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TOLERANCE: The Enlightenment Vs Multi-Culturalism
Author | 10-24-03 | Robert Wolf

Posted on 10/24/2003 12:53:46 PM PDT by aynfan

Tolerance: The Enlightenment Vs Multi-Culturalism.

By Robert Wolf

Tolerance, as exemplified by the Enlightenment ‘philosophes’, incorporated the belief that each individual should be free to pursue his own interests. In the words of Locke, “The commonwealth seems to me to be a society of men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing their own civil interests. Civil interests I call life, liberty, health, and indolency of body (recreation); and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture, and the like.1 Unlike Hobbes’ Leviathan’, Locke regards this contract as revocable, a government that depends upon the consent of the governed which may be withdrawn at any time. When the society interferes with the property interests of the citizens, those citizens are bound to protect themselves by withdrawing their consent to be governed.2 This provided a post facto defense of the Glorious Revolution in England and was a significant element in justifying later revolts in America and France.

If the Enlightenment could be summed up briefly it embodied the philosophy of John Locke, the belief in progress through reason. Liberty was the major preoccupation and religion, because of the intolerance of the various sects especially when teamed with government, as chief obstacle to its attainment. Assisting Locke in the dissemination of these ideas on the continent were Montesquieu and Voltaire.

Voltaire was legendary throughout France for his sharp epigrams and his quick wit. His intelligence, humor and style made him one of France's greatest writers and philosophers, and he used that popularity to attack the intolerance and superstition of the Christian churches and preached a message of freedom and liberty for all men. Lord Macauley opined that "of all the intellectual weapons that have ever been wielded by man, the most terrible was the mockery of Voltaire. Bigots and tyrants who had never been moved by the wailings and cursings of millions, turned pale at his name."

The great men of the Enlightenment and our founders were Deists, not Christians, and wrote tirelessly about intolerance. They believed in a God of Nature who was not a Christian. For them Christianity with its virgin birth and miracles was pure superstition. Their interest in the New Testament was confined to Jesus’ admonition to love God and each other; the ravings of Paul held no appeal.

Atheists like to claim Voltaire as their own, but he denies them in everything he writes. The often quoted, "If God did not exist, he would have to be invented", from his “Epistle to the Author of ‘The Three Impostors’”, is incomplete. The line that follows reads, “but all nature cries out to us that he does exist.”

In the words of Locke, “Nobody is born a member of any church; otherwise the religion of parents would descend unto children by the same right of inheritance as their temporal estates, and everyone would hold his faith by the same tenure he does his lands, than which nothing can be imagined more absurd.” ”The toleration of those that differ from others in matters of religion is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine reason of mankind, that it seems monstrous for men to be so blind as not to perceive the necessity and advantage of it in so clear a light.” “It is not the diversity of opinions (which cannot be avoided), but the refusal of toleration to those that are of different opinions that has produced all the bustles and wars that have been in the Christian world upon account of religion.”

“If a Roman Catholic believe that to be really the body of Christ which another man calls bread, he does no injury thereby to his neighbour. If a Jew does not believe the New Testament to be the Word of God, he does not thereby alter anything in men's civil rights . . . If a heathen doubt of both Testaments, he is not therefore to be punished as a pernicious citizen. The power of the magistrate and the estates of the people may be equally secure whether any man believe these things or no. “

“A Turk is not, nor can be, either heretic or schismatic to a Christian; and if any man fall off from the Christian faith to Mahometism, he does not thereby become a heretic or schismatic, but an apostate and an infidel.” “ …for I do not think there is any man arrived to that degree of madness as that he dare give out his consequences and interpretations of Scripture as divine inspirations and compare the articles of faith that he has framed according to his own fancy with the authority of Scripture. I cannot but wonder at the extravagant arrogance of those men who think that they themselves can explain things necessary to salvation more clearly than the Holy Ghost, the eternal and infinite wisdom of God.” (Locke)

“Do I propose, then that every citizen shall be free to follow his own reason, and believe whatever his enlightened or deluded reason shall dictate to him”, Voltaire asks? “Certainly, provided he does not disturb the public order…If you insist that it is a crime not to believe in the dominant religion, you condemn the first Christians, your forefathers, and you justify those whom you reproach with persecuting them… for a government to have the right to punish the errors of men it is necessary that their errors would take the form of crime. They do not take the form of crime unless they disturb society. They disturb society when they engender fanaticism. Hence men must avoid fanaticism in order to deserve toleration.”

