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Social Philosophy

On Intolerance

Anna Drabarek
Maria Curie-Skłodowska University

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ABSTRACT: I assume that the feeling of evil is more widespread than the feeling of good. That is why intolerance as an attitude appears to be even more common than tolerance. This thesis is justified by psychological and sociological theories which, by analyzing the psyches of humans as individuals and of societies, explain why intolerance, destruction and aggressiveness control our actions so frequently. Therefore, in spite of positive intentions inherent in every person who dreams about being the best and living as decently as possible, an honest picture of our time evokes a rather pessimistic disposition. Although a lot has been done to implement a principle of ethical minimalism in society, at the same time there is also a moral approval — though with no one willing to admit it! — for integration mechanisms based on xenophobia.

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Tolerance and its contradiction - intolerance constitute centuries-old problems of human existence. We have been disturbed by them over and over again. This is connected with man's constant longing for the paradise lost which is unattainable because of man's ill will. It is a consequence of the fact that each of us creates an ideal image of himself and a place in which he lives. We dream of a flourishing and cultivated garden-like city. Civitas humanitas can spread over the whole Earth and we do not lose hope in it. The only thing we do not know is who will be capable of building this civitas. (1)

Charles Peguy, whose style was described by Andre Gide as a style of the advancing wave which consequently moves back in order to mark even wider curve on the sand, created a vision of a paradise city almost a century ago. He wrote: "All people of all families, all people of all the lands which are distant to us and the lands which are close to us, all people of all professions, craftsmen and intellectuals, all people of all settlements, all villages and all towns, all people of all countries, poor countries and rich countries, uninhabited countries and populated countries, all people of all races, the Hellenic people and the Barbarians, the Jews and the Aryans, the Latin people, the Germans, the Slavs, all people of all languages, all people of all feelings, all people of all cultures, all people of all spiritual lives, all people of all beliefs, all religions, all philosophies, all people of all nations, all people of all states, all people of all nations, all people of all countries became citizens of a harmonious city, since it is not allowed for any of these people to be ruled out of this citizenship." (2)

It is a definition of intolerance. A miraculous, utopian vision, in which all people are given ability to co-ordinate their opinions and aspirations with one another. A beautiful dream, deriving an ideal organisation of society not from a critical approach towards the already existing here and now but 'searching for good models in the non-historical cosmos'. (3)

What does this withdrawn from the real world image of tolerant society, seized with the principles of humanism, offer us since we shall never live in it? What does the discovery of absolute truth, accomplished by the prophets of perfection, offer us since none of us will ever experience it? Life shows us that the perception of evil is more common than the perception of kindness and that intolerance dominates over tolerance. The only concrete question we can ask in this context is: can one cause or allow any evil to raise in order to achieve, as a consequence of it, some kind of good or should one fight against all evil despite its provenience? If we asked N. Machiavelli this question he would answer that if the aim of an evil action is good then we could allow it since every good aim justifies even the bad means. Didn't Machiavelli reasoning justify aggressiveness, egoism and intolerance? Didn't Gandhi, advocating a permanent battle against evil and lack of tolerance in relation to wrong-doers with whom one should fight without violence and hostility, encourage to fight with the utmost devotion?

Aggression, discrimination, bad behaviour towards other people is connected with negative valuation first of all. Negative valuation results from man's fear against society and manifestations of its hostility. Each of us attempts at working out a strategy of dealing with others. Such considerations may lead us to adopting either an aggressive or submissive attitude. If I am stronger than the rest they are not able to do me any harm. Therefore I have to manifest my strength and it will make my life easier; or if I go on avoiding people and lock myself in I shall become unnoticeable and they won't be able to do me any harm; or finally if I subordinate to others they won't do me any harm either. However such a submissive attitude often gives rise to aggression. For intolerance originates from a negative evaluation of another person. It is difficult to imagine a situation in which we harm a person whom we consider remarkable and good. There is a fear that such ethical foundations of evaluation incline towards certain intellectual freedom resulting from an abstract character of most ethical considerations. One thing is certain: the main area of negative valuation leading to intolerance originates from a differentiation between 'I and you', 'I and they', 'we and they'.

