Naivete != gullibility - Random

Welcome to the Functional Programming Zulip Chat Archive. You can join the chat here.

Sridhar Ratnakumar

I came across this in the orange site:

Then I worked for a tech giant, and then for a high-growth unicorn. It
shocked me how dilbertesque they both were. Full of politicians, and
burnt out engineers in golden handcuffs who can't wait to get out, and
meaningless business speak, and checked out employees who pretend
they're "excited" about everything all the time. The young, wide-eyed
engineers seem hopelessly naive to me now.

Sridhar Ratnakumar

The resentment/ cynicism mentioned here is universal (just varies in intensity); it is interesting to see the use of the word 'naive' in negative sense in the same paragraph!

Sridhar Ratnakumar

The "young, wide-eyed" engineers are naive and gullible. Gullible is the bad part; they'd work long-hours with little in return. But naive is good; they are not jaded, or cynical like their 'experienced' peers, which is a good thing. Advice to "young, wide-eyed" engineers: stay naive, but don't be gullible (eg: don't work long-hours for the same pay; value your time; maximize your health, happiness, enjoyment now and in future)

Sridhar Ratnakumar

More on the terms themselves:

Naiveté is a much-maligned word, having the common assumption that it implies gullibility. Nevertheless, to be naïve means to be simple and unsophisticated. [...]


I'm a big fan of trying to use the most suitable word to convey a meaning, and I think it is important to do so , even in a casual setting. (I realize there probably is a more suitable way to convey that, and I'm inserting this comment here to clarify at the outset that I'm not good with words)

So I really like seeing posts like yours. Thanks for sharing!

Depending on the context, I think naive and gullible can intersect in their meaning. Based on my understanding of the original comment, I think the author's use of the term "naive" is fine. "Naive" does not have to imply "gullible", but it can in some cases.

Naivete implies a lack of artfulness and a lack of sophistication. These are analytical attributes, and a person lacking them is therefore vulnerable to exploitation in a hostile environment in which exploiting others is advantageous. It is not inherently wrong to be artful and sophisticated in the spirit of self preservation. It can lead to good outcomes, like realizing it's wise to remove oneself from harmful environments, and to seek less exploitative positions elsewhere. It does not have to imply something bad per se.

Non-sophisticated/non-artful juniors are likely to be exploited in hostile work environments at some major companies.

Gullible individuals lack sophistication. They lack artfulness. It's difficult for me to imagine a person who's both gullible and artful/sophisticated. The lack of sophistication/artfulness in gullible individuals is not necessarily due to the same reasons there could be a lack of these attributes in naive individuals, though. Whatever the case, I see an overlap between "naive" and "gullible", based on the above.

I think part of the issue is that words in many languages, including English, can carry multiple related, but not always synonymous, meanings. This can cause subtle problems with conveying meaning, which I think the comment you linked from hn could be a case of.

This is why one of my goals is to learn this constructed language:

I bring it up every chance I get, because I think the idea behind it is really compelling. For some of the reasons I care about FP, I care about this human language. Primarily, due to the likelihood that languages shape thinking. More importantly though, I often find myself involved in conflict that would have been avoidable had the communicating parties been equipped with a less ambiguous communication medium.

On a side note: I feel bad for the author. I hope they feel better.

Caveat: English is my second language. There is a good chance I'm wrong about what those words mean.

Lojban (pronounced [ˈloʒban] (listen)) is a constructed, syntactically unambiguous human language created by the Logical Language Group. It succeeds the Loglan project.
Sridhar Ratnakumar

In the interest of using most suitable words to convey a meaning, I wouldn't use artfulness or sophistication in order to describe the acts of removing oneself from harmful environments or seeking less exploitative positions elsewhere. You don't need artfulness/sophistication for that; just native intelligence (sans gullibility) should do. I mean, why would anyone need artfulness/sophistication to keep their hands off a hot stove? :-P

Non-sophisticated/non-artful juniors are likely to be exploited in hostile work environments at some major companies.

That's because of gullibility, not naivete. The original meaning[1] of the word naivete describes positive attributes, which qualities get lost when one grows to be cynical/ jaded/ resentful/ sophisticated/ etc.

Gullible individuals lack sophistication. They lack artfulness.

From that link above, however, lies this profound observation which says the opposite: "one has to be gullible to be sophisticated, to be wise in the ways of the real world".

Be warned though: anything that touches actualism goes 180 degrees opposite to real world wisdom. :-D

[1] From its etymology

naivete (n.)
1670s, "a natural, unreserved expression of sentiments or thoughts," from French naïveté, from Old French naiveté "genuineness, authenticity," literally "native disposition" (see naive).


I think we can pin down the source of disagreement.

I'm trying to discuss what the word "naive" means in English dictionaries, in the context of the present usage of English.

It seems to me that you're discussing what "naive" originally meant, and building on that to make the point of what it _should_ mean now. It seems to me that you accept one/some of the current dictionary definitions of the word "naive", but are rejecting dictionary definitions that intersect with the definitions of "gullible". I hope I'm not misunderstanding/misrepresenting your position (apologies if that happened. Please correct me if needed)

I looked up the definitions of naive vs. gullible in multiple dictionaries. Then I repeated the same process for their definitions and synonyms. If I make a Venn diagram of the results, there is a clear intersection between naive and gullible [1], and it applies just fine to the context in the post linked from hn.

As for what "naive" _should_ mean and whether the dictionaries need to be updated accordingly, I have no strong opinion on that. As a side note, I think updating dictionaries is a fascinating process.

[1] The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary list "naive" as one of the synonyms of "gullible"

Sridhar Ratnakumar

The reason why we should resurrect the original meaning of 'naive' is that there exists no other suitable word describing what I'm trying to describe. And without words, you have nothing to communicate.

Besides, restoring the original meaning of 'naive' is akin to restoring one's own lost naivete -- being young we were both naive and gullible, then become cynical as an adult; but we can restore naivete while still keeping adult sensibilities (i.e. sans gullibility)[1].

This is all new to human history, anyway, so either we create new words (very unproductive) or repurpose the otherwise loaded-words (more practical).


[...] traipsing through the world about in a state of wide-eyed wonder and amazement as if a child again (guileless, artless, ingenuous, innocuous) – yet with adult sensibilities whereby the distinction betwixt being naïve and being gullible is readily separable