is a lack of intelligence
Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving....
Understanding is a psychological process related to an abstract or physical object, such as a person, situation, or message whereby one is able to think about it and use concepts to deal adequately with that object....
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...
Wit is a form of intellectual humour, and a wit is someone skilled in making witty remarks. Forms of wit include the quip and repartee.-Forms of wit:...
, or sense
Senses are physiological capacities of organisms that provide inputs for perception. The senses and their operation, classification, and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology , and philosophy of perception...
. It may be innate, assumed, or reactive - 'being "stupid with grief" as a defence against trauma
Trauma can refer to:-In psychology and medicine:* Trauma , an often serious and body-altering physical injury, such as the removal of a limb...
', a state marked with 'grief and despair...making even simple daily tasks a hardship'.
Oeijord, in his critique of Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation....
, argued that 'creative stupidity and able misfits prove the existence of the human learning instincts...[that] can exist because instincts are highly independent'.
Etymology of the word
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
Foolishness is the lack of wisdom. In this sense it differs from stupidity, which is the lack of intelligence. An act of foolishness is sometimes referred to as a folly....
An idiot, dolt, or dullard is a mentally deficient person, or someone who acts in a self-defeating or significantly counterproductive way. Archaically the word mome has also been used. The similar terms moron, imbecile, and cretin have all gained specialized meanings in modern times. An idiot is...
," "dumb," "moron
Moron is a term once used in psychology to denote mild mental retardation. The term was closely tied with the American eugenics movement. Once the term became popularized, it fell out of use by the psychological community, as it was used more commonly as an insult than as a psychological...
," and related concepts as a pejorative appellation for human misdeeds, whether purposeful or accidental, due to absence of mental capacity.
The word "stupidest" is increasingly common in newspapers.
Definition of Stupidity
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 infer a congenital lack of capacity for reasoning, or a temporary state of daze or slow-mindedness.
James F. Wells, Ph. D., in his book, "Understanding Stupidity," defines stupidity thusly, "The term may be used to designate a mentality which is considered to be informed, deliberate and maladaptive." Dr. 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. According to Dr. Welles, mental schemas, which help us adapt to our environment and process new ideas, can also, simultaneously, be maladaptive: "However adaptive a schema may be, it will also be maladaptive to the extent that built-in biases compromise data so that perceptions will conform to expectations and desires. In addition, a schema's behavioral program (which presumably was adaptive when formed) might become maladaptive as conditions change. If fundamental conditions change significantly, maintaining a schema may be maladaptive. On the other hand, altering behavior to fit fantasies may also be maladaptive. Just when and how much change is needed are very subjective matters, and the schema is inherently biased about maintaining both its integrity and existence."
Laws of Stupidity
The economic historian Carlo Maria Cipolla
Carlo M. Cipolla was an Italian economic historian. He was born in Pavia, where he got his academic degree in 1944....
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
The Mafia is a criminal syndicate that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in Sicily, Italy. It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct, and whose common enterprise is protection racketeering...
and the industrial complex
Industrial complex may refer to:* A factory or collection of buildings relating to industrial production* Animal industrial complex, a term from the critical animal studies coined by Barbara Noske to describe the social production of the institutionalized exploitation of nonhuman animals.*...
, 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:
- Always and inevitably each of us underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
- The probability that a given person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic possessed by that person.
- A person is stupid if they cause damage to another person or group of people without experiencing personal gain, or even worse causing damage to themselves in the process.
- Non-stupid people always underestimate the harmful potential of stupid people; they constantly forget that at any time anywhere, and in any circumstance, dealing with or associating themselves with stupid individuals invariably constitutes a costly error.
- A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person there is.
Friedrich Salomon Perls , better known as Fritz Perls, was a noted German-born psychiatrist and psychotherapist of Jewish descent....
claimed of Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...
's remark that '"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity"' that 'what is much more widespread than the actual
stupidity is the playing
stupid, turning off your ear, not listening, not seeing'.
Eric Berne was a Canadian-born psychiatrist best known as the creator of transactional analysis and the author of Games People Play.-Background and education:...
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
Klein may refer to:*Klein, Montana, United States*Klein, Texas, United States*Klein , a family name and persons so named*Klein Tools, a manufacturer*Klein , a lunar feature* A brand of bicycle owned by Trek Bicycle Corporation...
as 'outlined by Wilfred Bion
Wilfred Ruprecht Bion DSO was an influential British psychoanalyst, who became president of the British Psychoanalytical Society from 1962 to 1965....
is a consequence of the massive tendency toward projection
Psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people...
and the resulting inability to internalize new knowledge' in the arrogant.
Otto Fenichel was a psychoanalyst of the so-called "second generation".Otto Fenichel started studying medicine in 1915 in Vienna. Already as a very young man, when still in school, he was attracted by the circle of psychoanalysts around Freud...
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
Doris May Lessing CH is a British writer. Her novels include The Grass is Singing, The Golden Notebook, and five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos....
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'.
Persisting in folly
In the Romantic
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...
reaction to the Enlightenment, a valorisation of the irrational
Irrationality is cognition, thinking, talking or acting without inclusion of rationality. It is more specifically described as an action or opinion given through inadequate reasoning, emotional distress, or cognitive deficiency...
, of the foolish and stupid, emerged, epitomised for example in William Blake
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...
's dictum that 'if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise'. A century later, Jung
Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist, an influential thinker and the founder of analytical psychology.Jung may also refer to:* Jung * JUNG, Java Universal Network/Graph Framework-See also:...
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 , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...
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
Différance - French term coined by Jacques Derrida and homophonous with the word "différence". Différance plays on the fact that the French word différer means both "to defer" and "to differ." Derrida first uses the term différance in his 1963 paper "Cogito et histoire de la folie"...
The fool or buffoon has been a central character in much comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...
. 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. Today there is a wide array of television shows that showcase stupidity such as The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical parody of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie...
The first book in English on stupidity was A Short Introduction to the History of Stupidity
by Walter B. Pitkin
Walter Boughton Pitkin was an American lecturer in philosophy and psychology at Columbia University , and professor in the Columbia University School of Journalism...
According to In Search of Stupidity
In Search of Stupidity is a book written by Merrill Rick Chapman, first published in 2003. This book explores, in a humorous tone, the art and science of management used by high-technology companies....
: Over Twenty Years of High Tech Marketing Disasters,
(2003) by Merrill R. Chapman:
"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.
was a 2003 movie directed by Albert Nerenberg
Albert Nerenberg is a Canadian independent filmmaker, actor, journalist, and laughologist. His films include Stupidity , Escape to Canada , Let's All Hate Toronto , and Laughology...
. 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
The Darwin Awards are a tongue-in-cheek honor, created by Wendy Northcutt to recognize individuals who contribute to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool through putting themselves in life-threatening situations...
honour people who ensure the long-term survival of the human race by removing themselves from the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion.
The World Stupidity Awards
The World Stupidity Awards is an award ceremony that recognizes achievement in ignorance and stupidity during the past year. The WSA was founded in 2003 by filmmaker Albert Nerenberg. The awards were sponsored by comedy festival Just for Laughs to 2007. Lewis Black, an American comedian, hosted the...
are granted in several categories: statement, situation, trend, achievement; man, movie, and media outlet
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
Plain old telephone service is the voice-grade telephone service that remains the basic form of residential and small business service connection to the telephone network in many parts of the world....
or even a non-cordless phone as opposed to the more modern "smartphones" or cordlesses.