Attitudes of people who place themselves in opposition to others can be divided into primitive, that is resulting from uncontrolled submission to degenerated instinctive aspirations (it requires pointing out that these instinctive tendencies guiding our valuation do not have to be always wrong since there are so-called natural altruists for whom thinking about their own interests before considering others is inconceivable ) and intellectual, that is based on specific argumentation which is to justify our unfavourable evaluation of others and at the same time a lack of tolerance towards them. Emotionally positive relationships between people, which are necessary to restrain oneself from aggression and hurting others, are not as common as the moralists wish them to be. Most frequently we do not experience any positive feelings towards people we share our life with. We observe their vicissitudes with cool and critical eyes. We do not want or we are not capable of taking into consideration somebody else's perspective in our evaluation of the world. Therefore we are not able to evaluate accurately what others experience.

After all in order to be able to be tolerant, that is to accept that people are different, one should be able to share feelings of another person and concentrate on others, not only on oneself. It is an obvious statement that a fundamental factor of tolerance, that is pro-social orientation is a positive evaluation of the other person (group, nation). In most cultures there are created stereotypes which assume a negative image of other people and other social groups. Such an image of 'strangers' reaches us through mass media, literature, art and theatre. In such a way we perceive people who think, talk and dress in a different way. Therefore they become objects of persecution very easily.

Psychology and sociology explain this phenomenon to be a result of difficult living conditions that frequently lead to negative motivation. Its consequence is doing harm to others and manifesting one's superiority. A man needs to defend a positive image of 'himself' and a group he belongs to. But it is rare that with revealing this motive of man's actions one continues along this line and says that such motives in their extreme forms result in extermination and homicide. (4) There is probably a certain genetic predisposition which leads to stressing a difference between one's own group and a group of aliens. It originates from a tendency of becoming attached to people who take care of us and react with fear when encountering strangers. Negative emotions are also produced by a stimulus that we are familiar with and that differs essentially from the ones we are acquainted with. Fear and aggression are born when the differences between an individual and his group concerning values, ideals, religion etc. emerge. This type of divergence destroys the existing internal order, evokes doubts concerning one's own value and a way of life. Moreover, when a hierarchy of the value of a given person is not firmly established and when the circumstances make this individual or the group, he belongs to, feel insecure and defensive then a conflict of interests sharpens the differences in the comprehension of 'we - they'. (5) It leads to negative valuation and intolerance.

J. P. Sartre said that a conflict of 'domination and slavery' is a constant element of co-existing with others. One can be a master or a slave according as one conforms to freedom of the others or imposes his freedom upon the others. Such an arrangement is, so to speak, timeless, independent from the structure adopted by society in which he lives. If only within our field of vision emerges another man immediately there are created conditions which give rise to a conflict between my consciousness and his. In that case either I remain a free subject and he becomes a slave, or I have to be subordinated to his freedom, becoming his subject. As we know Sartre was an apologist of individualism. Being an existentialist he negated a reason for the existence of human community and tolerance. Wasn't he right?

The only difference between egocentrism and ethnocentrism is their range. W. Summer (6) created a notion of ethnocentrism claiming that it was closely connected with the recognition of a common law of fighting for survival. Due to ethnocentrism each individual considers his own group (family, party, nation) as a 'centre' and all the rest as 'others' (external group), adopting a hostile attitude towards them, according to the law of fighting for survival. Every group compares itself with others only on the basis of its own system of notions and interests. There originates our tendency to evaluate ourselves positively and external group - negatively. It is intriguing that the internal organisation and content of a group is conditioned by its relationships with other groups and their power.

Egoism, egocentrism, ethnocentrism, intolerance - we wish to have talked about them in the past tense as barbarian characteristics, unworthy of civilised societies. Alas, men do behave in this way, upsetting the efforts of world reformers. Modern sociology 'develops' a notion of ethnocentrism. Not only does 'a syndrome of ethnocentrism' define a character of relationships between communities but also - and it is interesting - according to many sociologists it is essential in maintaining an inner stability of these communities. A hostile external group allows a given community to shelter itself in case of internal conflicts and aggressiveness.

It seems remarkable that if in the discussed situation a hostile external group did not exist it would be necessary to create such a group, even in order to provide this community (or a group) with a possibility to solve its internal and external conflicts without destroying it. (7) This confirms a proposition that a group gets integrated by an external enemy, who constitutes a threat to it and by doing that he levels or sets aside antagonisms within a group. One can say that intolerance towards 'strangers' is a prerequisite for tolerance towards 'one's folks'.

