The blind leading the blind

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This article is about the metaphor. For the painting by Pieter Bruegel based on the metaphor, see The Blind Leading the Blind.

"The blind leading the blind" is an idiom [1] and a metaphor in the form of a parallel phrase which can be traced back to The Upanishads, written between 800 BCE and 200 BCE. [2]

Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind.

Notable Appearances[edit]

A similar metaphor exists in the Budhist Pali Canon, composed in North India, and preserved orally until it was committed to writing during the Fourth Buddhist Council in Sri Lanka in 29 BCE.

Suppose there were a row of blind men, each holding on to the one in front of him: the first one doesn't see, the middle one doesn't see, the last one doesn't see. In the same way, the statement of the Brahmans turns out to be a row of blind men, as it were: the first one doesn't see, the middle one doesn't see, the last one doesn't see.

— Canki Sutta (MN 95)[4]

The expression appears in Horace: Caecus caeco dux ("the blind leader of the blind"). Horace was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus (27 BCE – 14 CE) [5]

The saying appears several times in the Holy Bible

"Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides [of the blind]. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

— Matthew 15:13-14, New International Version

"Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher."

— Luke 6:39-40, New International Version

Interpretations[edit]

The blind leading the blind is used to describe a situation where a person who knows nothing is getting advice and help from another person who knows almost nothing.[6]

References in popular culture[edit]

"Blind leading the blind" was a song written by Mick Jagger, performed by Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart for the soundtrack of the 2004 film Alfie.

Translations[edit]

  • إذا كان أعمى يقود أعمى يسقطان كلاهما فى حفرة Arabic
  • τυφλός τυφλόν ὁδηγεῖ Greek (classical)
  • caecus caeco dux Latin
  • Если слепой ведет слепого - оба упадут в яму Russian

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/blind+leading+the+blind.html
  2. ^ http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/67150.html
  3. ^ Juan Mascaró (tr), The Upanishads, Penguin Classics, 1965, ISBN 0-14-044163-8, p. 58.
  4. ^ Canki Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 95) Archive copy at the Wayback Machine, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
  5. ^ Sullivan, Margaret A. (September 1991). "Bruegel's Proverbs: Art and Audience in the Northern Renaissance". The Art Bulletin. College Art Association. 73 (3): 431–466, 463. doi:10.2307/3045815. JSTOR 3045815. 
  6. ^ "Meaning of the phrase blind leading the blind at dictionary.cambridge.org".