In praise of folly

What constitutes a lack of knowledge when it applies to intellectual life and science? Is there a special, modern unintelligence? Is it possible to speak of stupidity among scientists?

The French philosopher Jean-Michel Couvreur provides an initial framework in La bêtise se soigne-t-elle? (2004). There should be a distinction between stupidity and the lack of information in a field a person does not claim to have any knowledge in. When people are called stupid, they are considered so because they should understand or they claim to understand something that they do not know.

Another French philosopher, Michel Adam, has devoted an entire book, Essai sur la bêtise (1975), to stupidity, enumerating the following qualities in stupid people:

• They are not interested in knowledge.

• They do not accept intellectual exertion.

• Their thinking is not based in reality.

• Nor are they bothered by ...

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Inger Enkvist

Professor emerita i spanska vid Lunds universitet.

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