Paradox of Tolerance

Post 397

Imagine a tolerant fellow. We all know someone like that or might be that person ourselves. They respect other’s rights, opinions and practices. They accept humanity is a multitude of shades of grey. It’s pure broad-mindedness. A lovely chap. The opposite is intolerance. So it’s safe to assume that all tolerant people are antagonistic toward intolerance. That makes sense, right? They hate things that aren’t tolerant. But think about that for a moment. If a tolerant person is antagonistic toward intolerance, doesn’t that make the tolerant person intolerant, therefore not tolerant at all? ‘Tis the question, readers.

It begs the question, can one be tolerant? Because the paradox states that we cannot be 100% tolerant. It’s impossible if we believe the paradox. But what does that say of humanity? Are we incapable of pure tolerance? Does that make intolerance, in a sense, important to whom we are? Is being something we think is bad actually something good? It’s a wonderful paradox. It really makes you stop and think.

Michael Walzer once asked, “Should we tolerate the intolerant?” He noted that everyone is both, at least in some respects. Karl Popper once said, “We are warranted in refusing to tolerate intolerance.” And John Rawls once wrote, ‘A just society must tolerate the intolerant, for otherwise, the society would then itself be intolerant, and thus unjust’. He also stated that, ‘Society has a reasonable right of self-preservation that supersedes the principle of tolerance’.

The paradox is a fascinating look into humanity, and it makes for a great thought experiment. I think it’s marvellous.

What do you think of this paradox, readers?

Toodle-pip :)(:

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  1. Reblogged this on night owl speaks and commented:
    From IndelibleMe – a thoughtful piece on tolerance. I recently read a paragraph or two that denigrated ‘tolerance’ completely. We tolerate our busybody neighbor, the low-grade headache, allergy season. What if, instead of tolerance, we work towards acceptance and, eventually, empathy? Imagine THAT world.

  2. TILOM,
    In machine parts there are all kinds of “tolerance” or tiny gaps (usually filled with oil) for the smooth operations of various mechanisms. This tolerance – up to a point – makes tolerance essential. How wide a gap or how much you are willing to tolerate depends on how much like a machine you are feeling about the circumstances you find yourself in.

    How much can you tolerate thinking like a machine? I like to balance the freedom of open concepts with the freedom to be precise and have an exact preference for neither. I tolerate both eating and having my cake with the understanding that the smorgasbord may be vaporized at any moment.

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