“But of all … superstitions, is not the most dangerous that of hating your neighbor for his opinions? And is it not evident that it would be much more reasonable to worship the Holy Navel, the Holy Foreskin, or the milk or the robe of the Virgin Mary, than to detest and persecute your brother?” and “It seems to me that I would at least astonish the proud, dogmatic Islam imam or Buddhist priest, if I spoke to them as follows: . . . Listen to me, because God of all these worlds has enlightened me: there are nine hundred million little ants like us on the earth, but my ant-hole is the only one dear to God; all the others are cast off by Him for eternity; mine alone will be happy, and all the others will be eternally damned."

Inspired by the English Voltaire published the Lettres Philosophiques in 1734 a book praising English customs and institutions. "If one religion only were allowed in England, the government would very possibly become arbitrary; if there were but two, the people would cut one another's throats; but as there is such a multitude, they all live happy and in peace."

Voltaire like Locke spent a lifetime arguing for tolerance. For both tolerance meant man’s freedom to pursue his own interests unimpeded. Both believed that the greatest abuses against mankind occurred when religion was abetted by the power of the State. They argued for separation of Church and State and against the superstitions of Christianity. “Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy: the foolish daughter of a very wise mother. These two daughters, superstition and astrology, have subjugated the world for a long time.” (Treatise on Toleration)

In the words of Locke, “It is not the diversity of opinions (which cannot be avoided), but the refusal of toleration to those that are of different opinions (which might have been granted), that has produced all the bustles and wars that have been in the Christian world upon account of religion . . . Nay, if we may openly speak the truth, and as becomes one man to another, neither Pagan nor Mahometan, nor Jew, ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion. . .”

The Enlighten view was summed up by Voltaire with “…for a government to have the right to punish the errors of men it is necessary that their errors would take the form of crime”; and by Locke with “It is not the diversity of opinions (which cannot be avoided), but the refusal of toleration to those that are of different opinions…”

Tolerance in today’s society is quite different. The Enlightenment view of free men pursuing their own rational agenda is assailed as cold and uninviting. Instead of allowing others to go their own way, we must embrace them. Toleration is redefined with the pejorative implication of ignoring or putting up with an unpleasant situation e.g., we tolerate noise. The toleration endorsed in culture today is of the PC variety where judgements are anathema. To be tolerant today, we must accept, value and embrace diversity and actively endorsing every opinion or cultural notion conjured up by every collective.

The roots of this tyranny of the mob lies in the philosophers that followed Locke and Voltaire. The Enlightenment as a movement did not last long, not even 100 years. It was quickly succeeded by philosophers such as Rousseau, Hume, and Kant who argued that nothing could be known for certain and that individual rights should be sacrificed to the greater good of the whole, in a word egalitarianism. This tradition brought us the Reign of Terror and the Romantic age where reason was replaced by feelings.3

That tradition has continued. Reason is currently assailed by Eco and Derrida. Although the debate between Enlightenment ideas and the ideas of the Romantics continues, Eco may have delivered the coup de grace with “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity.”

The task facing today’s student, and society in general, is to be non-judgmental not only in the area of personal relations, but in metaphysics as well. Umberto Eco calls it syncretism, "’the combination of different forms of belief or practice;’ such a combination must tolerate contradictions. Each of the original messages contains a sliver of wisdom, and although they seem to say different or incompatible things, they all are nevertheless alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth . . . there can be no advancement of learning. Truth already has been spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.” This accounts for today’s nihilist, anarchistic philosophers who spin great globs of contradictory information into a lithified whole, and for the convoluted conspiracy theories concocted by an inference from here and a half truth from there.

Just as reverence for multi-culturalism has removed all judgement from human affairs, so too, has its intellectual evil twin, which I will call multi-conceptism removed judgement from the realm of ideas. Our young are taught that firmly held convictions and clear visions of the truth are worthless hallucinations of the mind and that truth and fact are judgmental. It is more important to understand process than to produce a correct answer and no particular idea is more noteworthy than any other.

Public schools and universities, awash in this ‘old world’ swill, teach us that there are no absolutes, that facts don’t manner and that everything is just a matter of opinion. We are told we may pick and choose the ideas that create our personal philosophy like items from a Chinese menu, one from column A, 2 from column B or vice versa. College students, by virtue of age and experience, have some defense against this onslaught, children, for the same reasons, are powerless.

