Tell me, is it intolerant to not tolerate intolerance? Or is it better to tolerate what you would otherwise deem intolerant in the hopes that you don’t yourself appear as intolerant?

Trippy, right?

This right here is the paradox of tolerance proposed by Karl Popper. Karl Popper, an Austrian-British philosopher is very well known for his work on topics such as the philosophy of science. Another of Popper’s most intriguing philosophies was tolerance.

Popper proposed that if there were a society completely tolerant of intolerance then there would come a day when tolerance would no longer exist. In short, unlimited tolerance would lead to the disappearance of tolerance.

Another way of understanding this is if you are not tolerant of intolerance then in some strange way you too are intolerant which creates the paradox of intolerance. 

Imagine a world where things such as hate speech, racism, homophobia, discrimination, and more would be considered normal or even worse, accepted as a reality. This world is tolerant of intolerance. Now, imagine its complete opposite, a world that is intolerant to hate, so the question arises is the latter on the wrong side of history or the right side?

Karl Popper held the belief that any society needs to be a little intolerant. Only when there is intolerance towards hate, can there be a solution?

Being intolerant towards intolerance means that there should be a set of rules that would make sure that there is justice against hate and ill speech.

In complete contrast to the philosophy of tolerance put forward by Karl Popper, John Rawls, a political philosopher concluded in ‘A Theory of Justice’ that for a society to be just it has to be tolerant towards all its individuals including the intolerable. Furthermore, he added that this can be done with the right to self-preservation.

In this scenario, self-preservation means that when governments and constitutional protection fails in providing justice against intolerance then ordinary people should have the right to protect themselves. 

Both these theories provide insight into two different ways of approaching the same problem, the problem of intolerance in society.

Tolerance and intolerance are subject to be put under question when there are mass hysteria and panic. Panic is created when there is a sudden change of events. 2020 saw a sudden change of events with the advent of coronavirus and thus there were a lot of cases of tolerance and intolerance in the world.


Coronavirus has not been easy on anyone. It has been one of the most challenging for many people around the world. Go back to 2019 and imagine someone telling you that next year you would be living, working, studying from your home. Almost all of us would’ve laughed off without thinking too much about it.

But here we are in 2021, after spending a year on and off in quarantining. This one year may have changed you more than any other time in your life did. The world changed very quickly for many people to comprehend. One of the things that arise when there is a sudden change is panic. 

It is hard to admit but panic can very well induce emotions of hate in people. This was also seen in the events that unfolded in 2020. George Floyd, Asians living abroad, and many more have been victims of the emotions of people. 

Out of all things that this year has taught us, it is our extent to tolerating intolerance. The smallest gesture such as ‘angry’ reacting to a video on Facebook to going on protests are all examples of our intolerance towards intolerance. 


If there wasn’t any before, then after the events of the outbreak of coronavirus, the hate crime towards Asians has increased at an alarming rate. This hate crime has been a direct result of the coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan, China. All around the world, Asians have had a tough year because of the increase in hate crime towards them. Not only have the people themselves suffered at the hands of the extremists but many have also seen a decline or loss in their business and jobs. 

Asian living abroad has suffered because of a virus that they were not responsible for. All of this because of hate crime and our tolerance to intolerance. 

In various parts of the world, there has been a rise in discrimination and hate towards Asians. Many of the incidents reported suggesting the rise in hatred is because of the coronavirus.

In the U.S., hate crime towards Asians began reporting in the early months of March and April. Many Asian-Americans have reported incidents of hate crime against them. Since the start of covid-19, these incidents have skyrocketed. 

In the lights of the philosophy of tolerance proposed by Karl Popper, is it just to be intolerant towards the people who show intolerance to people because of their looks and attributes?

Or are we to be tolerant and give them time to self reflect in the hopes of avoiding a paradox of tolerance? 


Black lives matter or also known as BLM is a political statement against the injustice towards black people. Although the injustice towards black people is not something that took a stride in 2020 with the murder of George Floyd and many more who suffered racism last year, this movement saw an uproar. The movement that followed on June 6 was one of the biggest ones of this century.

The movement of BLM in 2020 shook the world. Protests were held in not only America but different parts of the world showing solidarity towards the black community. 

The message of intolerance will not be tolerated, established a new meaning with the rise of the BLM movement. Protests held in America alone are good examples of the message conveyed by the movement.

The black lives matter movement is a paradigm of intolerance of injustice and the fight against hate crime such as racism.

In light of the philosophy of Karl Popper, the philosophy of tolerance, arises the question; is the intolerance shown through protest a bigger paradox into intolerance of the society as a whole or a necessity in the greater good and future of humanity?


Tolerance and intolerance are two opposites of the same spectrum. Karl Popper gives a philosophy that suggests that tolerance is in itself a paradox. A society can either be perfectly tolerant which will only give rise to further intolerance which eliminates the very idea of tolerance and let’s hate continue. So, if a society chooses not to be tolerant towards intolerance then does that mean that the society is itself intolerant and thus creating the paradox.

A philosophy of tolerance was also given by John Rawls who believed that for society to be perfectly tolerant, it has to be tolerant towards everyone with the right to self-preservation. 

We are in the second month of 2021, hate and injustice are still some of the biggest issues facing humanity. As we move further ahead in time, it is up to us to decide which theory dominates and will prevail over the other one in the long run