Misconceptions of the Open Society
Is it necessary to be intolerant of the intolerant? Perhaps so; if we wish to preserve our liberal-democratic way of life, it makes sense to ensure those who would establish tyranny never achieve power. This is the theory put forward by philosopher Karl Popper in his ‘Paradox of Tolerance’ model. 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.”
Popper was correct in his argument; we should be intolerant of the hateful and the violent, and I would argue many of us already are. But what does it actually mean to be ‘correctly’ intolerant in this sense? How do we limit our intolerance to those who truly deserve it, without restricting the freedom of the individual to choose?