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Naivety (or naïvety or naïveté) is the state of being naïve. In early use, the word naïve meant "natural or innocent." In contemporary use it may also connote lack of experience, understanding or sophistication.
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- In a world that has been thoroughly permeated by the structures of the social order, a world that so overpowers every individual that scarcely any option remains but to accept it on its own terms, such naiveté reproduces itself incessantly and disastrously. What people have forced upon them by a boundless apparatus, which they themselves constitute and which they are locked into, virtually eliminates all natural elements and becomes “nature” to them.
- Theodor Adorno, “Why still philosophy?” Critical Models (1998), p. 12
- To be naïve, especially politically, would mean seeing reality as simple and clear-cut once again. It would imply viewing the social world in an unambiguous and probably dualistic way with, for example, the ruling class and exploiters on one side, and the ruled and exploited on the other with no distinctions in between. Likewise it would mean conceiving of the world as eminently changeable and subject to human will, not as something given over to the play of accident or chance. Historically speaking, the naive attitude has engendered tremendous passion and commitment to the same degree that the ironic attitude has produced skepticism and passivity. Most mass movements of both the Left and Right have been naive in the sense described here. In fact it could be argued that activism is possible only where there is the real (though "naive") conviction that the world is completely mutable and therefore capable of being shaped by human action. Furthermore, the naive awareness does not allow itself to be paralyzed by obstacles, but rather engenders in its adherents a feeling of dedication and vision, of vigor and enthusiasm, just as early Christianity did (and the Church of the first three centuries was a model "naive movement"). Such movements acquire faith in themselves, and consequently great power, precisely because they see reality in unequivocal terms. Lastly, the naive outlook generates an inordinate capacity for heroism and heroic commitment which cannot be aroused by the ironic mode.
- David Gross, “Irony and the ‘Disorders of the Soul,’” Telos, vol. 34, December 21, 1977, pp. 170-171
- Natural consciousness will show itself to be only the notion of knowledge, or in other words, not to be real knowledge. But since it directly takes itself to be real knowledge, this path has a negative significance for it, and what is in fact the realization of the Notion, counts for it rather as the loss of its own self; for it does lose its truth on this path. The road can therefore be regarded as the pathway of doubt, or more precisely as the way of despair. For what happens on it is not what is ordinarily understood when the word ‘doubt’ is used: shilly-shallying about this or that presumed truth, followed by a return to that truth again, after the doubt has be appropriately dispelled – so that at the end of the process the matter is taken to be what it was in the first place. On the contrary, this process is the conscious insight into the untruth of phenomenal knowledge, for which the supreme reality is what is in truth only the unrealized notion.
- Every period has its own divine form of naïveté whose invention other ages may envy:— and how much naïveté, respectful, childish, and boundlessly foolish naïveté lies in this belief of the scholar in his own superiority, in the good conscience of his toleration, in the unsuspecting, unsophisticated certainty with which his instinct treats religious people as a less worthy and lower type, above whom he himself has grown up, out, and away from—the scholar, the small, presumptuous dwarf and member of the rabble, the diligent and nimble head-and-hand-worker of “ideas,” “modern ideas”!
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, I. Johnston, trans., § 58
- The “noble” person has a completely naïve and non-reflective awareness of his own value and of his fullness of being, an obscure conviction which enriches every conscious moment of his existence, as if he were autonomously rooted in the universe. This should not be mistaken for “pride.” Quite on the contrary, pride results from an experienced diminution of this “naive” self-confidence. It is a way of “holding on” to one’s value, of seizing and “preserving” it deliberately. ... His naive self-confidence is by no means “compounded” of a series of positive valuations based on specific qualities, talents, and virtues: it is originally directed at his very essence and being.
- Max Scheler, Ressentiment, L. Coser, trans. (1973), p. 54
- To Lewis Bernstein Namier it had seemed obvious that political theories act as the merest ex post facto rationalisations of political behaviour. If we are looking for explanations of political action, he maintained, we must seek them at the level of 'the underlying emotions, the music, to which ideas are a mere libretto, often of very inferior quality'. ... Namier and his followers [scorned] the naiveté of supposing that political actions are ever genuinely motivated by the principles used to rationalise them.
- Quentin Skinner, Liberty Before Liberalism (1998), p. 104