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Document Details :
Title: Nabokov, Sartre en de triomf van de domheid
Author(s): DE MESEL, Benjamin
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Filosofie
Volume: 76 Issue: 1 Date: 2014
Stupidity is often described as a lack. People who do not have the capacity to learn, as well as those who do not have the knowledge they are expected to have, are considered to be ‘stupid’. But stupidity can also be thought of as a surplus, an excess. Nabokov and Sartre both understand stupidity in this way: as a surplus of matter. First, this article is an introduction to Nabokov’s views on stupidity. Nabokov defines the stupid, ‘the philistine’, as 'a full-grown person whose interests are of a material and commonplace nature, and whose mentality is formed of the stock ideas and conventional ideals of his or her group or time'. Literature and art are places where philistinism thrives. Second, the article shows striking similarities between Nabokov’s descriptions of philistinism and Sartre’s characterization of stupidity in The Family Idiot. Third, the article highlights the main difference between Nabokov’s and Sartre’s views on stupidity. While Sartre understands stupidity to be an inherent quality of every individual — and therefore, to a certain degree, considers himself to be stupid —, Nabokov believes that true genius is able to escape stupidity.