The Limits of Tolerance (II)


The Limits of Tolerance (II)


Written by Alfonso Elizondo

The danger of tolerating too much is always latent. There have always been atrocities that could have been avoided with less permissiveness and passivity towards behaviors that promote intolerance. According to Karl Popper in his book The Open Society and its Enemies, “unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance.”


In this work, written during World War II, Popper warned of the danger of extending unlimited tolerance to those who are intolerant. If the open society is not prepared to defend itself against the onslaught of the intolerant, tolerant people and tolerance will be destroyed.


In the name of tolerance, Popper defended the right to not tolerate intolerant people and to demand that any movement that preaches intolerance be illegal. This does not mean the silencing of those who hold intolerant or antidemocratic philosophical views, but that society must try to counteract these ideas and the movements that promote them through rational arguments and public debate, and even through the use of force when these movements no longer use reason but violence.


Popper said that legal protection is required to avoid the imposition of a single worldview and the emergence of dictatorships and totalitarianism. A plural society must fight to not accommodate the denial of the values ​​of others, but should try by all means to make legality and dialogue prevail rather than fight the intolerant with intolerance and violence.


Tolerance, according to Popper, has a positive and a negative side. The positive is opposed to the exclusion of those who are different for racial, ideological or religious reasons. This situation translates into action because a positively tolerant society acts to neutralize the promotion and attitudes of intolerance.


On the positive side of tolerance there is an effort to recognize and understand differences. The other is also recognized for being different and equality and freedom to express differences are valued.

The negative side of tolerance manifests itself when a society is not sufficiently firm in opposing what may cause harm, when it leaves room for acts of intolerance without resisting or responding, although it is evident that it does not benefit the individual or the community.


So societies must instill in children the values ​​of freedom and democracy from childhood. Educate them to understand others within the great diversity of cultures and histories. Show them the need to renounce violence and to use dialogue to resolve conflicts.


Addendum: We live in an era of complete change in the paradigms that shape the new digital society of today, and we must have an open mind to be able to accept the major changes that we are already experiencing right now.