So the issue here ins't tolerance itsef, but rather its demarcation. I'm sure we would both agree that there are intolerant groups in society, and if the paradox holds any imperative force at all, then we ought to put our best philosophic and critical work towards finding in what cases that's true. That doesn't mean we should simply tolerate groups and stop looking into the matter.
The phenomenon I’m describing is one in which people invent reasons post-facto for why their target should be considered “intolerant” and why they deserve the hate and harassment levied at them. If an example helps, consider Damore or the Christakis.
> I actually only rarely see people argue for "unlimited" intolerance of some groups - often, for instance, they don't pursue a legal amendment to absolutely stop these people speaking, but rather suggest a valid tactic would be to not give them platforms.
I didn’t mean to imply that people were calling explicitly for unlimited intolerance, but rather that it is implied when someone “punished” severely a member of their outgroup for an alleged infraction that would be considered minor by any reasonable person if it were true at all. For example, a racist journalist doxxing a teenager in a slanderous piece, rationalizing the treatment as warranted because the teen was wearing a t-shirt for a musician who had one vaguely misogynistic song.
> So the issue here ins't tolerance itsef, but rather its demarcation. I'm sure we would both agree that there are intolerant groups in society, and if the paradox holds any imperative force at all, then we ought to put our best philosophic and critical work towards finding in what cases that's true. That doesn't mean we should simply tolerate groups and stop looking into the matter.
I’m not sure if I agree with this or not, so I’ll just rephrase—this paradox is used to justify mobbing, harassing, threatening, and assaulting a lot of innocent people (or people whose infractions were trivial). We should do our best to minimize intolerance, but mobs virtually always do the opposite and we’re seeing a lot of that these days.
I don't think it should be used that way, since it should apply to things which are threats to democracy in the strongest sense, so I'd say it should probably include Nazis and anti-Semites but not include someone like Damore (for instance), as abhorrent as a person I think he is. Or rather, how Damore is treated shouldn't be covered by a rationalization on the paradox of tolerance.
I think our approaches differ in that I don't have so much of a problem with a non-value neutral society.
But it's not! Many intolerant societies became tolerant, whereas the paradox implies something like that is impossible!
I've yet to see any example of a truly tolerant individual or group being unfairly labeled as intolerant as a pretext to discriminate against them.
If you have examples, I'd love to see them.
It appears the people who jumped to conclusions admitted their mistakes and within one day they're falling all over themselves to admit, apologize and disseminate the truth.
Looks to me like the system is working, and these outlets are not using fake intolerance as a pretext to discriminate against this group.
NYT - "Fuller Picture Emerges of Viral Video" (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/20/us/nathan-phillips-coving...)
The Atlantic - "I Failed the Covington Catholic Test" (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/01/julie-irwi...)
Worse, virtually every mainstream publication that wrote about the story led with misinformation, and many failed to publish a retraction or an apology of any kind. And the retractions that actually do get published will never be circulated as widely as the original sensationalist publication ("lies travel faster than the truth" and all that jazz). The entire journalism industry failed at its principle responsibilities--to defer knee-jerk reactions in pursuit of the truth and to see past stereo-types and identity to the individual and the nuanced context. And the consequence was that dozens of students, family, and school faculty were harassed, slandered, and threatened. The only relief in all of this is that no one has acted on their threats.
I don't know how any decent person can call this a passably-functioning system. This is the textbook example of a deeply broken system.
Unfortunately this sort of retraction doesn't occur in the thousands of daily online discussions where the same sort of pre-judgement and labeling occurs every day. The media in it's clickbait culture has successfully divided the two sides, and they believe the other side is the epitome of evil, which leaves no room for discussion.
Edit: there could be a filter bubble effect going on here too. We all see different slices of online life. Pretty much all my follows are extreme leftist, so I see a lot of the behavior I'm discussing
Black Israelites (weird sect) yelled racist stuff at the kids, which is not ok. Phillips moved in, drumming and chanting. The kids smugged up and started racist chants and dancing.