Eco tells us that simultaneously held contradictions are liberating. Jacques Derrida assures us, “that [a] text is incoherent because its own key terms can be understood only in relation to their suppressed opposites.” In other words what an author says is not what is meant, but rather its opposite. It is a comic book ‘Bizzaro’ world where one has to say the opposite to be understood correctly. One or more generations of Americans has already been educated by teachers inspired by this charming ‘old world’ drivel; but when any and every idea has equal value and all opinions are equal, perhaps it doesn’t matter what is taught or who teaches it.

In the spirit of multi-culturalism, many have been convinced that everyone has a right to an opinion, and that every opinion is just as informed as any other. Witness ‘man on the street’ interviews or the call in segments on C-Span. Opinions are accepted from anyone and everyone and all are treated with equal respect. It is not a criticism of C-span to mention this, I believe they are doing us a favor by rubbing our noses in it.

Trivia contests and multiple choice now measure erudition. Wisdom is defined by how many subjects one can offer an opinion upon. "I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth, " says Umberto Eco.

As a result, generations of the aimless young feel nothing but hopelessness. Some drop out eking out a life on the streets, while others become trolls in a relative’s basement. For others the answer is in greed or affluence, using money to hire servants as a shield against the dreary details of existence in order to free up the time for the slow suicide of drugs, sex, and rock and roll.

The same educators, who brought us the French Derrida and Italian Eco, are also quick to remind us that the ‘civilized’ nations, meaning European, have National health care, but fail to mention they also have double digit unemployment. Insurance is not free.

So many Americans cling to inaccurate information on a wide range of subjects. The Flat Earth Society actually believes that the Earth is flat. It is not a joke. The Earth, they tell us, is shaped in the form of a pentagon, and thus has five corners. They warn us of the danger of falling off the edge. Beneath the Earth, or hanging off the edges, is a land populated by either green-skinned women or Nazis. The Springfield Effect is the phenomenon by which every place named Springfield is hard-linked in hyperspace to every other place of this name. In other words, there is only one Springfield, but it is "linked" to various locations around (oops, sorry) in the world. Idaho, North Dakota, and Australia do not exist. More American’s believe in UFOs than believe they will ever see Social Security. The moon landing was faked. Secret societies control the destiny of the world. Republicans are for smaller government. Democrats are for the underdog. Libertarians are aging potheads. The list is endless. Einstein once remarked, "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Green party peace activists renounce our right of self defense, ignoring the wise council of John Locke who noted, “ Whosoever uses force without right, as every one does in society, who does it without law, puts himself into a state of war with those against whom he so uses it; and in that state all former ties are cancelled, all other rights cease, and every one has a right to defend himself, and to resist the aggressor.” 4 “Self-defense is a part of the law of nature; nor can it be denied the community, even against the king himself: but to revenge themselves upon him, must by no means be allowed them; it being not agreeable to that law.”5

This course will end in disaster. Exchanging the noble concepts and values of our Founders for the tyranny of the mob while relinquishing the right of self-defense is a road to disaster.

We are told that Life is a journey and the destination unimportant. While this might in some sense be true (it’s certainly catchy) but it could also be the reason we got lost. If the present trend continues the American experiment, severely crippled after a little over 200 years, will be cease to exist at all.

1-Letter of Tolerance 2-“…whenever the legislators endeavour to take away, and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence. Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who. have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society.” Second Treatise Concerning Civil Government. 3-Hume ended Deism in England by challenging the notion that reason could defend even the simplest fundamentals of Religious faith. Hume’s Dialogs concerning natural Religion reads in part, “What peculiar privilege has this little agitation of the brain called thought, that we must make it the model of the whole universe? As for design “ the adaptation of organs to purposes may have resulted not from divine guidance but from ‘nature’s slow and bungling experiments through thousands of years”. His Enquiry concerning the Human Understanding in 1748, which undermined all science, metaphysics, and theology through questioning the objectivity of cause, inspired Kant. Hume’s Criticisms of the Argument from Design is included in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason 1781, who calls the arguments unanswerable.

In France, Rousseau’s Social Contract notes that since perfect freedom is the natural condition of human beings, it is the existence government that requires explanation. Only the family is truly a natural association. Military conquest and slavery can’t establish a genuine right for one person to rule another. So, Rousseau concluded, society must evolve from a social contract in which individual citizens voluntarily participate. Each citizen chooses to trade the natural liberty of independent life for the civil liberty secured by the state, allowing social rights to outweigh individual rights. According to Rousseau, this surrender of each to the good of the whole must take place in a way that also secures the unity of all in a desire for what will most benefit the whole. So thoroughly must each individual surrender to the whole as to acknowledge that “ By entering into the original agreement, I have sworn to seek only the welfare of the community, no matter what the consequences may be for me.” The general will is the inalienable responsibility of the government expressed through legislation. Ayn Rand would call this self-immolation.

