Bonhoeffer‘s Theory of Stupidity - Deepstash
Bonhoeffer‘s Theory of Stupidity

Bonhoeffer‘s Theory of Stupidity

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Bonhoeffer proposes his theory

Bonhoeffer proposes his theory

During the darkest time in German history, incited mobs threw stones into the windows of innocent shop owners and women and children were cruelly humiliated.

A young German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer began to publicly speak against the atrocities. After years of trying to change people's minds, Bonhoeffer was arrested and sent to prison. Here, Bonhoeffer reflected on how the poets and thinkers of his own country had turned into a collective of cowards, crooks and criminals. He finally concluded that the root of the problem was not malice, but stupidity.

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The theory of stupidity

Bonhoeffer argued in his famous letters from prison that stupidity is more dangerous than malice because one may protest against evil, and it can be exposed and prevented by the use of force. But we are defenceless against stupidity. Protests or force can do nothing, and reasons fall on deaf ears. Facts that do not fit a stupid person's prejudgment are ignored or pushed aside as inconsequential or incidental. 

However, being easily irritated, this stupid person becomes dangerous by attacking. Therefore, great caution is needed when dealing with a stupid person.

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How to get the better of stupidity

To get the better of stupidity, we must try to understand its nature. 

Stupidity is not an intellectual defect but a moral one. There are many intellectual people who are stupid and many intellectually dull people who are not stupid.

Stupidity is not a congenital defect, but people are made stupid or allow this to happen to them.

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The stupid person is not independent

The stupid person is not independent

Individuals that are in groups manifest this defect of stupidity more often than people who live in solitude.

Every strong upsurge of power infects people with stupidity. It seems that when there is a rise in power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and give up an autonomous position.

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Liberation from stupidity

When conversing with a stupid person, you will notice that you are not dealing with him as a person but with slogans and catchwords that have blinded him. He is under a spell, misused, and abused in his being. 

Having become a mindless tool, the stupid person is capable of any evil and incapable of seeing that it is evil. Only liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. However, internal liberation is most often only possible if external liberation precedes it.  

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DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

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.

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER

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