What exactly is stupidity?

Sacha Golob in Psyche:

A few years before he died in exile from Nazism, the Austrian novelist Robert Musil delivered a lecture in Vienna, ‘On Stupidity’ (1937). At its heart was the idea that stupidity was not mere ‘dumbness’, not a brute lack of processing power. Dumbness, for Musil, was ‘straightforward’, indeed almost ‘honourable’. Stupidity was something very different and much more dangerous: dangerous precisely because some of the smartest people, the least dumb, were often the most stupid.

Musil’s lecture bequeaths us an important set of questions. What exactly is stupidity? How does it relate to morality: can you be morally good and stupid, for example? How does it relate to vice: is stupidity a kind of prejudice, perhaps? And why is it so domain-specific: why are people often stupid in one area and insightful in another? Musil’s own answer, which centred around pretentiousness, is too focused on the dilettantism of interwar Vienna to serve us now. But his questions, and his intuition about stupidity’s danger, are as relevant as ever.

More here.