Rousseau supposed that open inquiry and debate produce a consensus about what was truly in the best interest of the community as a whole; and that is called the general will. Positions of leadership that require skill should be decided by election, while those that demand only good sense should be chosen by lot. Since the legitimacy of the social contract depends upon the unanimous consent of all the governed, the will is fully expressed only in an assembly of the entire population. Major issues should be decided by a major portion of the population, (Notice how we move from all, to a major portion.) but simple matters (in whose opinion?) requiring quick action may be determined by a simple majority of the legislature. In a final reminder of the nature of the general will, Rousseau noted that it is distinct from the social customs that may be endorsed or expressed as public opinion. These are not determinations of what is best for all, but merely codifications of the conventional mores of the people, and should occupy a correspondingly lesser status. Even when incorporated into the civil religion, with an appeal to the full force of divine as well as human approval, he insisted social customs are merely that.

The appropriate form of government for any state, according to Rousseau, depends upon the character of its people and even its physical climate, (a silly idea he borrowed from Montesquieu (which was thoroughly ridiculed by Voltaire) and success is measured by whether or not it thrives. Abuses of power can threaten the life of the state and the social contract will then be broken. (Described in Du contrat social (On the Social Contract) (1762) 4-Second Treatise Concerning Civil Government, Sect. 232. 5-Ibidum Sect. 233

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: culturewars; derrida; diversity; eco; englightenment; locke; multicultural; multiculturalism; robertwolf; tolerance; voltaire

1 posted on 10/24/2003 12:53:47 PM PDT by aynfan
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To: aynfan
2 posted on 10/24/2003 1:04:01 PM PDT by sourcery (Moderator bites can be very nasty!)
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To: aynfan
"Liberty without wisdom, and without virtue is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint." (Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.)
3 posted on 10/24/2003 1:16:48 PM PDT by Texas_Jarhead
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To: aynfan
Robert Wolf of Free River Press, Iowa, ?
4 posted on 10/24/2003 1:31:51 PM PDT by SteveH
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To: SteveH
sorry no.
5 posted on 10/24/2003 1:36:03 PM PDT by aynfan
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To: aynfan
read later
6 posted on 10/24/2003 2:07:50 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: aynfan
An excellent article and wake-up call. With the left having abandoned Enlightenment values, it's up to us on the right to carry on the values of science and reason which it embodies.
7 posted on 10/24/2003 6:23:36 PM PDT by RightWingAtheist
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To: aynfan
Good post!
8 posted on 10/24/2003 8:28:50 PM PDT by Frank_2001
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To: aynfan
Ah, but very thoughtful articles anyway, thanks!
9 posted on 10/25/2003 12:03:15 AM PDT by SteveH
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To: RightWhale; neverdem; quidnunc; dennisw; B4Ranch; dufekin; gitmo; CarrotAndStick; sukhoi-30mki; ...

Enlightenment bump. Derrida/post-structuralism related.

10 posted on 10/20/2004 12:14:26 PM PDT by risk
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To: aynfan
The appropriate form of government for any state, according to Rousseau

We do not create a state. A government is not the state. We cannot make the UN into a state. The state is not a contract. We can create a form of government for a state, but the state is already there anytime there are three or more competent adults.

11 posted on 10/20/2004 1:28:12 PM PDT by RightWhale (Withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty and establish property rights)
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To: risk

>>Positions of leadership that require skill should be decided by election, while those that demand only good sense should be chosen by lot.<<

It is time we cleaned out the public school systems. The lack of good sense is overwhelming in those systems!

I am not quite sure that an electoral process is the answer either when I review our politicians.

12 posted on 10/20/2004 1:30:01 PM PDT by B4Ranch (┬┤┬┤Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; They are our teeth for Liberty)
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To: B4Ranch

It's interesting because Bush wants to centralize our school funding and administration even further, thinking that while conservatives are in power, we can really fix the problems with federal carrots and sticks. However, what will happen when a Hillary Clinton is in office, and her democrat congress and liberal courts have access to federal education funding? State schools are our biggest problem, from kindergarten through post graduate studies.

13 posted on 10/20/2004 1:34:47 PM PDT by risk
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