‘[Middle English] This was a word in Middle English for a person of low intelligence: it came via Old French from Latin idiota ‘ignorant person’, […].’ From the Ancient Greek ἰδιώτης (idiotes) meaning a private person who is not engaged or interested in public and political affairs.
– Chantrell. G. edt. 2002. The Oxford Essential Dictionary of World Histories New York, United States: Berkley Publishing Group (2003) p. 260
That’s interesting. There may be a level of historical sinisterism there as well. For example, it makes it easy to label anyone who prefers the solitary life for more virtuous reasons as being naive or foolish while those engaged in realms of public discourse are considered the enlightened intellectuals.
Someone reclusive like Emily Dickinson would be considered an “idiot” when using the Ancient Greek definition:
“How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!”
In the world of Special Education, idiot has become one of the classifications measuring degrees of intelligence, signifying someone whose Intelligence Quotient is below 30 on a predetermined intelligence scale. Unfortunately, the term has also been used derogatorily, to describe one whose behavior is deemed sub-par.
Interestingly, Nietzsche claimed, in his The Antichrist, that Jesus was an idiot. This resulted from his description of Jesus as having an aversion toward the material world:
Ah, one of my favorite Dickenson poems. The lady lived the majority of her life on a small acreage, yet her perception into the Human condition and her ability to express those thoughts so concisely, never fails to leave me in awe. She never published even one of her hundreds of poems during her lifetime – fame was not her goal.
I always find it fun to compare Nietzsche’s work to Tolstoy’s critiques of him. Definitely makes for an interesting contrast, in my opinion lol.
What I find at least equally interesting, are the many parallels in the lives of Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky, which brings us full-circle, in that quite coincidentally, Dostoyevsky wrote, The Idiot.
Reblogged this on oogenhand.