Friday, December 24, 2010

Popper's Paradox of Tolerance

Wise thoughts from the great philosopher, Karl Popper.

"Although Popper was an advocate of toleration, he realized that even a tolerant person cannot always accept another's intolerance.

For, if tolerance allowed intolerance to succeed completely, tolerance itself would be threatened. In The Open Society and Its Enemies: The Spell of Plato, he argued that:

Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

The utterence of intolerant philosophies should not always be suppressed, "as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion."

However, we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.

Furthermore, in support of human rights legislation in the second half of the 20th century, he stated:

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal".