Monday, February 7, 2011

On Intolerance of Different Opinions

"But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race..."
-John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
Dear Reader,
It always amazes me, especially in our modern world of knowledge easily accessed and multicultural values, that the intellectual world is so rife with the disease of Intolerance.
In fact, I note a certain intellectual violence that is ever-ready to be released from its mental cage whenever one person states an idea or opinion in the name of healthy debate and furtherment of knowledge and reason, one is often met with a tirade of invective, swearing, and dogmatic anger.
With sadness, I think to the great dialogues of Plato, how reasonable these conversations between Socrates and others went, and how their primary pursuit was not the Statement of Opinion as Unalterable Fact, but rather the Attainment of Knowledge.
Nowadays, a modern version of a Platonic dialogue such as Phaedo might go something like this:
Socrates - "It seems to me to be entirely reasonable that the soul is immortal."
Thrasymachus - "Obviously you are a %#$#@ing idiot.  How did I miss such an obvious notion!  Oh, wait.  Maybe I missed it because I have a brain and use it."
One can easily see how the pursuit of Wisdom has been jettisoned from the first response to the opinion posed.  It matters not what the opinion is necessarily - what is most startling is the intolerance that opinions are met with.  Rather than someone with an objection to the opinion asking why the other has such and such an opinion, they lambaste them, mock them, and end up so angered and self-righteous that all point to the dialogue has been lost.
Dear Reader, it seems to me that all pursuit of knowledge has been lost, not due to the mass-slaughter of neurons by cell-phones and television, but rather by the blockage of Ideas.
I remember well, friend and bosom compatriot, how one individual was angered that they had to read a work they disagreed with for a philosophy class.  Thought I, "If you only read what you agree with, then how small your reading list must be!"
Speaking humbly for myself, I do not agree with Lucretius' opinions set forth in his On the Nature of Things, but it is also one of my favorite philosophical works.  I do not believe in the things spoken of in the Book of Mormon, but I read it out of curiosity and interest.  Why would anyone want to limit themselves in such a way as to close their mind to anything they do not agree with?
In other words, if one only reads or entertains things that one agrees with, one has thus successfully imprisoned themselves in a prison of Intellectual Truncation.  This phenomenon is a dangerous thing - we must allow difference of Opinion or else their could be very dire results, beginning with the bonds of common brotherhood between our fellow men being ruptured.
I do apologize though, dearest Reader, for my own bit of frustration in the tone of the letter, as I was only just met with such Intolerance this very morning, and am a little irritated (as though the air outside was composed of 10% sandpaper bits).

To you be a most luxurious and relaxing day,
The Idler.

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