I’ve been looking for this type of description for some time:
Pride of place in the Philogelos goes to the â€œegg-headsâ€, who are the subject of almost half the jokes for their literal-minded scholasticism (â€œAn egg-head doctor was seeing a patient. â€˜Doctorâ€™, he said, â€˜when I get up in the morning I feel dizzy for 20 minutes.â€™ â€˜Get up 20 minutes later, thenâ€™â€).
After the â€œegg-headsâ€, various ethnic jokes come a close second. In a series of gags reminiscent of modern Irish or Polish jokes, the residents of three Greek towns â€“ Abdera, Kyme and Sidon â€“ are ridiculed for their â€œhow many Abderites does it take to change a light bulb?â€ style of stupidity. Why these three places in particular, we have no idea. But their inhabitants are portrayed as being as literal-minded as the egg-heads, and even more obtuse.
â€œAn Abderite saw a eunuch talking to a woman and asked if she was his wife. When he replied that eunuchs canâ€™t have wives, the Abderite asked, â€˜So is she your daughter then?â€™â€
We might try to laugh this off as ancient silliness until we realize that it applies today.
Literal-minded = confuses the ostensible, or how reality is sampled by human categories, with the real.
The real is organic, or made of billions of small factors working together to create a whole.
The literal is like assuming that a name controls something: if we call a squirrel a pit bull, it still will not attack.
We see plenty of literal-mindedness in society today, and to me it seems like the byproduct of people having no idea how reality works, because to them living means buying things in stores.