September 06, 2004

stupidity vs evil


This link: The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity that Bill posted at Orkut in the "Life, definition" discussion, I have found it very interesting and a trigger of a common place in my conversation with friends. Generally, when a proper talk give space to it, I ask the following question:

  • "What do you prefer? Damage caused by stupid or evil people?(on you, close people or things, or just in general)

  • To clarify the question I will take the definition of the Third Law of Stupidity that the link above states:

  • "A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses. "

  • And I add: A evil person causes losses (in this category it is all implied with loose, pain, damage, harm, illness, etc) looking for some sort of gain, whether he finally can achieve it.

    H: harmfull, I: intelligent, S: stupid, B: bandit (evil)

    I would like to know what do you think. I deeply recommend that you read the link. After some posts I will tell you what are the answers I generally get from my question. In all cases, it always sparked interesting discussions.... let´s see what happens in this neck of the woods.

    10 Comments: (go down to newest )

  • Blogger Cédric ::

  • A quebecian saying goes 'we are always the Iroquois of somebody'.
    Iroquois were north american indians who looked weird because of their funny punky hair.
    I love this saying as it summarizes intolerance and prejudices against different people.
    I think the same goes with stupidity. I think we all are the idiot of somebody.
    I think I am getting less idiotic with age, but I still certainly am the idiot for somebody(ies). Youth is a major reason for stupidity. For lack of experience in taking the blows back. I used to be a young idiot myself and I am still ashamed how stupid I have been...
    But this is the only way to learn, alas.
    Can you be born a non-idiot ? I doubt it...
    Stupidity can be excused, but 'evil' can too (I do not like the 'evil' word as it is loaded with religious background and reminds me of 'the war of good against evil').
    In my experience, 'evil people' also have good excuses, except it is usually more specific and complex than just youth. Sometimes it is so complex, that no-one wants to bother understanding and just name it 'evil', because it suits the religious picture...
    You beat your younger brother because your father beats you, you rape children because you've been raped, you torture because you have been oppressed and despised...
    Evil generates evil, forever... Sheer stupidity might even be at the root of evil...
    I think, in the end, we judge damage by the immediate intention behind the blow, independent of wether the root is evil or plain stupidity. But also, we are so influenced by our cultures and our religions to assess the damage. Cultures and religions teach us the gradation of damage : Suicide is worse than slow death, raping a child is worse than raping an adult, beating a woman is worse than beating a man, stealing is worse than forgery, etc...
    Let's not misunderstand me : I do not mean there is no gradation, and I have my own, like everybody, what I mean is that it is very much defined (including mine) by culture and religion. Which drifts us to another debate...kind of !

    9:28 PM  


  • Blogger OldCola ::

  • A evil person causes losses (in this category it is all implied with loose, pain, damage, harm, illness, etc) looking for some sort of gain, whether he finally can achieve it.
    a) if don't get any gains then he is stupid and evil [wannabe bandit]
    b) else he is just evil [bandit]

    Stupidity isn't a general status characterizing every action of usual people. Anybody can act stupidly or intelligently, depending of the fields and time and mood.
    The same comes for evil. Angels and devils are exceptions. People are mixes of those two aspects. Their actions as well:
    I may want to act as a bandit and cause harm (at least some discomfort) to a person and produce as somehow more general harm, affecting everybody in a team, including my self.
    Or be willing to reward someone and congratulate her, which is beneficial for both of us, then discover that someone else is harmed because he wasn't included in the acknowledgments.
    I hope that I made the point on the complex nature of things ;-)

    Now, evil [bandit] actions are premeditated, while stupidity just indicates an incomplete view of the situation. Both need education to learn to act more intelligently.
    Stupid ones should gain the ability of better evaluation of their acts.
    Evil ones should loose the will of harming people; this is difficult and may be impossible. Sequestration to protect other people may be the only solution, jail.

    This is for overall intelligence persons. Idiots or geniuses should be treated differently.
    Idiots are naturally impaired. All you might expect is to teach them to ask for advice before acting.
    Geniuses are harder to deal with...

    7:39 AM  


  • Blogger Bill Duddy ::

  • Hi, just a couple of comments:

    First, I didn't intend that link to be taken so seriously! It was just a joke. When the guy says things like "One is stupid in the same way one is red-haired; one belongs to the stupid set as one belongs to a blood group. A stupid man is born a stupid man by an act of Providence." I really thought he was joking. Please dont tell me this is meant to be serious.

    As a joke I found it funny. If it is serious I find it insensitive, unhelpful, superficial, arrogant, and ...dare I say it, just plain stupid ;-)

    11:12 AM  


  • Blogger OldCola ::

  • Bill,
    I almost agree with your evaluation! [I do like the illustrations :-D]
    I was less critical about the linked site and more focused on G^2 subject and tried to relativize judgments :-) and talk about stupid or intelligent actions rather the people.
    Carlo should give it a second try if it should be taken seriously and probably consult some comportmentalists.

    But the stupidity vs evilness topics can stand alone.

    4:38 PM  


  • Blogger Gisela Giardino ::

  • I am hearing you with attention. It is very interesing for me to know and learn from your views on the subject. Even from the very beginning, which is to see whast do you understand this subject is about.

    I am interested in all the things that this can trigger. It is true what OldC and Bill says, I didn´t wante to go to far myself into the "seriousness" of the link, but yet, it is also true that I believe that it us right in some aprecitations.

    For example, I think that treating "stupidity" just as such, without any other intentionality or doble dealing is something important.

