A pretence at innocence, and a form of reductionism. The argument is: “I’m a simple man; you’re getting carried away with anxiety and complication.”

Disingenuousness is “sanguine”—hopeful, not recognising a problem. This disposition is more closely related to the four humours of medieval medicine—blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile—than to the matter being considered, and the derivations persist:

• Sanguine (Latin: sanguineus blood): disposed to hopefulness.

• Phlegmatic (Greek: phlégma inflammation; Latin phlegma clammy moisture of the body, phlegm, mucous secretions): self-possessed; able to face problems while remaining calm and composed.

• Choleric (Greek: khlolế bile, anger, yellow bile): angry.

• Melancholic (Greek: melan– inflammation + khlolế black bile): sad, depressed.

Disingenuousness can be personally attractive, and often uses a mild, jokey self-deprecation, implying that the other person should loosen up and not take life so seriously. Example:

I’m quite old fashioned; I’m not a great clever-sight guy. I love the House of Commons, I love Parliamentary democracy. Every international treaty for 500 years has been taken through our parliament . . .

Dennis MacShane MP, The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4, 26 March 2004, arguing against a referendum about the defence of national democratic freedoms.


Related entries:

Spirit, Devil’s Voice.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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