The black Israelites and the kids were the assholes.
The kid is obviously doing the whole "I'm not touching you" thing, but he is very much antagonizing Phillips in the (full) video.
The initial assessment of the viral video were incorrect, and there's been an outpouring of mea culpas from media personalities.
But that error does NOT mean these kids are tolerant and accepting of differences in race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc. Indeed, the actions of these kids shows a high degree of intolerance.
The paradox of tolerance means that tolerant people should NOT tolerate the intolerant.
A charitable and likely interpretation is that Phillips and the kids mistook each other’s intentions. Neither the children nor the adult handled it perfectly.
No matter what these kids heard from the black Hebrew israelites, there is no excuse for their behavior.
Add to this the videos that have surfaced of these kids (including many of the same kids from the first video) unprovokedly jeering at young women that "rape doesn't count if you like it" and similar misogynistic statements, it is abundantly clear that these kids are indeed bigots and should be strongly reprimanded for their behavior, not given speaking time on national TV.
There are centuries of racial and cultural tension at play, which must not be ignored.
left - we're intolerant of unfettered free speech because it leads to spreading ideas that destroy our specific version of tolerance
right - we're intolerant of certain cultures because the proliferation of those cultures leads to spreading ideas that destroy our specific version of tolerance
Logically, that both these arguments can be made is a truism. Practically, we see versions of this on both sides every day.
It doesn't mean that the left and right are both wrong, or both absurd. It means that this issue can't be settled by principle alone.
-- Mosiah 29:26
It's not a paradox, it's just how democracies work. As long as the voice of the people are tolerant, it should be okay. You only need to start worrying if the intolerant are no longer a lesser part of the people and have an ever growing share of the voice of the people.
The thing I hate most about the "paradox of tolerance" is its ability to be weaponized to further political goals. All you have to do is re-categorize what your opponent(s) are doing as "intolerance" such that you can now safely be intolerant of them. Your opponent is religious? Find some aspect of their religion that could be considered intolerant by your target audience and now you can safely label your opponent a bigot and its all good since, after all, you are only being intolerant of intolerance!
> 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. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.
Both things are true:
- Intolerant zealots (religious or otherwise) can weaponize tolerance against itself.
- Bigots can weaponize the paradox of tolerance for purely hateful aims.
You must contend with both of these realities. There's no avoiding judgment and practical considerations.
While there is a risk that this works in practice, it's not really coherent. Being intolerant of intolerance does not necessitate being intolerant of the intolerant.
How does it not? At some point things come into conflict. As an example, religious views that condemn homosexuality as evil. Adherents of those views will, given the power, happily prevent gay marriage by force, or much worse. If you want to defend tolerance, you will have to stop them from doing that, also by force (political or otherwise). There is no way out of that.
This seems to neatly capture the problem. If you can paint the other side as irrational, it excuses almost any pre-emptive bad behavior.
Believing something is wrong does not mean the adherents are out to kill people or use force against them. The adherents also think gluttony is an evil, yet candy bars and refined carbs remain freely available.
And so, at that level of careless prejudice, it does not justify the use of "force (political or otherwise)" to "stop them." The President might as well announce that Karl Popper supports the idea of a Muslim ban.
I'd argue that this response neatly captures the flip side of the problem.
To quote my other post:
You must contend with both of these realities. There's no avoiding judgment and practical considerations.
So yes, you are right that "believing something is wrong does not mean the adherents are out to kill people or use force against them."
But sometimes it does mean that. You don't get to take the high road until you address what to do in those situations.
Most of human history disagrees, especially in the case of gay rights.
So, you enforce that gay people can marry, but you don't go after people who oppose gay marriage for their opinion.
> you shouldn't do anything that affects the person beyond what is necessary to defend tolerance.
