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Naivety (also spelled naïvety), naiveness, or naïveté is the state of being naive. It refers to an apparent or actual lack of experience and sophistication, often describing a neglect of pragmatism in favor of moral idealism. A naïve may be called a naïf.


In its early use, the word naïve meant "natural or innocent", and did not connote ineptitude. As a French adjective, it is spelled naïve, for feminine nouns, and naïf, for masculine nouns. As a French noun, it is spelled naïveté.

It is sometimes spelled "naïve" with a diaeresis, but as an unitalicized English word, "naive" is now the more usual spelling.[1] "naïf" often represents the French masculine, but has a secondary meaning as an artistic style. “Naïve” is pronounced as two syllables, in the French manner, and with the stress on the second one.


The naïf appears as a cultural type in two main forms. On the one hand, there is 'the satirical naïf, such as Candide'.[2] 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",[3] 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".[4]

On the other hand, there is the artistic "naïf - all responsiveness and seeming availability".[5] 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'[6] - 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".[6]

During the 1960s, "the naïfs turned toward mysticism and Eastern religions",[7] feeding into the hippie movement. "Hippie culture, bastard of the beat generation out of pop, was much like folk culture - oral, naive, communal, its aphorisms ("Make love, not war", "turn on, tune in, drop out") intuited, not rationalized".[8]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, "naïve" and "naïf" and quotes.
  2. ^ Mark., Perrino (1995). The poetics of mockery : Wyndham Lewis's The apes of God and the popularization of modernism. W.S. Maney for the Modern Humanities Research Association. p. 54. ISBN 0-901286-52-4. OCLC 34721531.
  3. ^ Frye, Northrop (1957-12-31). Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 232. doi:10.1515/9781400866908. ISBN 978-1-4008-6690-8.
  4. ^ Baudrillard, Jean (2005). The Conspiracy of Art: Manifestos, Interviews, Essays. MIT Press. pp. 66–67. ISBN 978-1-58435-028-6.
  5. ^ Green, Martin (2008). Children of the sun : a narrative of "decadence" in England after 1918. Axios Press. p. 238. OCLC 1255741054.
  6. ^ a b Green 2008, p. 35.
  7. ^ Leora, Lev (2006). Enter at your own risk : the dangerous art of Dennis Cooper. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 50. ISBN 0-8386-4088-5. OCLC 61261286.
  8. ^ Willis, Ellen (1990). Craig, McGregor (ed.). Bob Dylan : the early years : a retrospective. Da Capo Press. p. 148. OCLC 1028853819.