Bonhoeffer's Theory of Stupidity

  
Via:  TᵢG  •  2 months ago  •  66 comments

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Bonhoeffer's Theory of Stupidity
Dietrich Bonhoeffer argued that stupid people are more dangerous than evil ones. This is because while we can protest against or fight evil people, against s...

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Does this ring as true to you as it does to me?


S E E D E D   C O N T E N T






In the darkest chapter of German history, during a time when incited mobs threw stones into the windows of innocent shop owners and women and children were cruelly humiliated in the open; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young pastor, began to speak publicly against the atrocities.  After years of trying to change people's minds, Bonhoeffer came home one evening and his own father had to tell him that two men were waiting in his room to take him away.  

In prison, Bonhoeffer began to reflect on how his country of poets and thinkers had turned into a collective of cowards, crooks and criminals.  Eventually he concluded that the root of the problem was not malice, but stupidity.  In his famous letters from prison, Bonhoeffer argued that stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice, because while “one may protest against evil; it can be exposed and prevented by the use of force, against stupidity we are defenseless.  Neither protests nor the use of force accomplishes anything here.  Reasons fall on deaf ears.”  Facts that contradict a stupid person’s prejudgment simply need not be believed and when they are irrefutable, they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental.  In all this the stupid person, is self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.  For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one.  

If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature.  This much is certain, stupidity is in essence not an intellectual defect but a moral one.  There are human beings who are remarkably agile intellectually yet stupid, and others who are intellectually dull yet anything but stupid.  The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or rather, they allow this to happen to them.  People who live in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals in groups.  And so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem.  

It becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power, be it of a political or religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity.  Almost as if this is a sociological-psychological law where the power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.  The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, such as intellect, suddenly fail.  Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up an autonomous position.  The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us from the fact that he is not independent.  In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him.  He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and is abused in his very being.  Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil - incapable of seeing that it is evil.  Only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity.  

Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it.  Until then, we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person.

Bonhoeffer died due to his involvement in a plot against Adolf Hitler at dawn on 9 April 1945 at Flossenbürg concentration camp just two weeks before soldiers from the United States liberated the camp.  “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.  The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”  Bonhoeffer once said.


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TᵢG
Professor Principal
1  seeder  TᵢG    2 months ago

Know anyone who fits the description provided in this video?

 
 
 
evilgenius
Professor Guide
1.1  evilgenius  replied to  TᵢG @1    2 months ago
Know anyone who fits the description provided in this video?

Half my family fits the description to the point one or more of them may face unemployment rather than do the intelligent thing.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.1.1  devangelical  replied to  evilgenius @1.1    2 months ago

the anti-vaxers in my family wrecked any semblance of normalcy this holiday season. meh, I guess who cares if 92 year old grandpa is on oxygen with an inoperable heart condition. /s - f'n morons

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.2  devangelical  replied to  TᵢG @1    2 months ago

are you kidding? there's a few places here that are a petrie dish of willful ignorance.  

 
 
 
1stwarrior
Professor Guide
1.2.1  1stwarrior  replied to  devangelical @1.2    2 months ago

Yeah - the FP of NT fits that description quite well.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.2.2  Tessylo  replied to  devangelical @1.2    2 months ago

I've been avoiding those places like the plague lately.  It is so much fun to see their attention seeking antics when their 'articles' aren't getting the traction that they're used to.

jrSmiley_91_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
XXJefferson51
Senior Guide
1.3  XXJefferson51  replied to  TᵢG @1    2 months ago

Let’s go Brandon!  

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
1.3.1  seeder  TᵢG  replied to  XXJefferson51 @1.3    2 months ago

As if on cue ... the "Fuck Joe Biden!" contingent arrives with a thoughtless comment that ignores yet arguably illustrates the topic.

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
1.3.2  Gordy327  replied to  TᵢG @1.3.1    2 months ago

A perfect case in point, which also answers your question in post 1. 

 
 
 
Steve Ott
Professor Quiet
1.3.3  Steve Ott  replied to  XXJefferson51 @1.3    2 months ago

Thank you for confirming the truth of the article.