This is the tricky part. What if violence is necessary? You can claim it should always be a last resort, and I'd agree. But you can't claim that it's never necessary.
So implicit in calling someone "intolerant" without qualification is "intolerant of these things, that I think should be tolerated". This is how "I can tolerate everything except intolerance" becomes "I can tolerate anything except the outgroup", that is, those people that have different ideas about what should and shouldn't be tolerated.
1. being unwilling to engage in rational argument
2. forbidding their followers from listening to rational argument
3. teaching their followers to answer rational argument with violence
Usually when I see someone bring up the paradox of tolerance it is because they do not want to engage in rational argument and instead seek to justify pre-emptive violence against a person or group that is at most expressing intolerant opinions.
The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior (in whose honor I had a day off of work today) never once called for 'tolerance', the boycotts and sit-ins were not a demand for tolerance - they were a demand for integration. To tolerate is to "otherise" - you are _allowed_ to continue being as your are, but on the outside. To integrate, you do not require permission, but you do not continue as you are - both "sides" are transformed by the process.
I think that we should abandon the idea of tolerance as an inherent virtue and look for pathways for mutually acceptable integration, rather than building rigid islands of tolerance.
Obviously we should all make every effort to include people who are different from us. I think most intelligent people recognize that it's wrong to exclude or mistreat people because of race, religion, gender, sexuality etc. We should treat people with empathy and ensure that we accommodate their differences.
Ideas, in my mind, don't deserve the same standard of respect as people. In fact I don't think ideas deserve any sort of special treatment. Wrong ideas should be challenged and excluded and good ideas should be brought to light.
The problem with using the word tolerance to describe accepting people and ideas is that too often we conflate the two. I think the best example of this was when someone punched Richard Spencer and the internet broke out into debate on whether it's okay to punch a nazi. It seemed a misconnect between accepting people and ideas, like people couldn't recognize that we should be intolerant of Richard Spencer's ideas but still be tolerant of Richard Spencer the human being. And while it's good to attack his ideas, it's wrong to attack and harm the person.
Here are a couple of MLK quotes... these clearly indicate a desire for tolerance, together with a desire for change:
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”
Further, one can be tolerant and still desire (and work for) change. The world is not so black and white.
Basically this dogma of otherness is that in any discussion or situation, there is always room for another viewpoint. Everything is potentially valid. (This relates to tolerance, obviously).
This dogma is thoroughly the product/manifestation of western liberal elitism. To borrow your words, it's not actually virtuous, but an exclusionary idea.
I might even go further to say that integration paradoxically _requires_ some degree of intolerance - the integrated whole should be intolerant of "negative" aspects of the unintegrated, even if they are things that would be seen as protection of "positive" tradition/cultural values by those in a strictly "tolerant" camp on either side.
Of course then there's camel nose/slippery slope fallacy so liked by intolerant. It is best to ask for evidence.
"Integration-preventative tolerance" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue though.
It is most often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, as a response to charges that he was violating the United States Constitution by suspending habeas corpus during the American Civil War. Although the phrase echoes statements made by Lincoln, and although versions of the sentiment have been advanced at various times in American history, the precise phrase "suicide pact" was first used in this context by Justice Robert H. Jackson in his dissenting opinion in Terminiello v. Chicago, a 1949 free speech case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The phrase also appears in the same context in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision written by Justice Arthur Goldberg.
His descriptions really resonated with me, especially as regards the usual framing of the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Israel, so the usual rhetoric goes, is much more powerful than Hamas or the PLO, so they shouldn’t respond using that power. In essence they should suffer a death by a thousand cuts, because of how it makes people feel to see a weaker group lose to a stronger one. Of course it’s also a convenient bludgeon to rely on schoolyard logic to try and restrict people, groups, or nations from defending themselves.
I remember seeing this comparison and finding it quite profound as well.
-- Arthur Garfield Hays, "Democracy Works" (1939)
In a very Russell's Teapot way, it's fairly trivial to blow up absolute statements by recursing. This doesn't say much about the content of the idea, per se.
