Here’s Bonhoeffer’s letter in full.

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Discussion (27)¬

  1. Anonymous says:

    This section, after distinguishing stupidity from lack of intellect, rings particularly poignant within the larger discussion of social media “We note further that people who have isolated themselves from others or who live in solitude manifest this defect [stupidity] less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or condemned to sociability.”

  2. Peter says:

    Perhaps the adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” should be modified to “If you don’t have anything useful [i.e. that adds to the conversation in a meaningful way] to say, don’t say anything at all”

  3. Walter Walcarpit says:

    That’s a great piece of writing.
    Thank you Author for elevating it.

  4. Christopher Myson says:

    Is Schiller appropriate in this case “gegen Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens ” ‘Against stupidity the gods themselves war in vain’!

  5. E.A. Blair says:

    I’ve always held this quote as a significant statement regarding stupidity:

    “Everybody has opinions: I have them, you have them. And we are all told from the moment we open our eyes, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. Well, that’s horsepuckey, of course. We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing. It’s just bibble-babble. It’s like a fart in a wind tunnel, folks.”

    — Harlan Ellison

  6. Colin McLachlan says:

    Christopher – whence the title of my favourite Isaac Asimov novel.

  7. paradoctor says:

    “Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death. There is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.”
    ― Robert Heinlein

    But be advised: half of the time Heinlein is a wit, and the other half of the time he’s a half-wit. On average that’s 75%, but beware of the 25%.

  8. M27Holts says:

    I have laboured the point. But the day that Priests,vicars,Imams,Rabbi’s and religious cult leaders of all ilks are made to wear clown outfits and ridiculed for their stubborn bronze age cultural delusions! Cannot come soon enough.

  9. Christopher Myson says:

    Colin, Yes I know it.

  10. mcalex says:

    @E.A. of course, all that is just Harlan’s opinion. 😉

  11. Son of Glenner says:

    Regulars at the old Cock and Bull pub (ie readers of these comments) are very used to “farts in a wind-tunnel”, as well as informed opinions, but can get by without having to wear clown outfits – most of the time!

  12. Linguist says:

    I like the idea, but I can see it easily being weaponized by all sides in a discussion. It is a cheap ad hominem attack. I’ve seen similar accusations of sea-lioning. At the end of the day, we can discuss arguments all we want, but labeling a person as “stupid” or a “sea lion” enables us to ignore any points they do actually make. There is still the outstanding question as to whether we should try to address the points of someone whom Bonhoeffer would label “stupid”. The same goes for the label “evil”. Discuss the actions and techniques; don’t label the person. And sadly, expect label-obsessed people to use those terms against *you*.

  13. M27Holts says:

    I like sea Lions, but unlike a white shark, I couldn’t manage a whole one…

  14. Donn says:

    … enables us to ignore any points they do make.

    Not that I can’t do that anyway. It’s just useful to think about what you’re dealing with. Do you have to be drawn around the bushes by a “sea lion” troll? Nope, and less of an issue if you recognize the tactic.

    When discussing things with the stupid, and the trolls, I have to recognize that there’s little chance of any breakthrough, the failure isn’t my fault, and (if it’s a public forum) I may be reaching other readers who do not have these issues. It’s a good thing to bear in mind these days.

  15. Donn says:

    As for “actually evil” … is that essentially a religious concept? In the real world, we have sociopaths galore. Maybe a more useful way to approach the problem? Also considering the combination of culture and psychology.

  16. Ric' (silent 'P') says:

    Question? .. is Rishi a ‘true disciple’ of Bonhoeffer?

  17. two cents' worth says:

    Bonhoeffer wrote, “…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.” Does anyone here happen to know how to provide that liberation, or any other means of overcoming stupidity? (If not, I’ll ask my friendly reference librarian 🙂 . )

    Looks like it’s long overdue for education systems to resume including rhetoric in the basic curriculum, and the instruction should probably start before students reach the university level. Perhaps then more people would recognize rhetorical tricks such as slogans, and fewer would be taken in by them.

  18. Suffolk Blue says:

    Frank Zappa: “There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life”

  19. Shaughn says:

    On a previous occasion in the good old C&B, it was decided that
    “human stupidity is infinite, hence the universe must expand”.

  20. jb says:

    I just clicked on a video ad and let it run for 20 minutes before finally giving up and closing the window. (I wanted to see how long it would run before it got around to asking for money). The ad, which was full of stock footage and glowing testimonials from people whose voice was not synced to their image, started out promising “an easy 10 second cure for tinnitus”, but got progressively more and more crazy and conspiratorial. The purpose of ads like this is to filter out anyone who isn’t stupid, because the point is not to sell a fake tinnitus cure, but to find gullible marks and swindle them out of as much money as possible. It’s hard to imagine this could work, but I’ve been seeing this ad for months on YouTube and elsewhere, so someone must be making money. (It’s the ad with the spoons, and it seems to come in a version for eyes as well as ears. Has anyone else seen it?).

    Note that the “Nigerian price” spam emails work on the same principle: the transparent phoniness is deliberate, because the spammers don’t want to waste their time dealing with anyone who might wise up in the middle of the transaction, they only want to hear from true suckers.

  21. Son of Glenner says:

    jb: “Note that the “Nigerian prince” spam emails work on the same principle: …” But we’ve only got your word for that!

  22. jb says:

    My word isn’t good enough for you? 🙁 🙁 🙁 Well, there is also Microsoft and NPR

  23. postdoggerel says:

    Debating an idiot is like trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.

  24. Son of Glenner says:

    postdoggerel: It’s a lot worse if you replace pigeon with a seagull.

  25. Succubus ov Satan says:

    Bigly will make it about him

  26. JohnnieCanuck says:

    He’s a narcissist, he can’t help but make any opportunity to express himself about anything but his big league self.

  27. Gus says:

    Even a broken clock gives the right time twice a day. I’ve seen the dumbest stupid idiots occasionally make the most enlightened points and insightful observations. Also never forget that everyone, in their own opinion, is the smartest person in the world.


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