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Stupidity is a lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit, or sense. It may be innate, assumed, or reactive - "being 'stupid with grief' as a defence against psychological trauma", a state marked with "grief and despair...making even simple daily tasks a hardship."
Stupidity is a quality or state of being stupid, or an act or idea that exhibits properties of being stupid. The root word stupid, which can serve as an adjective or noun, comes from the Latin verb stupere, for being numb or astonished, and is related to stupor: in Roman culture, "the stupidus of the mimes" was a sort of "professional buffoon - the 'fall-man', the eternal he-who-gets-kicked."
According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, the words "stupid" and "stupidity" entered the English language in 1541. Since then, stupidity has taken place along with "fool," "idiot," "dumb," "moron," and related concepts as a pejorative appellation for human misdeeds, whether purposeful or accidental, due to absence of mental capacity.
The modern English word "stupid" has a broad range of application, from being slow of mind (indicating a lack of intelligence, care or reason), dullness of feeling or sensation (torpidity, senseless, insensitivity), or lacking interest or point (vexing, exasperating). It can either imply a congenital lack of capacity for reasoning, or a temporary state of daze or slow-mindedness.
In Understanding Stupidity, James F. Welles defines stupidity this way: "The term may be used to designate a mentality which is considered to be informed, deliberate and maladaptive." Welles distinguishes stupidity from ignorance; one must know they are acting in their own worst interest. Secondly, it must be a choice, not a forced act or accident. Lastly, it requires the activity to be maladaptive, in that it is in the worst interest of the actor, and specifically done to prevent adaption to new data or existing circumstances."
The economic historian Carlo Maria Cipolla is famous for his essays about human stupidity. The essay, The Fundamental Laws of Human Stupidity, explores the controversial subject of stupidity. Stupid people are seen as a group, more powerful by far than major organizations such as the Mafia and the industrial complex, which without regulations, leaders or manifesto nonetheless manages to operate to great effect and with incredible coordination. These are Cipolla's five fundamental laws of stupidity:
Eric Berne described the game of "Stupid" as having "the thesis...'I laugh with you at my own clumsiness and stupidity.'" He points out that for the protagonist (White), "there is considerable external gain, since the less White learns, the more effectively he can play....He has known from an early age that everyone will be satisfied with him as long as he is stupid, despite any expressions to the contrary. People are surprised when in times of stress, if he decides to come through, it turns out that he is not stupid at all - any more than is the 'stupid' younger son in the fairy tale."
In a Kleinian view[disambiguation needed] as "outlined by Wilfred Bion...pseudo-stupidity is a consequence of the massive tendency toward projection and the resulting inability to internalize new knowledge" in the arrogant.
Otto Fenichel maintained that "quite a percentage of so-called feeble-mindedness turns out to be pseudo-debility, conditioned by inhibition....Every intellect begins to show weakness when affective motives are working against it". He suggests that "people become stupid ad hoc, that is, when they do not want to understand, where understanding would cause anxiety or guilt feeling, or would endanger an existing neurotic equilibrium."
In rather different fashion, Doris Lessing argued that "there is no fool like an intellectual...a kind of clever stupidity, bred out of a line of logic in the head, nothing to do with experience."
In the Romantic reaction to the Enlightenment, a valorisation of the irrational, of the foolish and stupid, emerged, epitomised for example in William Blake's dictum that "if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise." A century later, Jung would emphasise that "it requires no art to become stupid; the whole art lies in extracting wisdom from stupidity. Stupidity is the mother of the wise, but cleverness never."
Michel Foucault argued "categories...guarantee our intelligence and form the a priori of excluded stupidity", so that (in order to profit from the excluded) "the philosopher must be sufficiently perverse to play the game of truth and error badly...to persist in his confrontation with stupidity, to remain motionless to the point of stupefaction in order to approach it successfully and mime it, to...await the shock of difference."
The fool or buffoon has been a central character in much comedy. Alford and Alford found that humor based on stupidity was prevalent in "more complex" societies as compared to some other forms of humor. Some analysis of Shakespeare's comedy has found that his characters tend to hold mutually contradictory positions; because this implies a lack of careful analysis it indicates stupidity on their part.
The first book in English on stupidity was A Short Introduction to the History of Stupidity by Walter B. Pitkin (1932):
|“||Stupidity can easily be proved the supreme Social Evil. Three factors combine to establish it as such. First and foremost, the number of stupid people is legion. Secondly, most of the power in business, finance, diplomacy and politics is in the hands of more or less stupid individuals. Finally, high abilities are often linked with serious stupidity.||”|
According to In Search of Stupidity: Over Twenty Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters, (2003) by Merrill R. Chapman:
|“||The claim that high-tech companies are constantly running into 'new' and 'unique' situations that they cannot possibly be expected to anticipate and intelligently resolve is demonstrably false....The truth is that technology companies are constantly repeating the same mistakes with wearying consistency...and many of the stupid things these companies do are completely avoidable.||”|
"While In Search of Excellence turned out to be a fraud, In Search of Stupidity is genuine, and no names have been changed to protect the guilty," according to one reviewer.
Stupidity was a 2003 movie directed by Albert Nerenberg. It depicted examples and analyses of stupidity in modern society and media, and sought "to explore the prospect that willful ignorance has increasingly become a strategy for success in the realms of politics and entertainment."
The Darwin Awards honour people who ensure the long-term survival of the human race by removing themselves from the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion.
Used as a term to retrospectively apply to an earlier generation of technology. For example "stupid-phone" to apply to a 2.5G mobile or POTS or even a non-cordless phone as opposed to the more modern "smartphones" or cordlesses.
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