The quote dosen't get to the point that law isn't (or usually isn't) about policing thoughts, even as the "religionists" would have it, it's about preventing action, and it is of course no secret that speech really can be harmful - assault, child pornography and threats, for instance - or to take it to the extreme, when I defraud someone's bank account online, aren't I just sending messages to the web server? Surely to stop me would infringe on my right to free speech, no?
>Richard Arneson observes that “emotional reactions to what
one’s neighbors and fellow citizens are doing can be powerful and can be virtually unavoidable for persons who have not detached themselves from all personal concern for the quality of life in their community.” Arneson suggests that “we should think of citizens who would be appalled at the thought of living in a community that tolerates Roman-style gladiatorial spectacles as
harmed by the bareknowledge that such events are occurring...”
There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment about the nature of sin, for example,” said Oats. “And what do they think? Against it, are they?” said Granny Weatherwax.
“It’s not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.
“It’s a lot more complicated than that . . .”
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes . . .”
“But they starts with thinking about people as things . . . ”
"treating people as things" doesn't necessarily mean that you believe that people _are_ things -- as you note, a willful blurring of that line in the knowledge (even subliminal knowledge) that you're acting in bad faith is, perhaps, where "it" starts in the first place.
To your examples: Employing people does not necessarily constitute treating them as things; many sharp critiques of the labor market basically center around the idea that treating your employees as things is both unnecessary and harmful.
I don't necessarily agree that pornography is obligate depersonalization -- c.f. The Stranger's HUMP fest, for example, which seems pretty person-ful to me.
I think the point with porn is similar to the previous one, in the sense that porn which resists commodification is often the sort in which the people portrayed are doing it for their own sake as much as they are some kind of artistry. The critique of pornography is framed around porn defined as a kind of inequality while the rest could be better termed erotica. I don't personally think the distinction holds up to much scrutiny (there's half on an entry in SEP going over this issue) but it's reasonable to say that objectification is common in industrial pornography in particular - which despite its diversity of themes tend to boil down to this rather simple idea.
 "To prevent possible misunderstanding, a word. I paint the capitalist and the landlord in no sense couleur de rose [i.e., seen through rose-tinted glasses]. But here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them." (Karl Marx, preface to the first German edition of Capital)
If intolerant speech turns into violence, extant rule of law gets triggered. I believe most countries have conspiracy laws to deal with groups that plan out a path from speech to violent destruction. So unless this is a "bootstrapping" thought experiment, I don't see the problem.
On the other hand if intolerant speech doesn't generate violence, then the speech should not and cannot be curtailed without being unconstitutional-- at least in the U.S.
Now, think of the common modern case which does an end run around what I've said. That is-- large sums of money paying for a) public relations to manipulate the public into voting/acting against their own interests, and b) using the resulting power to further corrupt the democratic process.
Where does intolerance come into play in that scenario? AFAICT not at all.
Now suppose society believes the paradox of tolerance is a thing. They will attempt to use intolerance as a kind of "emergency tool" to combat what they perceive to be an anti-democratic PR manipulation campaign. But the PR manipulation campaign already beat them once-- otherwise the democratic process wouldn't have gotten corrupted. It's like playing a chess game against a team of 10 grandmasters who corner you, and then you agree to let them add ten queens to their side if you can add one to your side.
So a) I don't see the paradox, b) anti-democratic forces don't need intolerance to prevail, and c) introducing intolerance into the defense of democracy gives the enemies of freedom a force multiplier.
Some infinitives don't need a direct object — like "to dance" or "to sigh."
Other infinitives do — like "to hit" and "to give." No one simply gives in the abstract. They always give something.
Likewise, Hockett argues, no one simply tolerates in the abstract. They always tolerate (or don't tolerate) something.
