Super-Spreaders of Iatrogenic Stupidity

“What’s all the noisy jargon of the schools,
But idle nonsense of laborious fools.”

John Pomfret, “Reason” (1700)

“Have I not known all earthly vanities?
Learned the inane, and taught inanities.” 

Goethe, Faust (1829)

Some people are congenitally stupid, others stupid in consequence of a stupefying environment.  Of all stupefying environments, the schools are most insidious because their ostensible purpose is to cure stupidity.  This is why I call the stupidity peculiar and endemic to scholars, iatrogenic stupidity.  This follows the model of iatrogenic diseases, which are transmitted by way of doctors and their hospitals, iatros being the Greek name for a doctor (think pediatrician)

Morosoph is a learned name for a learned fool, or a sophisticated moron, and a morosoph is a man or woman who is pockmarked and palsied with a crippling case of iatrogenic stupidity.  Barbaric jargon is the tell-a-tale symptom of iatrogenic stupidity, and jabbering these empty signifiers (see below) marks the morosophic victims of the schools as surely as chancres once marked the syphilitic victims of the stews.

Barbaric jargon is almost invariably wed to mechanical forms of argument and cogitation, since the morosoph labors under the insane delusion that his mind is an engine rather than a living thing.  Thus Pomfret continues the stanza quoted above by mentioning the morosoph’s abhorrence for the bounding freedom that one finds in a strong and healthy mind.

“What’s all the noisy jargon of the schools,
But idle nonsense of laborious fools,
Who fetter Reason with perplexing rules.”

Thomas Hobbes noted much the same thing when he wrote this stanza about the pettifogging theologians who spread sedition from the English universities in the seventeenth century (A True Ecclesiastical History (1688, trans., 1722)).

“Stunned with the noisy jargon of the schools,
Logician’s quirks, and philosophic rules,
These pious men for sound religion fought
Whose hearts were zealots, tho’ their heads were nought.”

The pettifogging theologians were evidently morosophs stunned by an iatrogenic stupidity they had contracted in those same universities.  And it is evident from Hobbes’ stanza that iatrogenic stupidity inflames the passions at the same time that it stupefies the mind, and that the jabbering and hidebound morosoph is therefore subject to wild frenzies of political enthusiasms.  His “sound religion” is therefore some crackbrained fad to which he insists everyone must instantly convert, lest the morosoph blister them with a chastening fusillade of zombie logic and monkey-chatter noises.

With his mind stupefied and his passions inflamed, the jabbering morosoph becomes both student and professor of inanity, a word that literally means that which is empty and vain.  In a line above, I referred to inanities with the jargon phrase “empty signifiers.”  This refers to a symbol without a referent, a signifier without a signified, and is itself very far from being an “empty signifier” because empty signifiers do, in fact, exist.  And inanities can nowhere be found in greater abundance than in the schools.  Hence the morosoph Faust states in a moment of self-awareness,

“Have I not known all earthly vanities?
Learned the inane, and taught inanities.”*

English once boasted a word that signified outstanding fluency in empty talk.  Like inane, inaniloquent is very far from being an inane or empty signifier.  And, like inanities, its referents can nowhere be found in greater abundance than in the schools.  And these inaniloquent morosophs are, I submit, the super-spreaders of inatrogenic stupidity.

*) Bayard Taylor’s translation.

One thought on “Super-Spreaders of Iatrogenic Stupidity

  1. Pingback: Super-Spreaders of Iatrogenic Stupidity | Reaction Times

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