Bonhoeffer’s Theory of Stupidity Explains The World Perfectly
The phenomenon that is at the root of all problems.
“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than evil,” wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian. Penning this sentence ten years after the accession of Adolf Hitler to supreme power, these words reflected tough lessons soaked in blood. Bonhoeffer formed part of a small circle of resistance to the dictator in Germany, risking his life for an ideal.
It was a dark time in his homeland. Total war had engulfed the world, and a totalitarian regime was controlling the country. Bonhoeffer pondered how this came to be. He thought about the nature of evil, but came to the conclusion it was not evil itself that was the most dangerous enemy of the good. Rather, it was stupidity.
For you can fight against evil. Evil gives people a queasy feeling in the stomach. As Bonhoeffer continued, “evil carries with itself the seeds of its own destruction.” To prevent willful malice, you can always erect barriers to stop its spread. Against stupidity you are defenseless.
“Against stupidity we have no defense. Neither protests nor force can touch it. Reasoning is of no use. Facts that contradict personal prejudices can simply be disbelieved — indeed, the fool can counter by criticizing them, and if they are undeniable, they can just be pushed aside as trivial exceptions. So the fool, as distinct from the scoundrel, is completely self-satisfied. In fact, they can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make them aggressive. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Understanding the nature of stupidity
After writing down those words, Bonhoeffer was soon arrested. He died two years later, executed in a concentration camp by Nazi henchmen. The man lived in what now seems like a completely different era. Yet, the ideas he left us with have an application in any century. For stupidity hasn’t disappeared. It is eternal.
“If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must…