If a human murders another human it makes him murderer

If I sometimes do stupid things does it make me stupid?

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    Apr 26, 2018 at 0:06

2 Answers 2


Not necessarily, it depends on how you define each of the words.

Let us take three distinct cases and tease out how their definitions determine what classes as having those properties.

An entity may class as having the property of being a "Can-Opener" if it plays the functional-role of opening cans. You put in a closed can, you get out an opened can, and so long as the entity can fulfil that role, it is a can-opener. Bear in mind the use of can fulfil that role; a thing need not have ever opened a can for it to classify as a can opener, so long as it bears the disposition to do so given that the right conditions occur (i.e. A can is put between its teeth and the process performed).

On the other hand, an entity classes as having the property of being a "murderer" if it has (I suppose, deliberately) taken a life. Differently to the can-opener, this entity only classes as a murderer given that it has taken a life, whilst a thing may be a can-opener despite never having opened a can, but by simply bearing the disposition to do so. To clarify, classing as a murder requires that the entity has performed the specific task required to class as a murder, namely, the act of murdering.

If we consider being stupid, which of these types definitions fits "being stupid" (bear in mind, there are many others available, but for now let us consider only these two). I am inclined to say that "being stupid" is defined as a disposition to act stupidly (given the right conditions), in a similar way to have we defined the can opener as having the disposition to perform a certain function. Say that we have the same conditions twice, and in one case, a person does something stupid, and in the other case, they do not, then it does not seem as though they truly have the disposition to at stupidly, so we might say that they do not class as "stupid". Alternatively, if one appears to regularly display acts of stupidity, then it may be enough to suggest that have a disposition to act stupidly, and thus potentially class as stupid.

So, perhaps we should say that a single act of stupidity may not be enough for one to class as stupid, but perhaps after a number of stupid actions, it may be sufficient to suggest that they have a dispositon to act stupidly, and thus we may class them as stupid.

  • Thank you for insightful answer. I'm having two more questions now: 1) But can't a person be a potential murder? Like having a disposition to murder? So, if this is a case, can we use a can opener example? 2) When you say sufficient, is there a place for "necessary"? Apr 25, 2018 at 16:43
  • Someone can have the potential to murder, but our standard definition of a murderer does not class those who have the potential to murder as murderers; only those who have committed the act. We are only concerned with how the word is actually used by the linguistic community. In response to 2) necessary and sufficient conditions might be tricky here, as, if a disposition is sufficient, and one can have a disposition whilst never having acted, then it is not necessary that they have done something stupid to have the disposition to act stupidly, so they may still class as stupid. Apr 25, 2018 at 16:53

The analogy does not hold. If you murder just one person then you are a murderer; you did an action that puts you in the class of murderers. You are no more nor less a murderer than if you had murdered 10,000.

Essentially, being a murderer is a a description that applies to a person by virtue of his or her having committed an act, perhaps just a single act as in your example. It marks the fact that an action was done; it says nothing about the ongoing mental state of the murderer. Nothing you can do in the future can remove the description. Just like the loss of virginity, the description applies for good.

If you sometimes do stupid things, it does not follow that you are a stupid person. Stupidity is an ongoing mental state in which you are all the time (or very far more often than not) unintelligent, slow-witted, obtuse and foolish. If you sometimes do stupid things it clearly does not follow that you do stupid things all the time or far more often than not. And to underline the point, stupidity is an ongoing mental state; being a murderer is not, it just signifies the fact of a person's having done an action.

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