'Stupid” is a strong word that evokes a strong reaction from many people. Conventionally it might be good advice to avoid using it for the same reason that it is better to avoid using the word “hate.” Neither word probably adequately describes what the speaker intends, nor what might be considered to be in the best long term interests of the speaker’s position. People’s reactions to the word might interfere with communication or with the legitimacy of a proposition. I very rarely use the word “hate,” because just as “love” does not mean a whole lotta liking, “hate” is qualitatively different from a whole lotta disliking. It begs to be mis-taken. Perhaps people feel this even if they do not intellectually know it, which might partly explain the usual strong reaction one encounters. In any event, I think that people are habitually prone to mis-take things, either through misunderstanding based on the inadequacies of language, or else from just plain orneriness
I am prone to using the word “stupid,” however. Or, at least, more prone to using it than I am to using the word “hate.” It’s not because I am an arrogant elitist with an above-average education and inflated opinion of himself who looks down with patronizing hauteur on everyone. (My opinion of myself is not inflated, and my hauteur is actually quite becoming as I say it with a great deal of charm!) Nor is it that I think my country and culture are so much better than any other - au contraire. It’s because I believe in an objective reality - a hotly contested proposition, especially against people who claim unavoidable, universal subjectivism as a scheme to be contrary (and immoral). “Define your terms!” and“How do you know?” are their battle cries as they try to obfuscate debate with a smoke screen of alternative definitions and questionable data.
Truly, I understand subjectivism. It’s a seductively powerful impediment to objectivism and right reason. I used to be a disciple in my youth. So I do not want my dissenters to disqualify me as an outsider unfamiliar with their position by dismissing my familiarity with the fundamentals. God gave us minds to overcome the limitations of our mere senses to aspire for something greater. The idea that reality consists only of what we sense and that each individual experiences a different reality is more a prejudice than a philosophy.
Remember that technical thought is just an extension of everyday thought.
How do we achieve objectivity in an existence where we experience reality only through our subjective senses, frame it according to the paradigms of invented, mutable and sometimes arbitrary language, and communicate it according to fabricated rules of grammar? Well, full-length encyclopedias could not definitively answer that, let alone an 8-page Piper Paper. Second and third party confirmation sure goes a long way, don’t you think? I put a lot of trust in consistent, empirical verification, successful duplication leading to predictable repetition over a duration of time, plus second and third party confirmation, all of which is congruent with real-life experience. Perhaps it’s because I am a product of an Occidental culture where facts habitually define the Truth. And if it all sounds very abstract and technical, remember that technical thought is just an extension of everyday thought.
Judgment and discrimination are good because they make us civilized by making order out of chaos.
Because I believe in an objective reality that is discernable to our minds I suggest that one might actually correctly identify stupidity - and much else besides. Stupid behavior, stupid conclusions, and stupid thinking by people who might rightly be called demonstrably unintelligent and therefore stupid reveal themselves to right reason accompanied by second, third and fourth party confirmation and verified by repeated experience over time. The big objection people have is the accusation - garnished with righteous indignity - that one is being judgmental. The unspoken caveat is that judgment is bad. But what’s wrong with judgment, anyway? Judgment and discrimination are good because they make us civilized by making order out of chaos.
My reply is twofold: first, I am not judging but rather observing, and so I question how correctly observingthat someone or something is stupid can fairly be called chauvinistically or prejudicially - even pejoratively - judgmental? If anything, one might suggest that the act of judgment falls on the stupid people themselves rather than the observers. They are the perpetrators of suspicious lines of thought or behavior. It’s rather like a school teacher who marks incorrect answers on a student’s test paper. The teacher is not judging the student so much as observing the student’s mistakes and reporting the observation. One may all it measuring the student’s progress, or achievement.
Second, the word has a legitimate definition. It’s in the dictionary. Therefore using it properly has less to do with malice than with accurate application. I ought to be congratulated. But then I can be pressed on the “legitimacy”of the definition and on the propriety of my use. Does my usage conform to the terms of the definition?
Stupid: in a state of stupor; dazed; stunned; stupefied; lacking normal intelligence or understanding; slow-witted; dull; foolish; irrational; dull and boring; tiresome.
If I say “dazed,” “stunned,” “tiresome,” etc., I am disqualified for using obsolete usage. (Too bad, because there are so many tiresome people and situations upon whom I would like to release liberal amounts of the adjective.) If I say “a lack of normal intelligence or understanding” I am pressed about the definition of “normal.” If I say “foolish” it can then be pointed out that folly might be culturally or contextually specific and, oddly, intelligence does not stop one from being foolish anyway. There are copious examples of that starting in our prisons and reaching right up to the Prime Minister’s office. If I cite “irrationality” I feel on firmer ground since rationality can be logically demonstrated with mathematical formulae. Even so, some people will always reject logic - perhaps because they don’t understand it in the first place, or maybe because they are argumentative, opportunistic logicians, accepting only the logical conclusions that they agree with and rejecting all the others - which doesn’t seem very smart to me. They might even cite alternative logics. Or, maybe they confuse the adjective “rational”with the adjective “reasonable” with the expectation that it naturally extends to the noun “reason.” This could be a simple mistake or a deliberate strategy. But reasons are not always rational, in which case we might say that some people confuse reasons with mere excuses. It explains a lot of wonky behavior. (But, admittedly, if all of us always thought and behaved only in a purely rational manner it might make the world a much duller place - and “dull” is one other definition of“stupid.”) In any event, there is a lot of confusion floating about, isn’t there?
My idea of stupidity rests heavily on the notion of what is “normal” intelligence, understanding - and behavior, too - not just for specific cultures, but for our entire species, across the planet. Don’t our common senses create reasonable pan-cultural expectations and common human knowledge, like a species-wide pool of information and understanding? But one thing I have learned over the years is that my idea of “public information” or “common knowledge” is considerably vaster than most people’s. Consequently, I find that I know a lot more than many people and I am constantly disappointed in people who are ignorant of what I consider common knowledge. Truly, much of it might be called ‘trivia.’ But in depraved times like these trivia passes as genuine information. Sad but true. Consider how many North Americans wrongly consider the long-running television show Jeopardy a test of intelligence, when in fact we could easily say just the opposite. Most importantly, maybe it is my voice’s giveaway tone of disappointment in people that makes my listeners think I am being judgmental when, in fact, I am being observational.
But I could be wrong.