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Naivety (or naïvety or naïveté) is the state of being naïve, that is to say, having or showing a lack of experience, understanding or sophistication, often in a context where one neglects pragmatism in favor of moral idealism. One who is "naïve" may be called a naïf.
In early use, the word naive meant "natural or innocent", and did not connote ineptitude. As a French adjective, it is spelled naïve or naïf. French adjectives have grammatical gender; naïf is used with masculine nouns and naïve with feminine nouns. The French noun is naïveté.
The dots above the i are a diaeresis (see also Ï). As an unitalicized English word, "naive" is now the more usual spelling, although "naïve" is unidiomatic rather than incorrect; "naïf" often represents the French masculine, but has a secondary meaning as an artistic style. “Naive” is now normally pronounced as two syllables, with the stress on the second, in the French manner.
The noun form can be written as naivety, naïvety, naïveté, naïvete, or naiveté.
The naif appears as a cultural type in two main forms. On the one hand, there is 'the satirical naïf, such as Candide'. Northrop Frye suggested we might call it "the ingénu form, after Voltaire's dialogue of that name. "Here an outsider... grants none of the premises which make the absurdities of society look logical to those accustomed to them", and serves essentially as a prism to carry the satirical message. Baudrillard indeed, drawing on his Situationist roots, sought to position himself as ingénu in everyday life: "I play the role of the Danube peasant: someone who knows nothing but suspects something is wrong... I like being in the position of the primitive... playing naïve".
On the other hand, there is the artistic "naïf - all responsiveness and seeming availability". Here 'the naïf offers himself as being in process of formation, in search of values and models...always about to adopt some traditional "mature" temperament' - in a perpetual adolescent moratorium. Such instances of "the naïf as a cultural image... offered themselves as essentially responsive to others and open to every invitation... established their identity in indeterminacy".
During the 1960s, "the naifs turned toward mysticism and Eastern religions", feeding into the hippie movement. "Hippie culture, bastard of the beat generation out of pop, was much like a folk culture - oral, naive, communal, its aphorisms ("Make love, not war", "turn on, tune in, drop out") intuited, not rationalized". Its druggie protagonists "had a childlike wonder that we could produce such weirdness from ourselves... assumed with the bravado of youth that we'd make it back to tell of what we saw".
The wise philosopher, Moses Cage III once noted: "I find no virtue in naivete."
In other fields of science, naïve describes a person or animal who did not have a particular experience or was not subject to a particular experiment.
Notes and references
- Oxford English Dictionary, "naïve" and "naïf" and quotes.
- Mark Perrino, The Poetics of Mockery (1995), p. 54.
- Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton 1973) p. 232.
- Jean Baudrillard, The Conspiracy of Art (2005), p. 66-67.
- Martin Green, Children of the Sun (London 1977), p. 238.
- Green, p. 35.
- Green, p. 35.
- Leora Lev, Enter at Your Own Risk (2006), p. 50.
- Ellen Willis, "Dylan" in Craig McGregor ed., Bob Dylan: A Retrospective (1975), p. 148.
- Jenni Diski, The Sixties (London 2009), p. 40-42.