Vol. 14 No. 1 (2021): Aesthetics in Times of Contagion

The defied spirit. Subjective stupidity and objective intelligence

Francesco Valagussa
Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele

Published 2021-07-20


  • Musil,
  • Valéry,
  • Simmel,
  • Stupidity,
  • Philosophy of Money

How to Cite

Valagussa, F. (2021). The defied spirit. Subjective stupidity and objective intelligence. Aisthesis. Pratiche, Linguaggi E Saperi dell’estetico, 14(1), 109–115. https://doi.org/10.36253/Aisthesis-12003


The present article analyses the different forms of stupidity as they are presented in the two renowned lectures held by Musil in 1937, in particular by trying to connect them to some passages from The Man Without Qualities. Stupidity cannot be reduced to a simple “inability to understand”. It becomes the symptom of a wider crisis involving the whole European tradition: a crisis of trust in human nature that ends up compromising every possible overall vision about culture and life. Valéry arrived to a similar outcome in his The Crisis of The Mind. Significantly, both Musil and Valéry attempted to explain this kind of crisis through the analogy with economic processes: by combining their theses, and taking into account some passages of Simmel’s Philosophy of Money, we could say that money has concentrated intelligence and trust within itself, reducing individuals to a condition of stupidity and mutual distrust.


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