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
1.4  Gordy327  replied to  TᵢG @1    2 months ago

I can name some here on NT alone.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
1.4.1  seeder  TᵢG  replied to  Gordy327 @1.4    2 months ago

We all can.   jrSmiley_82_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
1.4.2  Gordy327  replied to  TᵢG @1.4.1    2 months ago

Also seen on a daily basis as you said. jrSmiley_18_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Veronica
Senior Expert
1.5  Veronica  replied to  TᵢG @1    2 months ago

I have quite a few in my family that fits - another reason we are avoiding the annual family Christmas party.  There are several reasons, but right now stupid people are at the top of the reason list.

 
 
 
Kathleen
Professor Principal
2  Kathleen    2 months ago

Actually being evil is stupid.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
2.1  devangelical  replied to  Kathleen @2    2 months ago

actually, being stupid enables evil.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
2.1.4  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  devangelical @2.1    2 months ago

Thread removed or no value.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.1.5  Trout Giggles  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2.1.4    2 months ago

should have started at comment #2

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
2.1.6  devangelical  replied to  Trout Giggles @2.1.5    2 months ago

crap. I missed the confederate cavalry riding up.

 
 
 
Kathleen
Professor Principal
2.1.7  Kathleen  replied to  Trout Giggles @2.1.5    2 months ago

Why?

I think being evil to other human beings is not a smart way to live your life. I believe some folks thought this comment had some value.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.1.9  Trout Giggles  replied to  Kathleen @2.1.7    2 months ago

trmp is evil and has been his whole life, but many here seem to think he's a genius

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
2.1.10  Tessylo  replied to  Trout Giggles @2.1.9    2 months ago

Evil and Stupid.  Yet people look up to that.  Go figure

 
 
 
Kathleen
Professor Principal
2.1.11  Kathleen  replied to  Trout Giggles @2.1.9    2 months ago

I was referring in general. I don't usually have Trump on my mind, I have better things to think about.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.1.12  Trout Giggles  replied to  Kathleen @2.1.11    2 months ago

<sigh>

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
2.1.13  Gordy327  replied to  Tessylo @2.1.10    2 months ago

People who look up to that are the epitome of stupid. It'd exactly as the video shows.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
2.1.14  Tessylo  replied to  Trout Giggles @2.1.12    2 months ago

[deleted]

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
3  Kavika     2 months ago

Yes, know more than a few, sadly.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
3.1  Tessylo  replied to  Kavika @3    2 months ago

Yes it is TG.

Note how some know exactly what I'm talking about?

jrSmiley_91_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
4  seeder  TᵢG    2 months ago
The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or rather, they allow this to happen to them.

Conformity (e.g. blind allegiance to a political party, religion, etc.) engenders stupidity (as defined by the video).

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
4.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  TᵢG @4    2 months ago

So I guess it's a good thing I march to the beat of my own drummer. I've never been much for having a bunch of friends and then blindly following where they led.

Mr. Giggles tells me I'm "different". Some days that's good other days....

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
4.1.1  seeder  TᵢG  replied to  Trout Giggles @4.1    2 months ago

I personally think your independence is a spectacular attribute.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
4.1.2  Trout Giggles  replied to  TᵢG @4.1.1    2 months ago

Thank-you

 
 
 
Kathleen
Professor Principal
5  Kathleen    2 months ago

I always thought it was best to do your own thinking. If you are not sure about something try to educate yourself about it. Do not go along with others because you are afraid or just too lazy to take something upon yourself to figure out. Use your gut feeling on many things, your first impression is usually your true feelings in most cases. People are social and they tend to form groups with others that have the same values and likes. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you still take a stand if you disagree about something. Never let anyone tell you what you should do and not do.  Go with your own feelings, and make a considerate decision when it comes to others.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Masters Principal
6  Nerm_L    2 months ago

How does the American abolitionist movement or the American temperance movement or the American labor movement fit into Bonhoeffer's theory of stupidity?

European class based intellectualism doesn't fit well with American traditions or history.  America has always been more culturally homogeneous than Europe.  Bonhoeffer's theory of stupidity may be applicable in a heterogeneous Europe segregated by national pride and conflict between those distinct nations.  

