Many times we here in political and academic circles or through the media about people being stupid. It is never really the most polite term to use, but whether it is blatantly said or subtly hinted at, it exists in our world and has since antiquity. So why are people stupid? It's an accusation that often has no reason or description supporting it. Usually, it is a term used when someone disagrees with someone else, or they're merely angry. So what makes someone deserving of such harsh condemnation?
One of the main reasons for someone being “stupid” or having a lack of understanding is due to their ignorance. They simply have not had the education or experience of studying a certain subject or issue. Many problems are usually involved, and it takes a great deal of time and attention to figure out what all of the causes or elements of that particular topic are.
As mentioned before most issues and subjects are complex. Reductionism leaves a person unwise because they refuse to consider all of the factors of that specific matter. They have reduced it to only one element. Thus, by looking at only part of the problem, they are incorrect and may appear foolish.
Presuppositions can make people appear as if they are unintelligent. We are all guilty of having a presupposition. It is the way we view the world and is also known as a “world view.” This world view will affect religion, politics, philosophy, academics, etc. No one can escape this facet of the human experience. However, we should be aware of our presuppositions so that we can avoid letting them influence our objectivity. Thomas Africa eloquently states, “The mind of every man has deep ruts along which his thoughts tend to run.” We are all susceptible to the “meta-bias” which causes us to see flaws in other's arguments but not our own. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate, and Professor at Princeton states, “My intuitive thinking is just as prone to overconfidence, extreme predictions, and the planning fallacy…” even after he studied and acknowledged its existence.
- Mental Shortcuts-
In more practical everyday matters smart people can appear stupid due to using mental shortcuts. The simple math problems and similar things can cause us to make mistakes because we do not often slowly think things through. In the fast-paced world in which we live, this becomes a common occurrence.
When people appear stupid to you the best thing to do is take a step back, recognize they may have fallen into one of these four pits of error and engage in a friendly discussion with them. Who knows, maybe they will enlighten you of your ignorance, reductionism, presuppositional bias, or overly quick thinking. So grab a cup of coffee, your old battle helmet, and get conversing!