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By Dr. Uladzimir TRATSIAKOU
The stupidity as a problem
It is known from Frenchmen: “Le trait characteristique de la betise c’est qu’elle ne s’explique pas”. I.e.: “Characteristic trait of the stupidity is that it is unknowable”.
We feel an insult in this utterance: it is no big pleasure for author of the aphorism to confess to something what he is not able to apprehend, but he does it wishing to look as quite not familiar with the stupidity. At that, he shows in this his sense of humor.
Let us try to cast a glance at the science with panoramic view. We may see then not very big island of well set scientific knowledge washed by huge ocean of unknowable. There where the island’s littoral, it is seen turbid water of near-scientific knowledge, and bottom of true is only slightly visible through. The ocean may appear bottomless, but it would be stupid being stood on firm scientific ground of the island, to say that to the bottom, i.e. to the true, nobody will have reached ever. The aphorism is in explicit contradiction with such the panoramic view, so we may diagnose a narrow panorama of his thinking. If so, we may doubt that the stupidity is unknowable.
However, this conclusion is based on metaphoric likening panoramic view to panoramic thinking, and therefore may not consider convincing. It means that a doubt remains that it is possible to admit unknowable stupidity. Another thing if to prove in concrete way how and what it is springing up from...
Let Cicero’s saying known more than two millennia be in this a stimulus. «How deep are roots of the stupidity!» –in such way Cicero expressed his astonishment by manifold appearances of human thoughtlessness.
When we look like stupid
There is necessity here to compose a sufficiently representative list of «stupid» situations, and then, maybe, it will be possible to have seen any common root which all appearances of the stupidity are growing up from.
Naturally, this list should not contain situations, in which people find themselves not of own wills, but of outer obstacles, not depending of them. It may happen even with the very clever. Or, because of those situations which people create purposely (for example, for to cause comic effect or to gain sympathy of themselves).
Well, a person finds oneself in stupid situation when:
- being in presence of others, behaves not adequately (in the sense of mimics, gestures, style of speaking). At that the more people see and hear that someone the higher inadequacy felt by everyone;
- being politician or public figure, utters publicly something with pretensions to profundity or wit, not remarking at that own utterance’s ambiguity (V.S.Chernomyrdin: «A government, it is not such the organ where only by the tongue »; A.G.Lukashenko: «Belarusian people will be living badly but not long»); - finding at the company, where the humor is highly rated, makes unlucky attempts to be wit;
- being at work meeting or conference, admits slip of the tongue giving someone’s speech quite not business sense («humor against one’s will»);
- while being in interrelation with others, shows unbalanced traits, quarrelsome character and unmotivated aggressiveness; demonstrates arrogance and haughtiness; thrusts as an sample on others own trifling pedantry and absurd thoughts. Mental abilities of such people are rated especially lowly when those are chiefs.
About the faith
Fools and stupid people are considered as well those, who are too naive and trustful. Among those who think so, any special interest, sometimes linked with criminal investigations, form these who use «foolish» and «stupid» of such the kind in mercenary purposes. As for naive and trustful people, it is spread and maintained among them justification of such the qualities shown by them and others, as a certification that their mental organization is peculiar, untouched and “not-sullied”. They may even word «my foolish» use as caressing.
In a sense, the seal of the same naivety linked with trustfulness, is posted onto all believers. It is especially remarkable among those who don’t doubt their faith. Although we know since times of ancient Rome and ancient Greece the wisdom what reached us and until now used: «Call all in question!» Productive thinking, carrying towards right conclusions, may not be without it. True, a believer may object: «But unbelief, it is a faith as well! So, this faith may be questioned too!» I am agreed, it is good to stay own unbelief under doubt as well, to confront «pros» and «contras», to take into consideration not only what the science achieved. But it means to think, i.e. to do that what is considered for believers blameworthy. (As far as I know, the Fathers of the Church until now disavowed Thomas of Aquinas : «I belief as it’s absurdity»).
I have to call in question my own conclusion connecting naivety, trustfulness and faith with stupidity’s appearances. This connection may not be considered indissoluble, because… we can’t make do without a faith. Even in the science, striving for to be proved, it is used to use references onto other authors, i.e. to take on trust their facts, reasons and theories. And then, if you completely confide in scientific experiments, reasons and theories, you may claim with sureness about your unbelief.
