17 Mar 2021

Breeur (2.3) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.2.3, “The Right to be Stupid”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Ch.2

 

2.3

“The Right to be Stupid”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(2.3.1) (As the opinions espoused in the reduction to stupidity are not based on truth,) it would seem that any opinion whatsoever can be insisted upon, regardless of its value. In other words, we would expect that any opinion whatsoever can stand in the place of a better judgement. However, Breeur notes that in fact, “some opinions are intolerable if not disqualified” (40). So we wonder, under these conditions of the destructive warfare of discourse that brings all judgments, no matter how worthy, down to the level of opinions, how is it that some are nonetheless deemed to be unworthy? (2.3.2) There is a first possible answer to why there are some opinions that cannot even legitimately enter the discourse despite the reduction to stupidity’s power to promulgate seemingly any opinion whatsoever: perhaps in fact the powers of the reduction to stupidity are limited. Perhaps it is unable to place these opinions on the same level as all other judgments. Breeur argues that this cannot be the right answer. Rather, these opinions are excluded not because they bear some value that the reduction to stupidity is powerless to reduce but rather because it has already exercised its power to reduce them, only in this case,  to reduce them to ruble. (2.3.3) The attacks that the reduction to stupidity levels at some opinions to destroy them “are often inane, asinine, mean, or base” (42). They do not even try to argue against the judgments they are attacking; they rather aim just “to close down argumentation, to short-circuit discussion once and for all, and with an air of self-righteousness,” and often take the form of “Clichés, unarticulated critique (“ungegliederte Kritik”, as Musil would say), excessive castigation, etc.” (42) This means that in substance these attacks are of little worth themselves. (They are all offense and no defense; no ground is held by them.) “The irony is that, though ostensibly in defense of its own position, such attacks defend precisely nothing. This is the core of this nihilistic program” (42).  (In a sense, stupidity exists in an artificial realm of discourse of its own making that lacks any potential for truth-value, where opinions that prevail do so only arbitrarily by force.)

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

2.3.1

[Despite the Reduction to Stupidity’s Power to Elevate Opinions, Some Opinions Still Being Excluded from the Discourse]

 

2.3.2

[The 1st Considered Explanation Being That the Reduction to Stupidity Has Limitations to Its Reductive Powers. The Reply That No, Rather, This Demonstrates Its Limitless Destructive Powers.]

 

2.3.3

[The Nihilistic Program of the Reduction to Stupidity]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

2.3.1

[Despite the Reduction to Stupidity’s Power to Elevate Opinions, Some Opinions Still Being Excluded from the Discourse]

 

[(As the opinions espoused in the reduction to stupidity are not based on truth,) it would seem that any opinion whatsoever can be insisted upon, regardless of its value. In other words, we would expect that any opinion whatsoever can stand in the place of a better judgement. However, Breeur notes that in fact, “some opinions are intolerable if not disqualified” (40). So we wonder, under these conditions of the destructive warfare of discourse that brings all judgments, no matter how worthy, down to the level of opinions, how is it that some are nonetheless deemed to be unworthy?]

 

[(Recall the “reduction to stupidity” from section 2.2.5. Breeur was discussing how one’s insistence on their opinions is an instance of stupidity, because they persist with their faulty views even when confronted by superior ones. It would be better to have flexibility and drop bad judgements in favor of more informed and considered ones, and then to espouse the better ones instead. This would facilitate the flow and prosperity of truth, which involves development, refinement, adaptation, and so forth. When instead that flow is blocked because some people insist on keeping their faulty opinions in the face of other people’s better ones, this depletes those superior ones of their power to flow, promulgate, and have influence on other people’s minds. In that way, the better views are “reduced to hot air” so to speak, and overall it reduces the general discourse to inferior judgments. This reduction of the truth-flow power of evolving judgments is the “reduction to stupidity”.) (See summary above.)]

Why not simply keep silent and withhold our judgments in domains in which we do not have the requisite knowledge and/or experience to have informed opinions? Unfortunately, the reduction to stupidity has a tendency to absoluteness. I do not simply adopt an opinion and repeat it without too many scruples, I claim the right to utter it. That is, I claim the right to speak and think without the fear of critique and in absence of any personal commitment and responsibility. At first sight, the proliferation of stupidity seems to be the articulation of a vast program, a program to endorse opinions to whatever extent the circumstances require. However, there is a puzzling inconsistency inasmuch as some opinions are intolerable if not disqualified. On the one hand, we proudly proclaim the bringing into effect of a global reduction to stupidity. The proliferation of opinions is by definition boundless and unlimited. That is the driving force behind its functioning. Its reign | and supremacy persist as the general devastating fires that turn every resisting piece of value, sense, or “das Bedeutende” to ash. Not only does the sovereign power of the opinion participate in the radical reduction to stupidity, this reduction itself functions as a force tearing judgments down to the level of opinions. On the other hand, even though it is “opinions all the way down,” some opinions are not allowed. Why is this?

