A couple of weeks ago, I read about Karl Popper’s “The Paradox Of Tolerance” in Mark Manson’s MindF*ck Monday newsletter. A couple of key quotes:
If everyone is tolerant of every idea, then intolerant ideas will emerge. Tolerant people will tolerate this intolerance, and the intolerant people will not tolerate the tolerant people. Eventually, the intolerant people will take over and create a society of intolerance. Therefore, Popper said, to maintain a society of tolerance, the tolerant must be intolerant of intolerance… hence the paradox.
The problem with Popper’s reasoning is that it quickly devolves into a cascade of dickish, self-righteous behavior. Let’s say Person B decides that Person A’s behavior is intolerant and a threat to society. Person B then decides that it is morally correct to be intolerant of Person A and treat her like crap.
But then, Person C strolls by and notices Person B being a totally intolerant assface to Person A. Person C then decides that it’s morally correct to be actively intolerant of Person B. But then Person D strolls by, and notices Person C being horribly intolerant towards Person B…
The irony is that in order to practice tolerance, you must be willing to sit with things that upset you or make you uncomfortable. Yet, if your adopted ethic is that no one should ever be upset or uncomfortable, then you make any sort of tolerance impossible.
I’ve never been especially impressed by all the sophomoric philosopher arguments about how there can’t be a God because bad things happen (implying that either God is powerless to stop it, ignorant-unaware, or apathetic). But, I don’t remember ever reading any impressive explanation as to why God chooses inaction in the face of so much evil, except for apocalyptic extremes. Yes, all that stuff about agency and the relationship to justice and to mercy are great, if not wonderful. Also, we certainly can’t disregard the idea that we are mere mortals trying to understand…. Still, all this seems incomplete and not fully satisfying.
Maybe, just maybe, the above ideas fill in some important blanks. Somehow I don’t think that was Mark’s intent.