European class based intellectualism has been attempting to unify Europe and Bonhoeffer's theory of stupidity fits with the attempt.  But intellectualism in the United States has been attempting to divide America.  The United States has already achieved the unity that Europe has not.  So, the conflicts in the United States isn't driven by Bonhoeffer's theory of stupidity but, rather, by a desire to maintain and sustain American unity.  America doesn't want to become divided like Europe; that would be stupid.  We've already overcome Europe's stupidity.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
6.1  devangelical  replied to  Nerm_L @6    2 months ago

thank you for supplying a demonstration of the subject matter.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Masters Principal
6.1.1  Nerm_L  replied to  devangelical @6.1    2 months ago
thank you for supplying a demonstration of the subject matter.

Did you miss the point of the video that tribal groupthink is the source of stupidity?  According to Bonhoeffer's theory, stupidity is overcome by challenging groupthink.  

So, which of us is demonstrating what?

 
 
 
1stwarrior
Professor Guide
6.1.2  1stwarrior  replied to  devangelical @6.1    2 months ago

Try watching the video and you'll see his comment is much more accurate than your one-liner.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Masters Principal
6.1.3  Nerm_L  replied to  1stwarrior @6.1.2    2 months ago
Try watching the video and you'll see his comment is much more accurate than your one-liner.

I did watch the video.  TiG even graciously provided a transcription of the dialogue.

The context of Bonhoeffer's understanding of stupidity is rooted in Europe's very tribal history.  By the 20th century the tribes of Europe had been demarcated by national borders.  Since the Roman empire, European intellectualism has been attempting to unify Europe.  And there are only two ways to unify disparate tribes; unity through common cause or unity through a common enemy. 

Bonhoeffer pointed to an upsurge of power (political or religious) infecting humanity with stupidity.  In the European context that upsurge of power unifies a tribe and then attempts to unify all tribes through common cause or through a common enemy.  In the European context that upsurge of power is associated with nationalism since the tribes are demarcated by national borders.  Each tribe (or nation) establishes it's own identity that consists of the prejudgments that are unassailable by reason, as Bonhoeffer says.  Bonhoeffer's theory of stupidity is directly applicable to tribal Europe.

The United States achieved a unity that Europe has not achieved.  To apply Bonhoeffer's theory of stupidity to the United States it is first necessary to destroy the unity of the United States.  Intellectualism in Europe has been directed toward unifying the various tribes of Europe.  But intellectualism in the United States has been directed toward destroying the unity of the United States and creating tribes.

How does the American abolitionist movement or the America temperance movement or the American labor movement fit into Bonhoeffer's theory of stupidity?  

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
6.1.4  Trout Giggles  replied to  Nerm_L @6.1.1    2 months ago

I think you're arguing with the content of the seed just to argue

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Masters Principal
6.1.5  Nerm_L  replied to  Trout Giggles @6.1.4    2 months ago

I think you're arguing with the content of the seed just to argue

The whole point of the video is to argue with tribal groupthink.  I'm doing what Bonhoeffer said needed to be done.

According to Bonhoeffer's theory of stupidity, unchallenged prejudgments and backslapping endorsement of a narrative to show group loyalty results in stupidity.

I've asked a question that challenges tribal groupthink.  How does the American abolitionist movement or the American temperance movement or the American labor movement fit with Bonhoeffer's theory of stupidity?

It's your choice whether or not to actually think about the topic - or - to respond with prejudged groupthink stupidity. 

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
6.1.6  Tessylo  replied to  Trout Giggles @6.1.4    2 months ago

That's all he ever does.  

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
6.1.7  Trout Giggles  replied to  Tessylo @6.1.6    2 months ago

I think my English is getting rusty. I really have a hard time deciphering Nerm's word salads. Or maybe I'm intellectually challenged

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
6.1.8  Tessylo  replied to  Trout Giggles @6.1.7    2 months ago

No you're fine.  It's GIGO

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
6.1.9  Trout Giggles  replied to  Tessylo @6.1.8    2 months ago

GIGO?

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
6.1.10  seeder  TᵢG  replied to  Trout Giggles @6.1.9    2 months ago

Garbage in, garbage out.   It is a very, very old computer data processing term.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
6.1.11  Trout Giggles  replied to  TᵢG @6.1.10    2 months ago

thank-you. Have heard of it but couldn't connect the acronym

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
6.1.12  Gordy327  replied to  TᵢG @6.1.10    2 months ago

Wow, I haven't heard that term in a long time. 

