"In politics, stupidity is not a disadvantage" - Napoleon

Questions of what constitutes stupidity tend to be central in debates on human evolution: stupidity is the one trait that seems to be universally reviled and to be extincted, even if it means extincting the entire species.


The controversial concept of stupidity has various contrasting (but all seemingly objective) definitions:

  • the tendency to commit acts that don't benefit, or actually harm, oneself while doing damage to another - The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity by Carlo M. Cipolla
    • whether a suicide attack can be of benefit to the attacker is controversial - whatever leads to extinction on a personal or species-wide level tends to be seen as stupid although a stupid species may be best off extinct due to pain it causes itself
  • the tendency to support any set of statements that contain an internal contradiction - "the point of view of the stupid" - due Axel Boldt - which randomizes causality assumptions and makes inference impossible
  • a related tendency to believe self-serving or simply corrupt or wildly confused concepts of causality, e.g. the belief that comparing political party figures seeking power over people of a country or region to characters from Seinfeld or Dilbert has somehow "caused" the creation of a special status such as "GPC unperson" without the intervention of a large number of fearful and stupid beliefs & people
  • "the learned corruption of learning", i.e. using belief as way not to learn or even to alter one's whole process of learning so as to make cognitive dissonance a natural normal state, i.e. the evidence of the senses is at war with one's cognition, e.g. to believe your own press releases
  • "the use of one's intelligence to prevent learning" - Craig Hubley
  • "doing the same thing, and expecting different results", e.g. a fixed action pattern as can be easily observed in insects
  • an elaborated definition by Trevor Strong in his book Get Stupid

stupidity in charge

A command hierarchy can actually be "maintained by stupidity". By simply failing to understand a proposal, anyone in a position to block a decision can eventually exhaust less determined opponents. When inane arguments are used to drag out debate, this is called a filibuster.

The Pointy Haired Boss has become an archetype indicating stupidity.

The Myopic Paradigm has been invoked to explain the behaviour of the Bush Administration.

officially defined in Canada

The Government of Canada has a publication called The Stupid Line in which boat safety challenged behaviour is defined as being stupid: there is thus an official government definition of this term at least in this context.

This is a refer link. There is no one agreed definition of this concept. See Stupidity: the documentary by Alfred Nerenberg for a useful introduction to the theoretical principles of stupidity.