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On Foolishness...


Foolishness can be a foe and a friend. Where others are doggedly blind, they can obstruct and miss great ideas. When you are deliberately foolish, perhaps in the Shakespearian sense, you can be open and honest enough to see your errors and spot those great ideas that others miss.

See also

being different, children, criticism, ignorance*, imagination, openness, questions, wisdom


‘True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubts often, and changes his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubts not; he knows all things but his own ignorance.’


‘If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.’

William Blake

Impossibility: a word only to be found in the dictionary of fools.’

Napoleon Boneparte

‘There is no adequate defence, except stupidity, against the impact of a new idea.’

P. W. Bridgman

‘The difference between genius and stupidity is that even genius has its limits.’

Rita Mae Brown

‘Almost everybody is born a genius and buried an idiot.’

Charles Bukowski

‘Any fool can criticise, condemn and complain--and most fools do.’

Dale Carnegie

‘Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.’

Marcus Tullius Cicero

‘It is only the wisest and the stupidest that cannot change.’


Inventors and men of genius have almost always been regarded as fools at the beginning—and very often at the end—of their careers.’

Fyodor Dostoevsky

‘Only two things are certain: the universe and human stupidity—and I’m not certain about the universe.’

Albert Einstein

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.’

Albert Einstein

‘The two most abundant things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.’

Harlan Elison

‘The wise through excess of wisdom is made a fool.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘The foolish man wonders at the unusual; the wise man at the usual.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘To the fool, he who speaks wisdom will sound foolish.’


‘The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of the wise man is in his heart.’

Benjamin Franklin

‘A science is any discipline in which the fool of this generation can go beyond the point reached by the genius of the last generation.’

Max Gluckman

‘Only stupid questions create wealth.’

Gary Hamel

‘Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.’

Robert Heinlein

‘Mingle some brief folly with your wisdom.’


Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.’

Elbert Hubbard

Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.’

Edwin Land

‘He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.’

Groucho Marx

‘An erudite fool is a greater fool than an ignorant fool.’

Jean Paul Baptiste Moliére

‘Every day I hear stupid people say things that are not stupid.’

Michel de Montaigne

‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.’

Alexander Pope

‘Any damn fool can be spontaneous.’

Ezra Pound

‘Some people are confident because they are fools. Leonard had the look of someone who was confident because, so far, he’d never found a reason not to be.’

Terry Pratchett

‘Those who wish to appear wise among fools, among the wise seem foolish.’


‘As one grows older, one becomes wiser and more foolish.’

François de la Rochefoucauld

‘The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.’

Bertrand Russell

‘It takes a wonderful brain and exquisite senses to produce a few stupid ideas.’

George Santayana

‘Like a ten-speed bike, most of us have gears we do not use.’

Charles Schultz

‘An intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius––and a lot of courage––to move in the opposite direction.’

E. F. Schumacher

‘The fool doth think himself wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.’

William Shakespeare

‘It is a fool’s prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak.’

William Shakespeare

‘There are no foolish questions, and no man has become a fool until he stops asking questions.’

Charles P. Steinmetz

‘Some people take more care to hide their wisdom than their folly.’

Jonathan Swift

‘Any fool will make a rule, and any fool will mind it.’

Henry David Thoreau

‘Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.’

Mark Twain

‘The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us.’

Paul Valéry

‘Fools act on imagination without knowledge. Pedants act on knowledge without imagination.’

William Arthur Ward

‘One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid.’

James D. Watson

‘Almost all really new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are first produced.’

Alfred North Whitehead



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