    I read the link and I found it over all: a call for tolerance. (Though I knew that Bill posted in a humorous context, I know!) Believe it or not, I didn´t found it arrogant, even when I can say that the registry the writer uses to says the things he says sounds arrogant. But born in tolerance I welcome that as well.

    If there are evil, stupid people, or those adjectives can be appplied to actions and not to the ones that do them, in any case we all (bandits, stupids, helpless, intelligents) be tolerant. But to be tolerant I have to be able first to recognize what I can be tolerant to.

    Finally I say that in the typology I found myself in the "Helpless" square first of all. I whish that all relations would be a win-win... but when I cannot achieve that I certainly let the other win.

    And that in my eyes in something very "stupid", becuase I oftenly got hurted and damaged for letting the other do his/her will... As old cola says, this shows complexity of life (as I undertsand it as well) and how many different experiences and points of view we can have.

    Thank you and please I am willing to hear you.

    La Femme

    5:32 PM  


  • Blogger Bill Duddy ::

  • Gisela,

    I think it's sad if, upon reading it, you now consider your own altruistic actions as stupid. When you allow someone else the freedom to have their way, and they choose to go their way at a cost to you, surely it is they who have lost, because they missed the opportunity to help someone who could later help them.

    You are richer than they, because you could afford to give them that freedom. If they have nothing to give, then they are poor. You can still give, so you will always be rich.

    Having said that, perhaps I am being hypocritical here - sometimes I find myself in situations like this, when I give people freedom and they choose a direction that is damaging to me, and it leaves me feeling foolish too. I do it less and less the more I learn. Am I becoming more poor, less stupid, or both? ;-)

    10:54 PM  


  • Blogger Gisela Giardino ::

  • 4 things:

    First, forgive my typing atrocities. Now that I am getting used to this "no editing posible" feature of comments, I will be more careful before pushing the "publish button". Tks.

    Now, in my last post I didn´t make any mention to Cedric´s post. And not because I didn´t have comments about it. I find it enriching that you bring the cultural issue to the discussion. Yes, from a very elevated (spiritual or universal) point of view, it is true that actions cannot be damaging in themselves. It is our subjective apreciation on the results that leads to say that damage has been done. That is what I like of the reading were it says that bandits that are fewer, but should be the best bandits, are those who take from you exactly what they win. I steal 100 from you, now I have 100. The group "you-me (alive)" is estable as a whole, no disbalanced has been caused. Yet "damage" (i took the money). But if I kill you for your 100... then there is no more a "you-me" group like before. You are dead. And I have done more than necessary for just your 100. and the game is over cause I can steal form you anymore. I am a stupid bandit.

    Look to the analogy between Animals and Humans.

    I am from a firm believer in the complexity and chaos inherent to our universe, so I understand also that ontologically nothing is "intelligent" nor "stupid"... neither "criminal" or "holy"... there is no "Damage", nor "Contruction". This is my inner absolute relativism.

    All those above are for me, judgements upon things. Not necessarily prejudices, but as you point out, subjective apreciations.

    3) I find this topic important because it helps me understand behaviours of people that surround/ed me.

    I can understand part of their system of values from the very first second when they try to understand in their own terms what I mean with my question. Each of us has a personal value for "stupidity", "evil", "intelligence", "helplessness".And I always find some kind of incommodity in answering. The ones that consider themselves "intelligent" try to be humble and modest, the "stupid" ones make an apology of stupidity being "better" than bandalism, the "bandits" look to my eyes like saying "why do you want to know?" and try to say nothing... and the "helpless" tell me if there is something they did that made me ask.

    In any case, talking about evil and stupidity seems to be a Taboo. And it is necessary to break the spell of taboos, at least for me.

    Last. Bill, my I don´t confuse my altruism with my stupidity, don´t worry. And even more I say: I preffer being judge as stupid when I am being altruist, or being judge as an altruist when I wass definitely a stupid.... rather than being treated as a bandit while trying to win my part in a win win realtion, or being treated like an intelligent girl while I was really trying being a plain bandit.

    Pascal said "sorry for this long letter but I haven´t have time to make it shorter." ...sorry I say too.

    12:44 AM  


  • Blogger Ideasware ::

  • Gisela, I love you for breaking taboos (among the other reasons, and all the unreasons).

    As for the question -- evil is worse than stupidity. All of us are stupid (a la the Iroqois observation), but we are not all evil. We can be forgiven our errors, but not our evil -- that is why I believe it is good and right to fight evil, but to forgive our enemies. The meaning of free will is that we are responsible for our choices, but not for our ignorance.

    This does not mean that I enjoy ignorance.

    It pisses me off no end when I deal with some idiot customer service rep who is incapable of understanding what I am saying, let alone dealing with it... but my primary wrath is directed at those who purposely set up the system to take advantage of the reps' ignorance and impotence for their own ends, and are doing everything they can to condition consumers to low expectations.

    And stupidity generally is annoying in people, who can do better. All kids are smart, almost all adults are stupid. That's why I only exist in the rarified world of La Femme's communities.

    4:03 AM  


  • Blogger kasimir-k ::

  • No one is evil, no one is stupid. Actions may be, persons not.

    5:24 PM  


  • Blogger epp ::

  • In our family, "stupid" is a forbidden word - just as "hate" is. "Stupid" is replaced with something that is the equivalent of "I think that was not well thought out but I can offer a better way..." "Hate," however is a word that needs meditation, translation and explanation. The word "hate" thereby becomes transformed into the impulse to create its opposite

    4:36 PM  


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