A consequence of Hockett's way of speaking about tolerance is that no one can ever really be said to be "tolerant" or "intolerant" generally — that is, without any qualifiers. They can be tolerant of this, they can be tolerant of that, but they can't simply be tolerant. Indeed, the only direct object they can't be tolerant of is "everything" — which would mean the same as being tolerant with no direct object, which would encompass intolerance, which would be paradoxical.
Oh, sure there might be some people who are intolerant of just about everything ... but even "just about everything" constitutes a direct object, if a broad one.
As long as it's "just about everything" and not "everything" (which would encompass intolerance itself), then there is no paradox.
Catholic archbishop Fulton Sheen on the false understanding of tolerance that permeates our culture, from his 1932 book:
"There is no other subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance.
"Tolerance is always supposed to be desirable because it is taken to be synonymous with broadmindedness. Intolerance is always supposed to be undesirable, because it is taken to be synonymous with narrow-mindedness.
"This is not true, for tolerance and intolerance apply to two totally different things. Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, but never to persons.
"We must be tolerant to persons because they are human; we must be intolerant about principles because they are divine. We must be tolerant to the erring, because ignorance may have led them astray; but we must be intolerant to the error, because Truth is not our making, but God's."
I will draw an analogy: "The Paradox of Democracy".
"In order to maintain a democratic society, the society must prevent undemocratic members from voting.
"Unlimited democracy must lead to the disappearance of democracy. If we extend unlimited democracy even to those who are undemocratic, if we are not prepared to defend a democratic society against the onslaught of the undemocratic, then the democrats will be destroyed, and democracy with them."
This is in fact, what many have believed for centuries -- that of evils of populism will overwhelm democracy egalitarianism.
I understand the view, but on the balance, I believe it to more false than true.
And that is obviously true of democracy as well: Democracy can be used and has been used to put dictators into power, and if you actually care about democracy, you therefore should have a limit on what democratic decisions you are willing to accept, and not just go with whatever the majority has decided as the supposedly "most democratic" way of making decisions. So, yes, you kinda have to "prevent undemocratic members from voting", but you may not need to sort people into "democratic" and "undemocratic". You can do it by banning undemocratic parties, for example. Or you may not need to really do anything at all, except for watching out for when something does need to be done.
Noone is saying that "populism will overwhelm democracy". But it obviously can, and has, and you should not discount that possibility, and refuse to prevent it just because it is superficially "anti-democratic".
Five Myths About the 47 Percent
There are other kinds of taxes, such as sales tax, payroll tax, gas tax, etc. But talk about raising taxes usually focuses on income tax since nearly half of Americans don't pay it anyway.
In fact, the top 1% of taxpayers pay 39% of the federal income tax burden.
I don't know if this is true (probably not), but let's pretend it is.
Framing is everything.
Try this: "50% of the population is too poor to be taxed."
The judgement shifts from those with the least to those with the most.
The dictionary definition is a bit different, to accept.
The "working definition" goes even further, to affirm.
Those who do not affirm my beliefs are therefore, intolerant, and we can purge them from society.
Suffering is necessary for life, he argues ("That which does not kill me makes me stronger") and that likely includes the tolerance we extend to others.
How much suffering should society endure by intolerant members to ensure it grows into something better? A difficult question (there is probably no answer).
IMO some intolerant individuals, must exist in society for society to progress and grow, to drive progress for the sake of leaving the intolerant behind and to show us a mirror of our worst selves and a starting line we must grow distant to.
What I take from this is that there is just an endless dialectical loop that will play out ad infinitum where one group will vie for power over another and at some point succeed and they in turn will have the same thing happen to them.
So as long as it keeps going ad infinitum, that's also progress; constant change.
Actually when I read Why Nations Fail was the first time I realised that things don't only go in the direction of progress and that sometimes all the progress a society has made is erased and things revert. That got me to consider that it will happen to us at some point too.