Attitude to stupidity
Let us imagine in «caressing context» words «scum», «shit», «beast», «scoundrel», «villain»? It’s not so easy, isn’t it? But «fool», let in form «little fool» or «my foolish», is an example such unusual transfer of a negative characteristic into positive one. It suggests an idea about wide diffusion stupidity as a quality, more exactly, about frequent its appearances, so much frequent, that sharpness of perception is vanishing. Really, why does verdict of others’ stupidity pass, if we ourselves are sinning as well? Ivan Turgenev, who said: «There is not more painful than realizing own only just done stupidity» -- is very likely unintelligible for the most people. Self-consolation is more customary: «Well, I’ve done something foolish, but what a calamity! It’s necessary to be clever in future».
However, light, ironic and mocking relation to others’ stupidity has not to do with those cases when its appearances have hard after-effects for many people. It means that if those who have done soothing foolish are managers, they should think up how to go out of stupid situation that alleviate it. For example, punishing the guilty or bringing in a verdict of guilty those who are appointed to take this part).
Stupidity as thoughtlessness
Wide list of stupidity’s appearances may be presented under this name, committed by those who don’t consider themselves fools, and others don’t as well. The question is just about UNDER-thinking, or thoughtlessness. The people might think all through adequately, but something had hampered. What may hamper – let it will be the criterion for the classification of stupidity’s appearances.
Speaking and behaving, we use our knowledge and experience gained earlier. What is needed in concrete situation may be remembered not fully or with distortion. Well, then we may have forgot what had intention to do or promised to; or expressed thoughts / advanced opinions on others such ones, which we regretted later about; or, reflecting, we fail to take account of something and come to incorrect conclusions (in the science – to erroneous theories and publications, being later objects of critical evaluations); or, being in intercourse with friends or relatives, we cling to any moments of disagreement and became (mutually!) personal, in result our relations are cooling and even broken off; or, intending to hide any truth being unpleasant for us, we become entangled in lies and look pitiable and stupid.
I didn’t stay my task to give full list of situations where people show their under-thinking. The said above is quite sufficient to transfer onto explaining chapter.
All above are explained
… if to look at us from evolution point of view. Our pre-history had been hard survival, what pre-determined narrow field of consciousness and now may be diagnosed as shortage of panoramic thinking (SPT). In states of danger, in extreme situations of assault and defense the field of consciousness narrows up to the only dominant hearth. For our animal ancestors and pre-people, it had been more frequently good. Really, from «to come through» point of view, it’d been important to react adequately: for those being attacked to avoid jeopardizes, for those attacking not to be late with assault (as for the most predators «to survive» in the most cases means «not to die of starvation»).
That is why any situation of intercourse with other people, especially being at enmity with us, aggravates SPT even if a little, because acquired instincts operate arising our psychological tension. The base of thinking process, because of narrowed (after the principle of dominant hearth) field of consciousness, is getting poorer. While being in the stress, our field of consciousness narrows especially strongly, that is why the diagnosis – shortage of panoramic thinking – proved to be sometimes even criminal.
Let’s take into consideration that each of us, and it is as well an after-cause of our evolution pre-history, divides all existing after dichotomy: I and all the remain or I and all others. In other words, we are primordially awful ego-centrists, and nobody may go away of such the perception of the world. Just because of that, we used to find difficulties in standing onto another’s point of view, in understanding others. In short, it may be named guarded, suspicious or even aggressive relation to any otherness. Because of this, it is unbelievably difficult to be unbiased. So «others» always were and will be: of other by birth, other profession, of other social status, of other sex, of other nationality, of other race, of other faith, and frontiers between different «others» were and will be complicated with conflicts; good, if not military ones.
Let’s turn to the subject of foolishness. The point of view that we are characterized by SPT and emotion responds to the otherness permit to understand that each of us is «able» to be stupid sometimes. I mean here situations when there are grounds to counter that anybody «has done something foolish».
Let’s mark that the frontier between under-thinking and simply stupidity as a characteristic of an individual is conventional and depends on which communities we show our SPT. It is needed that someone’s «has done something foolish» be usual and customary for many, and then they get grounds to counter that someone more foolish than themselves and to designate someone as a fool.