Another argument in favour of a theory of ethnocentrism is Freud's thesis on a feeling of guilt. This feeling is as if a consequence of aggression. It gives unpleasant sensations to people who experience it. Therefore a person or a group that happened to be a target of one's aggression is again an object provoking hostility because at the same time it provokes aggression and a feeling of guilt caused by this aggression. Manifestation of intolerance and hostility towards members of other communities, groups or individuals fulfils a role of a catharsis. It softens aggressive tendencies that may be directed against members of one's own group. Ethnocentrism, also called 'group narcissism', assumes that all inequalities between people (social, economic, national, political) are derivative in relation to a theory of frustration and transferring a feeling of aggressiveness. The fact that groups of people are intolerant in relation to everybody who doesn't belong to them and at the same time react to any external pressure by strengthening their internal homogeneity, can be considered a common law. Talking about democracy and tolerance becomes a paradox since as soon as liberal society, governed by laws of equality, senses a dangerous pressure from the outside, it initiates its internal freedom of restrictions. The most unbelievable thing is that we destroy tolerance and democracy within our own group when we start protecting it against an external enemy.

A notion of ethnocentrism, connected with a problem of intolerance, is not homogeneous. It changes according to in which social group it is manifested. E. Fromm claimed that a syndrome of ethnocentrism depends, first of all, from an economic and social status of a group; the lower the status the more it finds its compensation in group narcissism. On the other hand G. Almond (8) wrote that the lowest social strata are the most reluctant towards fraternisation, helping others and tolerating strangers. They are very reluctant towards the idea of internationalism and basically hostile towards foreigners. Whereas sociologists examining groups of foreign students in the USA noticed that nationalistic feelings of these young people were directly proportional to an economic standard of a country they came from. The poorer the students and the less developed the countries the greater tolerance and nationalism. (9)

Having acknowledged the above mentioned facts, is it still possible to repeat after H. Heine that 'every man is a universe which is born along with him and along with him dies(...)'? For either we accept that each individual is a certain absolute value or we do not. This dilemma has already wasted many minds and a solution has not been reached yet. Human relationships are still based on aggression, intolerance and tragic choices, which give freedom to some and make slaves of others. Positive moral evaluation is based, first of all, on respect towards humanity of other people. In the context of such evaluation a man's life, his good and safety are highly valued. Nearly all ethical theories assume that respect and tolerance are certain immanent characteristics of a moral system without which it would not be possible to maintain any order and consensus in society.

A tragedy of human existence lies in the fact that a man dreams about what is good and perfect, attempts at creating good things but in spite of that the world continues to be full of evil. If we evaluated people's intentions alone then probably a percentage of kindness and tolerance would increase. But if we confined ourselves to evaluating deeds then this percentage would decrease rapidly.

The ones, who create theories, that aim at improving relationships between people, have to take into consideration the fact that in order to increase mutual love, sense of duty and willingness to help others, regardless what group they belong to, and in order to diminish persecution of strangers, it is necessary to influence culture and socialising practices in such a way that they would concentrate on the humanity of all people and stress similarities of basic human needs, aspirations and hopes. (10)

In the process of social education a tremendous role is played by certain ideal images influencing a hierarchy of values.

E. Cassirer in his 'Essay on Man' maintained that 'thinking about the future and living with the future' is inherent in human nature. (11) 'The future is not only an image, it becomes an ideal'. (12) Approaching the future as an ideal is typical for human beings. What's more, this image of the future is a peculiar imperative of life, which forces man to act. An essential feature of a human brain is its ability to create images and ideal visions, or to put it in other words, its ability to create f.ex. an image of society that has not been created yet and is supposed to be much better than the already existing one. (13) Creating such visions is a creative and expansive act. (14) A system of values containing a certain ideal image of the future is called ideology. It originates and gets assimilated on various levels by different social groups. Ideologies of 'the better world' - most of them are like that - contain 'a set of desired results, adopt ideal values and ideal social organisation'. (15) To create a vision of perfect society is not an easy task but real difficulties arise when such an ideal becomes realised. It happens very often that creators and executors of such a vision are so convinced about its justness that it leads them to Machiavellism. If in an ideal vision itself aggression is permitted as a desirable way of conduct, which ensures victory, then intolerance and belief that the end justifies the means becomes something natural. (16) In most cases a vision of the better world defines precisely conditions that have to be fulfilled in order to create it and at the same time it implies a division - within one society or between different societies - into its supporters and opponents. The enemies are clearly defined and intolerance towards them is among principal elements of the realisation of this ideology. Frequently a desire to destroy the enemies or their subordination becomes one of the main factors guaranteeing that such an ideology survives. Domination and superiority become not only a form of the realisation of one's own interests but also a prerequisite for self-defence.