Actually, though this is an interesting point to philosophise on and I find Nietzsche a fun thinker. I guess what you are alluding to saying that this endless loop is always driving forward progress (or maybe your distinction is that it is always progressing and that isn't necessarily a value judgement on whether the 'progress' is good or bad, just that the situation is always becoming different), is that perhaps and I think that in some way this is the case that our actions and the record of it sort of acts like a ratchet. That is, it turns one way and once it turns that way it doesn't turn back the other way. That's analagous to 'some things can't be unseen' I suppose. Even if it's all reset you can't negate how far we did come this time.
That would be part of it, not all progress is what we think of as good but it's progress, evolution of the status quo.
The ratchet analogy also fits IMO.
There are however, differences between societies as to what is considered tolerable. The US considers making fun of deities tolerable, while in other societies blasphemy is intolerable and punishable by death.
Toleration can also evolve. Prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, explicit racial discrimation and segregation was considered tolerable. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we have signaled that that behavior is intolerable.
In addition, toleration has a pragmatic aspect. You may believe a behavior to be wrong, but it is not worth going to all out war over. For example, prior to the Treaty of Westphalia, Catholic principalities thought that their Protestant counterparts were intolerable and vice versa. However, after the 30 years war, while both Catholics and Protestants may not have liked each other, but decided that religious war between states was not worth it.
At the extreme end, toleration is deciding what behaviors that you do not approve of are worth killing and being killed over, and which are not. Less extreme are deciding which behaviors you do not approve of are worth losing family, friendship, or business over.
Toleration is by definition the tension between moral purity and inclusiveness. If we view it like then we can more logically talk about where the line between tolerable and intolerable should be, rather than both side putting forward sophist arguments why their opponent is intolerant and thus should not be tolerated.
From a practical standpoint, nobody reasonable would say that a society must be always tolerant to everyone, all the time. All tolerance has a limit in the real world. Furthermore, a society can certainly accept a modest level of intolerance before it starts to encounter serious problems. Little examples of intolerance happen every day, in every city and country in the world, and yet we keep shuffling along.
Everyone also tends to ignore this part of his quote:
"In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise."
Popper follows this by saying that society must claim the right to suppress intolerance if it becomes a serious danger, but he is arguing against a strawman. Almost everyone would agree with this.
This works until group A decides that group B is indeed acting as described above, and moves to destroy them. It's just an application of paranoia, and being an American I see it from both left and right.
> Bigots can weaponize the paradox of tolerance for purely hateful aims.
If tolerance and the paradox of tolerance can both be weaponized equally easily, what does this make of the recommendation for not being "tolerant of the intolerant"? Isn't it simply a case of "damned if you do, damned if you don't"?
J.S. Mill's democracy relies on the populace being informed - any attempt to block the populace being informed is therefore a threat to democracy. If democracy is blocked, democratic means cannot be used to solve the problem. Hence, Marcuse argues, we might have to resort to apparently undemocratic means to resolve such a conflict.
That's what the intolerant say to make tolerance seem absurd. All that tolerance is about is the recognition that there are lots of different ways to live that are compatible with the same, real, "ultimate truths", and that just being different doesn't mean you are wrong. Interpreting that to mean that there is no right and wrong is simply a straw man.
So attacking people for living a different way is obviously wrong. At the same time, if a lifestyle is based on bad ideas, it seems like a benefit to attack those ideas.
So applying this to real world example, my culture has the caste system which some experts say has been as damaging for the lower caste individuals as slavery has been for people in the West. Demanding tolerance of the caste system because we should 'tolerate different ways of living' is absurd. It is a bad idea and should be challenged. I see nothing wrong with being intolerant of caste systems. This is a case where there is obvious truth vs untruth - ie. the caste system is based on beliefs about reincarnation which we now know to be false. Calling for intolerance of this untrue belief is in no way the same thing as calling for intolerance of or mistreatment of Indians or Hindu people.