(40-41)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.3.2

[The 1st Considered Explanation Being That the Reduction to Stupidity Has Limitations to Its Reductive Powers. The Reply That No, Rather, This Demonstrates Its Limitless Destructive Powers.]

 

[There is a first possible answer to why there are some opinions that cannot even legitimately enter the discourse despite the reduction to stupidity’s power to promulgate seemingly any opinion whatsoever: perhaps in fact the powers of the reduction to stupidity are limited. Perhaps it is unable to place these opinions on the same level as all other judgments. Breeur argues that this cannot be the right answer. Rather, these opinions are excluded not because they bear some value that the reduction to stupidity is powerless to reduce but rather because it has already exercised its power to reduce them, only in this case,  to reduce them to ruble.]

 

[ditto]

One answer might be that there are still some fortresses of meaning (the “Truth”) resisting the devastating power of what Frankfurt called the “contemporary proliferation of bullshit.” This does not seem to be the case. To wit, consider the stupidity of some of the awkward reactions to statements determined to be insulting or injurious. Such reactions are most of the time completely out of proportion, excessive, or inappropriate, hence stupid (or hysterical, but that’s a subject all its own). They illustrate what Robert Musil says about stupidity vis-a-vis the brutal, clumsy, and bungling behavior of someone who, feeling threatened by some isolated enemy on the other side, throws a grenade instead of aiming at him with his gun. No risks! Destroy everything in the immediate area and the stain of the enemy will be rubbed out.40 Stupidity, to use a military term, “saturates” a target with a volley or with sweeping fire, or, indeed, when it uses shrapnel or a grenade. Moreover, stupid reactions and words (clichés) are vast and vague, thus their lack of precision becomes an advantage: They can be used in all manner of situations and circumstances without discernment. Thus, lack of tolerance for some (kinds of) opinions is not indicative of the “failure” of the reduction to stupidity, but rather, of its radical achievement. That is, such lack of tolerance is not confirmation of the existence of some resisting meaningfulness, it is a symptom of its absence. In this realm, everything can hurt because nothing protects, therefore any and all opinions which are deemed “threatening” are immediately and mercilessly attacked. As Sartre would say, the stupid world is full of snares.41

(41-42)

40. See Robert Musil, “On stupidity,” in: Precision and Soul: Essays and Addresses, Ed. and Trans. Burton Pike and David S. Luft (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1990), p. 279.

(41)

41. Jean-Paul Sartre, Notebooks for an Ethics (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 302.

(42)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.3.3

[The Nihilistic Program of the Reduction to Stupidity]

 

[The attacks that the reduction to stupidity levels at some opinions to destroy them “are often inane, asinine, mean, or base” (42). They do not even try to argue against the judgments they are attacking; they rather aim just “to close down argumentation, to short-circuit discussion once and for all, and with an air of self-righteousness,” and often take the form of “Clichés, unarticulated critique (“ungegliederte Kritik”, as Musil would say), excessive castigation, etc.” (42) This means that in substance these attacks are of little worth themselves. (They are all offense and no defense; no ground is held by them.) “The irony is that, though ostensibly in defense of its own position, such attacks defend precisely nothing. This is the core of this nihilistic program” (42).  (In a sense, stupidity exists in an artificial realm of discourse of its own making that lacks any potential for truth-value, where opinions that prevail do so only arbitrarily by force.) ]

 

[ditto]

Not surprisingly, such attacks are often inane, asinine, mean, or base. This is to be expected, for stupidity thrives on negating the meaningful. Indeed, stupid attacks never challenge or defy an enemy; rather, they try to reduce that which they oppose to stupidity. The tools are the tools of the stupid: Clichés, unarticulated critique (“ungegliederte Kritik”, as Musil would say), excessive castigation, etc. The goal is not to argue but to close down argumentation, to short-circuit discussion once and for all, and with an air of self-righteousness. The vicious and paradoxical dynamic of stupidity is that the opinions it has adopted in its war on all that conflicts with it ultimately function as a protective crust. This explains the nervousness and irritability discernible in the stupid attacks against anything that threatens its weak edifice. The irony is that, though ostensibly in defense of its own position, such attacks defend precisely nothing. This is the core of this nihilistic program. Stupid opinions are kept alive artificially in order to prolong or extend the negative activity of stupidity. As a phenomenon, stupidity exists in a “closed system,” or an “Orde der Dunsen.” One could even suspect stupidity of deliberately installing and promoting some artificial values it could tear down afterwards (freedom of speech, equality, fraternity). There is something perverse and inappropriate about it: It is, as Musil would say, a bit like the behavior of a frustrated child slashing at nettles baptized with the names of those it fears.

(42)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

 

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page

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