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Patron of the simple: St. Wilhelmus
The marriage proposal of the simple-minded , copper engraving by Daniel Chodowiecki

Simplicity (also simple-minded ) denotes simplicity of thinking .


The term goes back to a Germanic word stem (Gothic ainfalþs , Old High German einfalti ) and originally meant general simplicity in the sense of monotony, undividedness, accordingly diametrically opposed to terms such as diversity or trinity. Only in the course of time did the meaning become limited to simple thinking.

In the Middle Ages, the exclamation Sancta Simplicitas! (“Holy simplicity!”) Admired the unworldly straightforwardness of very pious people.

Martin Luther used it in the Great Catechism in 1529 as follows:

“I say that so simply for the youth that it will come true one day; whoever is simple-minded, reject the question and refer it to the learned "

According to Johann Joachim Winckelmann, “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur” characterize the masterpieces of Greek art in the 18th century .

In 1907 Friedrich Kirchner's dictionary wrote:

“Simplicity denotes a certain limitation of understanding and straightforwardness of judgment and, since this is inherent in children, real childliness. It can also be understood as the absence of adornment , false consideration, dissimulation and dishonesty (...) He who is of simple mind cannot act according to far-sighted and complex intentions; whoever is simple-minded does not want it. The simple-minded is the opposite of the clever, clever and worldly. His life is natural, devoid of luxury and affectation; his attitudes and actions are in harmony, free of any secondary intentions. "

Simplicity is often attributed to the pious or to children (“ child's mouth makes truth known”). In Viennese dialect, a simple-minded person is called a Christkindl . Of the countless other names for simple-minded people who simpleton the word element simplicity in its name. In recent times the use of the word has shifted further in a derogatory and derisive direction towards stupidity and ignorance or denotes a naive, uncritical, easily manipulated judgment.

Aesthetic simplicity

The aesthetic simplicity or simplicity consists in the natural harmony of all parts of a work of art. It never gives more than the purpose of the whole demands; their means of art are the simplest; their arrangement and connection is natural; it is far from all overload and curlicue. Such simplicity ennobles the works of all true geniuses. It prevailed in the art movement of the ancients and is absent in many directions of modern art (cf. Schiller's poem to Goethe : The sense that only praises the true, despises false decency and gestures , Kirchner 1907).

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