Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Forms of Foolishness and How to Resist Them

Originally posted on April 11, 2011

The point of this series is that knowing about the various types snares and traps that lure us into foolishness may help us to resist or minimize their impact. What I mean by “foolishness” is sort of compounding of ignorance and pride. The ignorance is morally neutral: There are innumerable items we don’t know—and a million times that that nobody knows! The pride part makes mere ignorance into stupidity. “Stupidity” (as I use the term) is the opposite of intellectual humility. It is a lapse into the illusion that what we don’t know is sufficient. Variations include what we don’t know won’t hurt us, ignorance is bliss, and other rationalizations for a situation that should rather move us to ask some questions. Stupidity is a kind of subtle pridefulness: I don’t need to learn, I know enough.

Of course, this is often true for limited periods of time and a limited range of situations. But as our culture becomes more complex, as things change, complacence shifts from being mere peace of mind to almost willful blindness, denial. So the point here is to keep as a lively idea in mind the question as to whether I might need to wake up more and catch up with what’s up.

Foolishness is a compounding of stupidity upon stupidity: From this illusion it is easy to get defensive when confronted with ideas or people who point out holes in one’s reasoning, or contrary evidence. The thing to do, obviously, is not to re-consider one’s position. (That would be wisdom, not stupidity!) No, it compounds into foolishness as one devalues the source of the contrary information: “Aw, he don’t know nothin’! He’s just one of them big-city types, or elitist intellectuals!” I call this mixture of stupidity and devaluation “ignoramus.” Actually, we don’t have terms for the different kinds of foolishness. And I reserve “foolishness” itself for the mixture of ignorance, stupidity, and ignoramus, compounded repeatedly. These ideas can generate a kind of mental thickness that can draw upon the amplifying unconscious (discussed in another web-posting) to come up with seemingly clever or at least plausible reasons to not change its mind.

In other words, to know how to resist the seductions of the more common forms of foolishness, it is necessary to become aware that we are being seduced, lured into slack-brained semi-consciousness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *