At some point in the mists of time I concluded that bad decisions can be attributed to one of two causes:
- Ignorance, when an otherwise good decision was made with faulty information.
- Stupidity, when a bad decision was made despite good information.
Ignorance is pretty straightforward. Nobody like to be called ignorant, but it’s ridiculous to try to claim that one isn’t often ignorant. We’re never omniscient, so to some degree we always suffer from some level of ignorance. But the focus here isn’t on what isn’t known, it’s on the bad decision. The issue of the missing vital data is secondary. I feel pretty confident that this is the correct word.
Stupidity is less straightforward. It seems like there should be a better word, but I’ve not yet found one. As with “ignorant” nobody like to be called stupid, but everyone who isn’t perfect, regardless of their intelligence, makes stupid mistakes. Everyone. If you have a better word, suggest it, but be prepared to defend it. I’m not interested in words that indicate slowness or foolishness; that’s not what I have in mind.
Are there other causes of bad decisions that can’t be attributed to one of these things as the root cause? Maybe Incompetence, but I’m not convinced that it isn’t an example of Stupidity. Deception and Confusion seem to clearly be no more than extenuating circumstances that lead to Ignorance in the decision-making process. It’s probably a mistake to lump emotional aspects into stupidity, but I’m not sure what else to do with that, and it seems likely to be about as useful as stuffing worms into Pandora’s box. I could easily be wrong about that. What about spiritual causes?
Is it only bad decisions, or can this be expanded to other mistakes? Physical mistakes seem to have a host of other issues, and I’m not sure I’m really interested in expanding this into “every possible cause of anything that could possible go wrong”.
There’s probably a branch of science that studies this precise subject, and has already established well-defined nomenclature. If you know what it is, enlighten me!