and arrogant. These words may well be part of a narcissist's personality, but not necessarily. They certainly do not describe Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Narcissists abuse people. The abuse from a person with NPD, especially what is considered malignant Narcissistic Personality Disorder leaves victims horribly traumatized.
Domestic violence is usually hidden, especially when it's in the form of psychological abuse.
"Sub-human," isn't the same as saying a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder lacks the emotions we generally associate with being human.
There is a continuum of narcissism and a person who has the personality disorder is a person who cannot love, unless you believe that love includes severe intentional psychological abuse.
As to a severe narcissist, his or her concerns, phobias, and aspirations will surely be all about him or her.
Many people with NPD are intelligent and passionate people. Unfortunately, this only makes them better at abusing the people close to them.
Perhaps a narcissist can understand forms of higher thinking, but do they appreciate anything that doesn't feed their narcissistic supply?