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.”
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.
… always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth …
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.
Being smart means thinking things through - trying to find the real answer, not the first answer.
Being stupid means avoiding thinking by jumping to conclusions.
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.”
For a stupid man there is no absolute truth. He says:”Everything is relativ!” or “What is truth?”
Laws of Stupidity
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 (see the pseudoskeptic community), 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:
- 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.