Thus, human beings are «able» to reveal their stupidity which is realized not aside only but themselves as well. Some people by old ages come to realizing their life was lived in stupid way. The very death may be unworthy of someone, when people say: «Died by own stupidity». Moreover, the apprehending the evolution aggravation of human mentality admits not only to explain diverse appearances of stupidity, but to come to not comforting, hard for acceptance conclusion:
The human stupidity may have been of the global scale
Here are some perplexed questions.
- Heads of states come to decisions which have influence on millions people’s fates. 3rd world war in 1963 did not begin by a lucky chance only. Why then mistakes of thoughtlessness of those influential people did stay until now a topic of continual, intent many-disciplinary researching?
- In the world overloaded with information, it designed all more perfect systems searching the necessary information. Why then the world education holds with obstinacy as 1st priority to teach the knowledge but not abilities to operate with the knowledge and treat it, i.e. abilities to think and reason effectively?
- The U.N. had been created once that separate sides having been at the war and provide solutions of arising conflicts. So, the solutions adopted by the U.N., reflected always current balance of interests of the states being this world organization’s participants. In other words, its activity was and is determined by a juncture and is not adjusted strategically for perspective of decades. Why then states–members of the U.N. uniting the nations of all the world (how its name certifies) until now have stood the goal to reform the U.N. so that it gain any functions of global brain?
- The human being is flouting the Nature: after data of biologists, Earth lost a year about 30 thousands species of living organisms. Why then there is no learning at schools how to be responsible for the planet all?
- There are many alarming signals on the systems troubles of human civilization, on approaching global catastrophes, even with mighty depopulations. Why then all this is not stimulus for any serious, systems, preventive actions?
- All human civilization had been created owing the brainwork of those who are now called people of intelligent labor. Just because of this, those might consider their historical mission to elaborate a strategy of existence and development of the humankind, the strategy what might minimize threats of civilization's extermination and self-extermination, to be corrected then "in course of the life". Is the situation insufficiently bad and only weakly threatening that we tackle forming a collective mind of the planet?
- The humankind, being considered in manifold of mutual ties and mutual dependences, looks more and more like a single super-organism. How our civilization may be reconciled with that it is till now “super-brainless”?
- There is masse of not resolved global, threatening problems, to cope with which is possible at maximal strength of collective mind of global scale. All-Planet Institute of Global Problems, when we have at disposal Internet, might be started forming even since last 1980s. Why then it is doing until now?
- While scenic dramas are playing, the hand-gun having been hanging at the 1st act, has to shoot at 3rd one after the law of the genre. Where a sureness of the most people is taken from, that the weapons of massive extermination having been accumulated in 2nd Millennium, will not «shoot» in the 3rd?
In place of a conclusion
How after all these perplexed questions to believe that our civilization will avoid a fate to have made a foolish mistake, the mistake being of scale, tragic, global and fatal?
P.S. Living at conditions of the wild nature, having formed our mentality, successful survival might be only when our ancestors having learned to foresee dangers. So foresight of global catastrophes might get in principle any stimulus for resolute actions. There is however “but”: humans, as that burdens by the evolution process be psychologically more easily bearable, started worshiping the Idol of Human Race, i.e. believing in the truth of preferable and, correspondingly, unbelieving in the truth of undesirable. So, we may merely move away from any unpleasant problems, ignoring them -- how it is practiced till now… So, any hope is but very insignificant.
07/30/09 Reply by Roan CARRATU to the essay
The thoughts following will not argue against pessimism. Rather, they are intended as neutral with respect to that matter. We can choose our actions, but not the outcomes which will follow (or not) after those actions. Whether or not it is still possible at this point to pull humanity out of its nosedive, I figure we still have to give it our best try, just for integrity's sake.
Ad Modeling: I very like the idea of "modeling" panoramic thinking, moreover without quotation marks, and in your vision of software "training wheels" to practice panoramic thinking I see opinions of a specialist on information technologies. I'd be glad to go on this subject because I could help in creation of such software as apprehending the origin and appearance of scarcity of panoramic thinking.