“I come from a stupid family. During the Civil War, my great uncle fought for the west.”
—Rodney Dangerfield

Stupidity. We damn it, suffer under it, laugh at it, ruefully wonder at it, and flee to its confines in the face of discomfiting truths. Like energy and Cher, stupidity cannot be destroyed. Like both, it takes on infinite forms. Nothing human beings invent escapes stupidity’s taint for more than a nanosecond.

Built into all of our affairs, stupidity inevitably makes life more amusing and unendingly tragic. It, alone of all things, links a pie in the kisser with the most depraved depths of human hatred and greed and murder. If you do not believe in a higher power, yet need to blame humanity’s problems on some overarching force, you could do much worse than to point your finger at stupidity.

ronellAvital Ronell delves into the untrackable something that makes stupidity a perpetual motion machine driving human affairs. Philosophers of all stripes have long articulated the political and social implications of stupidity, and the ways it undermines our understanding of everything from politics to ethics to psychoanalysis.

Stupidity, the UIP book (as opposed to stupidity, the concept and curse), explores the fading empire of cognition. Drawing on the likes of Dostoevsky, Schlegel, Music, and Wordsworth, Ronell investigates stupidity in many forms: willful ignorance, innocent dumbfoundedness, and the very limits of reason. At the same time, she probes theory bashing and related forms of paranoid aggression, as well as the limits on what the body knows and tells when afflicted by debilitating illness.

 

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