Yes. But the point is that it should be attacked because it is a bad idea, not because it is a different idea. There is no need for tolerance to be limitless in order to be considered tolerance, just as there is no need for democracy to accept the election of a dictator in order to be considered a democracy.
> I see nothing wrong with being intolerant of caste systems.
Sure. But that doesn't mean that you are intolerant, the same way that attempts to assassinate (democratically elected) Hitler were not anti-democratic. It is neither necessary nor helpful to define those terms in such a way that they are self-defeating, there is a useful concept there that can sensibly be labeled "tolerance" that encompasses only the non-self-defeating aspects of tolerance.
> ie. the caste system is based on beliefs about reincarnation which we now know to be false
I am not too familiar with it, but is it really something that we know to be false, or just something unfalsifiable and therefore epistemically irresponsible to accept, as most religious claims the world over are? Not that it makes any difference for the relevance of those beliefs, but it's usually better to avoid an unnecessary burden of proof ;-)
But that's just the point, if reincarnation is a valid belief, then the caste system is valid as well. The two justify each other. The caste system posits that your social status (caste) in this life is a result of your actions in the previous life. It's based on the theory of reincarnation that you will be born again and your next life will be determined by your actions in this one.
Reincarnation is only 'unfalsifiable', because of the nihilistic version of tolerance. Under any fair standandard it's properly classified as wrong. There is no rational reason to believe that you switch bodies after death. No rational person should believe such things absent strong evidence. It is mere superstition. We should be able to say that. Superstitions and false beliefs can and do cause harm, as with reincarnation upholding the caste system.
I think it's this misplaced notions of tolerance (like saying it's merely unfalsifiable rather than calling it what it is - wrong - that allow bad ideas to persist. And let's be honest, to say that belief in reincarnation is as valid as scientific beliefs or beliefs based on reason is basically a nihilistic denial of truth.
No, it is unfalsifiable because there is no way to prove it wrong even if it is wrong, that is the definition of unfalsifiability, and has absolutely nothing to do with tolerance.
> There is no rational reason to believe that you switch bodies after death. No rational person should believe such things absent strong evidence. We should be able to say that. Superstitions and false beliefs can and do cause harm, as with reincarnation upholding the caste system.
I agree with all of that. But none of that gets you to "and therefore, this is false". The position that it is false is equally unsupported by evidence, and hence that no rational person should believe it does apply to that claim as well.
> I think it's this misplaced notions of tolerance (like saying it's merely unfalsifiable rather than calling it what it is - wrong - that allow bad ideas to persist.
Except you don't know it to be wrong, and making that unsubstantiated claim unnecessarily puts you in a weaker position, because a believer will in many cases notice that your position is just as unsubstantiated as theirs and say things like "but your position also requires faith!", which is indeed correct, and thus allows them to defend their position against your argument.
The idea of reincarnation is not "merely unfalsifiable", it is unfalsifiable. It is irrational to believe unfalsifiable claims. When you try to argue that their position is wrong, you are taking on a burden of proof that you simply aren't responsible for and that you also cannot meet. You are essentially shifting the topic in their favour: The question is whether they know that reincarnation is real, and instead of showing that they don't know that, you shift the discussion to whether you know that reincarnation is not real. Whether you know that reincarnation is not real is completely irrelevant to the question at hand. They don't know what they are claiming to know, and that is why their position is irrational and not worth consideration.
If anything, the idea that you have to disprove all unsubstantiated, unfalsifiable bullshit before it should be considered irrational nonsense is what allows those ideas to persist, because it erects a barrier that is impossible to overcome. Showing that a claim is unsubstantiated and/or unfalsifiable should be enough to undermine the credibilitiy of any such claim.
> And let's be honest, to say that belief in reincarnation is as valid as scientific beliefs or beliefs based on reason is basically a nihilistic denial of truth.
And you know why? Because one requirement for a belief to be considered scientific is that is has to be falsifiable. Being unfalsifiable disqualifies any claim from being considered scientific.