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Masters Principal
6.1.13  Nerm_L  replied to  Tessylo @6.1.8    2 months ago
No you're fine.  It's GIGO

GIGO means a computer can only follow its programming; a computer cannot think for itself.  GIGO is an example of Bonhoeffer's description of stupidity.  Bonhoeffer claimed that sociological programming makes people stupid.  Groupthink means people can only follow their programming.  Groupthink programming can overwhelm intellect.

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
6.1.14  seeder  TᵢG  replied to  Nerm_L @6.1.13    2 months ago

A bit of a stretch, but I suppose the analogy is there.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Masters Principal
6.1.15  Nerm_L  replied to  TᵢG @6.1.14    2 months ago
A bit of a stretch, but I suppose the analogy is there.

Trying to keep the discussion on topic.  

 
 
 
al Jizzerror
Sophomore Expert
7  al Jizzerror    2 months ago

Reasons fall on deaf ears.”  Facts that contradict a stupid person’s prejudgment simply need not be believed and when they are irrefutable, they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental.

Stupid people just label anything they disagree with as "fake".

 
 
 
al Jizzerror
Sophomore Expert
7.1  al Jizzerror  replied to  al Jizzerror @7    2 months ago

800

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
7.1.1  seeder  TᵢG  replied to  al Jizzerror @7.1    2 months ago

Thanks for the custom meme al.   jrSmiley_100_smiley_image.jpg

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
8  JBB    2 months ago

So damn stupid they are evil? Who? Nobody answer...

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
Professor Quiet
9  Ed-NavDoc    2 months ago

A long time ago I once had a friend tell me the difference between ignorance and stupidity. Ignorance is forgivable because ignorant people generally do not know any better that something is wrong but can be taught otherwise. On the other hand, stupid people do know something is wrong and do it anyway.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
Professor Principal
9.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @9    2 months ago

Well defined.  Ignorance is lack of knowledge, and knowledge can be gained, but stupid people are incapable of learning, or simply resist learning, and usually are not even aware that they're stupid. 

 
 
 
TOM PA
Freshman Silent
9.1.1  TOM PA  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @9.1    2 months ago

Drunkenness can be sobered, ignorance can be taught, youth outgrown, but alas, stupidity is forever.  

Unknown

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
9.2  seeder  TᵢG  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @9    2 months ago

There are stupid people who simply cannot help the fact that their brains do not function as well as the average.    That is not their fault and we should of course accommodate their condition.

However, we have another kind of stupid — stubborn stupidity.   Stubborn stupidity is a form of stupidity that is self-induced by stubborn refusal to be objective.   The lack of objectivity produces a myopic and distorted reality.   This is typically the result of confirmation bias — accepting whatever 'trusted authorities' say is true and rejecting without consideration all that differs from said authorities.

Examples of stubborn stupidity are seen on a daily basis.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
9.2.1  Trout Giggles  replied to  TᵢG @9.2    2 months ago
There are stupid people who simply cannot help the fact that their brains do not function as well as the average.    That is not their fault and we should of course accommodate their condition.

I don't even like to call these types of people stupid. I'm going to be more PC and call them intellectually challenged. I've known some.

 
 
 
evilgenius
Professor Guide
9.2.2  evilgenius  replied to  Trout Giggles @9.2.1    2 months ago

I call them purposely obtuse. They have a confirmation bias agenda and will go out of their way, twist any/all logic and move all the goalposts to not think objectively. 

 
 
 
TᵢG
Professor Principal
9.2.3  seeder  TᵢG  replied to  evilgenius @9.2.2    2 months ago

And some (most?) of them do not care how utterly stupid they make themselves look in the process.   They want to argue their cause and are willing to sacrifice their own credibility (and perceived intelligence) in the process.   Thing is, if the person making the argument is deemed to be stupid by the argument, the result is counterproductive.   How stupid is that?

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
9.2.4  Gordy327  replied to  TᵢG @9.2.3    2 months ago

It's very stupid. But some people are too stupid to see it. Some are even stupid enough to "double down" on their stupidity and take pride in it. Stupid doesn't get much more stupid than that. 

 
 
 
Gordy327
Professor Principal
10  Gordy327    2 months ago

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." --- Albert Einstein

 
 

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