Si vis para bellum - this ancient principle continues to be an attractive variant of organising social and international life. It also constitutes another argument in favour of the thesis that particular individuals, groups and communities are ruled by aggression and intolerance. The lack of civilising could be explained by the fact that in ancient religions the gods of war occupied higher positions in the pantheons than the gods of peace. This explanation turns out to be inadequate in relation to the Christian religion where the general lines of war theology originated much earlier (the 16th century) than the assumptions of work theology (the 20th century). (17)

Militaristic inclinations of men were accepted and justified by L. Gumplowicz who wrote that '... violence and invasions are necessary prerequisites for social development, they are in front of a long line of social transformations as essential means that cannot be replaced by anything else (...). (18) Therefore nations that are closely related keep distance: the Germans from the south cannot stand the Germans from the north, the English keep abusing the Scots, the Spanish hold in contempt the Portuguese. We are not surprised if more serious differences lead to repulsion just like in the relationships of the Aryans towards the Semites and the whites towards the coloured. When such hostility is directed against people whom we like on the whole it is explained by the ambivalence of feelings.

In an open antipathy conceived against the strangers we may find an expression of self-love or narcissism. Self-love understood as maintaining individuality is manifested in such a way that people demonstrate their willingness to hatred and aggression. F. Fornary, (19) a modern psychoanalyst, attempted at psychoanalysis of a nuclear war. In his analysis he accepted S.Freud's idea that wars are caused by a subconscious feeling of guilt and projection of aggressiveness on others. However he came to a conclusion that it did not make any sense when a nuclear war was in question. Therefore on the basis of Melanie Klein's theory he formulated a conception of bringing up babies, surrounded by more love and understanding during early stages of their development. Mother's attitude towards a baby, full of understanding and forgiveness, her forbearing approach to its aggressive feelings were to teach a baby how to deal peacefully with its destructive instincts. If we reacted with love and kindness to baby's aggression its feeling of guilt and inclinations towards aggression would not develop. Having been guided by good intentions Fornary forgot that his idea was not too realistic. Was motherly love alone able to stop wars, armaments race and relieve tensions in the world?

K. Horney presents in an interesting way the origins of aggression in human relationships. (20) She claims that there is a fundamental dependence between man's aspiration for absolute perfection, power and hatred towards himself. Since the time immemorial people have known that these attitudes are closely related. A human being, who suffers mentally and spiritually from his imperfection is ready to enter into a pact with a devil in order to be relieved from suffering and gain unlimited power. Only the likes of Jesus are able to resist such temptation. Others who are weak yield to temptation but finally they have to pay a price for being great and strong. This price is falling to evil.

Nobody can deny that we live in the epoch when politics, that is the art of ruling which consists in a clever and consequent line of conduct represented by an individual or a group of people aiming at achieving definite goals, dominates over man's individual aspirations. Already the ancients wanted to liberate themselves from the bonds of politics, advocating contemplative life which made people aware that it was impossible to attain perfection in politics and public life. A modern man lives under a stress caused by a phenomenon of double alienation which springs from the realisation that he is alone in this confused and ill-balanced world. He cannot relay even on himself because his ability to know where he stands in this complicated society determined by politics fails. Intolerance towards his fellow creatures and the lack of inner stability forces him to search for a group of people who will accept him if he fulfils certain conditions: if he adopts special manners, becomes a member of the right party, starts to be intolerant towards 'strangers' in the interest of a concrete idea. A principle is confirmed, saying that the greatest possibilities of survival in society have these people who uncritically accept everything that happens within 'their' group, which in turn gives them a warranty of 'security'.

The ambivalence of feelings with which a man cannot cope is continuously strengthened by subconscious fantasies that are hard to realise. Although in everyday life an individual can verify his feelings and experiences to a certain extent which makes his image of reality considerably true, in confrontation with the world of politics this reality disappears. Being confronted with the world of politics a man is forced to follow abstractions that he cannot verify. Perhaps that is why people who seem to be normal in everyday life, act abnormally in the context of politics. Some people think that hatred, intolerance and all sorts of persecution manias experienced in our childhood get transferred into the world of politics. Therefore a family and state play a similar role in our consciousness. A certain type of relationships within a family is a result of certain characteristics of a given generation. According to Money-Kyrle (21) an authoritarian character of the German state and nation had its source, for example, in some features of Frederic the Great's character . His despotism got incorporated by his courtiers in their system of values. Hence it was adopted by the whole nation. Therefore every next generation of the Germans kept loosing its ability to be free and required a strong authority. Fascism was a culmination of this process.

