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DOI 10.12887/34-2021-1-133-12 

Mirosław KARWAT, Stupidity—Ignorance—Mediocrity: Their Specificity, Interrelatedness, and Interdependence

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Stupidity, ignorance, and mediocrity are three interrelated and interconnected varieties of cognitive and achievement deficiency which stands out in particular in the case of individuals occupying important social roles. Each of these defects has its own specificity. Stupidity involves a predisposition to think absurdly and to apply preposterous reasoning; it is frequently accompanied by thoughtlessness or recklessness and manifested by lack of imagination in decision-taking, in particular whenever foresight is needed. As such, stupidity results in a continuous accumulation of foolishness and errors. Ignorance, in turn, is the attitude of a person who aspires to pass judgments on things and to instruct others, not infrequently tending to impose his or her ideas and decisions on specialists and experts in domains in which he or she lacks knowledge or experience. Mediocrity, in its turn, is a quality of double—social and psychological—nature, since it involves, on the one hand, an individual’s overly high ambitions and self-esteem (or, conversely, an individual’s cutting on his or her ambition or performance when confronted with the need to occupy too demanding a social role), and, on the other, the occurrence of precisely such an individual being given a post or a social role beyond his or her competence or potential. A common denominator between stupidity, ignorance, and mediocrity, showing their interrelatedness, is that each of them is a specific expression of an individual’s self-esteem and his or her demand for power and influence being incommensurate to his or her potential or competence. Thus stupidity, ignorance, and mediocrity manifest, respectively, the subject’s irrationality, lack of knowledge, and his or her inadequate competence, talent, and predisposition. The three qualities in question are interconnected within a dynamic feedback mechanism. Each of them drives the others, simultaneously being their symptom. Their interplay (which may be conceived in terms of a syndrome) is most socially destructive (as well as destructive for the individual involved) in the case of managers, leaders, and executives.

Keywords: stupidity, ignorance, mediocrity, correlation, symbiosis, syndrome, competence

Contact: Katedra Teorii Polityki i Myśli Politycznej, Wydział Nauk Politycznych i Studiów Międzynarodowych, Uniwersytet Warszawski, ul. Nowy Świat 67, 00-927 Warsaw, Poland
E-mail: m.karwat2@uw.edu.pl
Phone: +48 22 5520282

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  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. e-ISSN 2720-5355
  3. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 100.00
  4. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  5. DOI Prefix 10.12887