Quotes from Soren Kierkegaard and Dietrich Bonhoeffer…

imagesTwo philosophers that can changed the way I look at things. Soren Kierkegaard (mid 1800’s), and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (near mid 1900’s)…

Kierkegaard, was an eccentric philosopher and is considered by many to be the father of Existentialism; he was Christian, but felt, religion, in terms of “Groupthink,” had lost its way… Even though most all the rest of the Existentialists that came after SK were Atheists, Kierkegaard is considered the founding father of this new thought paradigm, and has had a profound effect on my own personal worldview…

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a celebrated German Lutheran minister, Philosopher, and Theologian, continued to compile his work right up till his capture for attempting to kill Adolf Hitler, (along with six other of his extended family and friends), wrote this quote, taken from a larger SA, that was written from his prison cell while waiting for his execution. He was executed two days before Hitler Killed himself…

Kierkegaard writes: “There is a view of life which holds that where the crowd is, the truth is also, that it is a need in truth itself, that it must have the crowd on its side. There is another view of life; which holds that wherever the crowd is, there is untruth, so that, for a moment to carry the matter out to its farthest conclusion, even if every individual possessed the truth in private, yet if they came together into a crowd (so that “the crowd” received any decisive, voting, noisy, audible importance), untruth would at once be let in.”

Bonhoeffer writes: (Keep in mind his historical relationship to Adolph Hitler)… “Folly is a more dangerous enemy to the good than evil. One can protest against evil; it can be unmasked…. Evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction, as it makes people , at the least, uncomfortable. Against folly 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…is completely self-satisfied; in fact, he can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make him aggressive. …we shall never try to convince a fool by reason, for it is both useless and dangerous.
If we are to deal adequately with folly, we must try to understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is a moral rather than an intellectual defect. There are people who are mentally agile but foolish, and people are slow but very far from foolish. …We notice further that this defect is less common in the unsociable and solitary than in individuals or groups that are inclined or condemned to sociability. It seems then, that folly is a sociological rather than a psychological problem, and that it is a special form of the operation of historical circumstances on people, a psychological by-product of definite external factors. If we look more closely, we see that any violent display of power…produces an outburst of folly in a large part of mankind; indeed, this seems actually to be a psychological and sociological law: the power of some needs the folly of others. …the upsurge of power makes such an overwhelming impression that men are deprived of their independent judgement…. The fact that the fool is often stubborn must not mislead us into thinking that he is independent. One feels in fact, when talking to him, that one is dealing, not with the man himself, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like, which have taken hold of him. He is under a spell, he is binded, his very nature is being misused and exploited. Having thus become a passive instrument, the fool will be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil.
But at this point it is quite clear, too, that folly can be overcome, not by instruction, but only by an act of liberation; and so we have come to terms with the fact that in the majority of cases inward liberation must precede outward liberation, and until that is taken place, we may as well abandon all attempts to convince the fool. In this state of affairs we have to realize why it is no use trying to find our what ‘the people’ really think and why the question is so superfluous for the man who thinks and acts responsibly…. The Bible’s words that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ tell us that a person’s inward liberation to live a responsible life before God is the only real cure for folly.
But there is some consolation in these thoughts on folly: they in no way justify us in thinking that most people are fools in all circumstances. What will matter is whether those in power expect more from people’s folly than from their wisdom and independence of mind”.

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