August Gratry, a French philosopher and theologian, who opposed a dogma of the Pope's infallibility, claimed that a mankind is like an individual - it can be either a saint or rascal. To continue this thought one can say that rascals, just like saints, are guided by a feeling of resentiment. This resentiment emerges when the existing hierarchy of values gets violated. Probably democracy is advocated by people who want to camouflage their support for death penalty for the conveyers of superior values. Guillotining the aristocracy during the French revolution was a result of resentiment directed against what was noble in the interest of what was mediocre.

Numerous examples can be quoted, demonstrating and interpreting aggression and intolerance in human relationships. As we all know violence and intolerance become materialised in wars, constituting a particular factor which purifies and mobilises society. Therefore it is possible to consider intolerance such a way of behaviour which allows to save better developed civilisations endangered by less developed ones. Biological, racial, demographic and even geographical inequalities give rise to theories advocating superiority of the white race or yellow race, the Semitic race or Aryan race. These theories resolve themselves into an apotheosis of war as a way to enslave less valuable nations. Wars are often justified by the interference of non-social and even non-human factors. In psychological theories, I have referred to in this paper, phenomena of aggression and intolerance were explained by biological and psychological mechanisms, determining the ways people act. According to these theories every man is endowed with a destructive instinct, that can only be modified but it cannot be entirely eliminated. Isn't it worth to consider the fact that if theories which claim the inevitability of war resulting from biological psychological and cultural conditions are created, it is an acknowledgement of Hobbes' famous principle: Bellum ominum contra omnes.

At the same time it acknowledges moral failure of a man, manifested in distrust and intolerance towards others. It is a triumph of Tanatos over Eros. Is it true that old societies can be maintained and new ones built only when some suffer and die while others gain bloody victory over them? It seems so since there is a moral approval of such a mechanism of integration, originating from xenophobia. It makes more real a postmodernist theory in which its programme pluralism assumes axiological relativity, justifying the existence of a value and anti-value within one system. The world of values can be conceived as a process of the constant increase of meaning and content. Every man participates in this process more or less actively. But in order to make this process innovative a set of values has to be enriched continuously with some new elements. Can an anti-value become such a new element of a value. Can a conviction of the eternal existence of positive values be defended? Can't it be replaced by a speculation, according to which values function permanently in the awareness of people who live here and now but they die along with them and later they are just remembered? Probably what once originated in the world of values has existed ever since but it is entitled to various degrees of reality. My opinion is that a way to differentiate between the existing values and the remembered ones is a possibility of their mutual communication. The present values cannot always co-exist with the remembered ones. Is tolerance a present value or only a remembered one in our system? And perhaps being a positive value it has become exhausted and functions in the consciousness of our contemporaries as a memory only? Whereas its opposite - intolerance - is what exists.

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(1) Wyka, K.: &#pound;owy na kryteria, Warszawa 1965, p.49

(2) Ibid., p.50

(3) Olsen,T.: Millenialism, Utopianism and Progress, Toronto 1932, p.143

(4) Staub, E.: Wartoœci indywidualne i spo&#sup3;eczne (grupowe) z perspektyw&#sup1; motywacji i ich rola w pomaganiu i krzydzeniu innych, in: Indywidualne i spo&#sup3;eczne wyznaczniki wartoœciowania, Wroc&#sup3;aw 1990, p.69

(5) Ibidem

(6) Summer, W.G.: Folkways, New York 1906.

(7) MacCrone, A.: Race Attitudes in South Africa, London 1937, p.252

(8) Almond, G.: The American People and Foreign Policy, New York 1960.

(9) Terhune, K.W.: Nationalism Among Foreign and American Students, 1964.

(10) Staub: op.cit, s.70.

(11) Cassirer, E.: Esej o cz&#sup3;owieku, Warszawa 1977, p.128

(12) Ibid.,p.21.

(13) Reykowski, J.: Motywacje, postawy prospo&#sup3;eczne a osobowoϾ, Warszawa 1980, p. 9.

(14) Kozielcki, J.: Koncepcja transgresyjna cz&#sup3;owieka, Warszawa 1987, p.51

(15) Staub: op.cit., p.71.

(16) Ibid., p.72.

(17) Chenu, M.D.: Ku powszechnej cywilizacji pracy, Warszawa 1963.

(18) Gumpowicz, L.: System socjologii, Warszawa 1887, p.251.

(19) Fornary, F.: Psychoanaysis of War, New York 1974.

(20) Horney, K.: Nerwica a rozwój cz&#sup3;owieka, Warszawa 1978.

(21) Money-Kyrle, R.E.: Psychoanalysis and Politics, London 1951, p.113.

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