Is tolerance the root of democracy’s Demise?


Karl Popper, a famous Austrian philosopher of science from the 20th century put forth the thesis that too much tolerance is a bad thing. 

Is it? 

Watch the Vice Media coverage of the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi gathering/protest below and assess your position on tolerance and censorship:

Questions to Consider: 

  1. What arguments exist that the group should the group NOT be tolerated? I.e not allowed to protest and spread their ideas?
  2. What arguments can you come up with that the group should be tolerated and allowed to protest and spread their ideas?
  3. What dangers exist in letting the group speak? What dangers exist in preventing them from speaking?
  4. How would this issue be viewed from a utilitarian perspective? How would the issue be viewed from a Kantian perspective? 

Popper’s argument against too much tolerance is summarized below, what logical fallacy could you argue is present in his argument? 


And lastly, let’s return to our title question: is tolerance the root of democracy’s demise? 

The Evolution Of Evil


The Evolution of Evil:  Evolutionary biologists, especially those Darwinian in nature, believe that modern human behavior must have evolutionary origins. It would follow then, that our less desirable–EVIL–traits too have an evolutionary root. However why would these traits remain in our species if they were not beneficial?

That begs the question: Is evil advantageous?

Which leads to another question….are humans innately selfish?  Read the following piece on whether or not true altruism is possible:

Heidegger vs. Reductionism

Martin Heidegger is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher of the 20th century and is a personal favorite of mine! 

His work centers around existentialism, and specifically, phenomenology, an area of philosophy.  We’ll read Heidegger as we progress through the course, however reading the article below and engaging in a reflective journal entry will aide greatly in your ability to comprehend his works as they’re incredibly difficult.

So.  Read the article linked below contrasting the Heideggarian view of the world with a scientific approach (often called reductionism in philosophy). 

Being There: Martin Heidegger on Why our Presence Matters

Journal Entry:

  1. Relate this article to what we’ve been discussing in class over the course of this semester. Integrate source material that we’ve read and discussed as well as the various Ways of Knowing into you response. Additionally, reflect on the article. What are the implications?  What are the implications of reductionism?

Analyzing an Ethical Choice

Thus far in TOK, we have analyzed the following Ways of Knowing: 

  • Perception

  • Emotion

  • Reason

  • Language

Your task, is to identify an Ethical Choice...this could be something real from your life like “not cheating on a test” or it could be something that is real in the world however something that you do not have immediate experience with such as voting against a war if you were a senator…and then analyze how you came to that choice. You must integrate the 4 ways of knowing into a CONCEPT MAP illustrating your analytical process. 

You can create this map digitally or visually.


  • Integrate at least the 4 Ways of Knowing we’ve discussed thus far
  • Concept map form
  • Map needs to sufficiently indicate to the reader how you came to your conclusion (I cheated or I didn’t cheat)

The whole point of this exercise is to answer the Driving Question:

To what extent does one utilize the ways of knowing when coming to an ethical decision? 

The answer to this question leads to other great follow ups like:

  • Should we be more present in our decision making?
  • How to become more present?
  • Do some ways of knowing influence us more than others when coming to an ethical conclusion?


Those Who Walk Away from Omelas: A meditation on the tyranny of democracy


After our conversations yesterday, I immediately thought of the short story, “Ones who walk away from Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin. 

Read the story linked here:

ones who walk away from omelas

And then answer the following questions in your journal as “journal entry #3”:

1.  How does this story relate to our discussion regarding, “a foolish idea held by 50 million people is still a foolish idea”?

2.  Do you think Omelas is a “foolish idea”?

3.  What do you think the metaphor of Omelas represents?  What could this be a parable to?

4.  Identify and discuss some “beliefs” held by the people of Omelas. Also, identify and discuss some “truths” held by the people of Omelas. Are there any? If not, why do you say so?

Kantian Ethics vs. Utilitarianism

As an introduction to ETHICS, move through this incredibly excellent introduction to ethics, ethical hypocrisy, kantian ethics and utilitarianism:

One of the heaviest hitters in the philosophical world of ethics is German Philosopher Emanuel Kant.

Kant wrote at length on a variety of topics and is considered one of the great German Philosophers along with Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Schopenhauer.

Below is a link to a great summary of Kant’s famous, “Categorical Imperative” and his Deontological Moral Theory.

This is in contrast to UTILITARIANISM which is a philosophical perspective that places an emphasis on choosing behaviors and actions that have the most advantageous ratio of utility (value) to risk/disadvantage. John Stuart Mill was one of the most famous philosophical proponents of utilitarianism. Below is some information:

So…after you’ve read the above and contemplated each philosophy’s ramifications, answer the following questions: 

1.  Which moral approach do you follow, Utilitarianism or Kantian Morality?

2.  Which moral approach do you believe is BEST for society? Why?

3.  Is it possible for a society to adopt Kant’s moral beliefs?

4.  Which approach causes the practitioner to be in touch with more ways of knowing? Which ways of knowing does each approach rely on?

Introduction to Ethics

Would you walk away from OMELAS or stay???

We’ve already discussed various questions that the Human Sciences concern themselves with. We discussed that many of these questions are “Normative” in nature…meaning they concern themselves with what humans OUGHT to do.

Dilemmas of behavior that people face are referred to as MORAL DILEMMAS or ETHICAL DILEMMAS.

Read the following Short Story, Honors Track, on Cheating in High School written by one of America’s up and coming short story writers, Molly Paterson.

Honors Track Short Story

Additionally, consider the following:

Mad Bomber

A madman who has threatened to explode several bombs in crowded areas has been apprehended. Unfortunately, he has already planted the bombs and they are scheduled to go off in a short time. It is possible that hundreds of people may die. The authorities cannot make him divulge the location of the bombs by conventional methods. He refuses to say anything and requests a lawyer to protect his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. In exasperation, some high level official suggests torture. This would be illegal, of course, but the official thinks that it is nevertheless the right thing to do in this desperate situation. Do you agree? If you do, would it also be morally justifiable to torture the mad bomber’s innocent wife if that is the only way to make him talk? Why?

Subway Problem

A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are five people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you could flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch or do nothing?

Fat Man/Pregnant Woman Problem

A fat man leading a group of people out of a cave on a coast is stuck in the mouth of that cave. In a short time high tide will be upon them, and unless he is unstuck, they will all be drowned except the fat man, whose head is out of the cave. [But, fortunately, or unfortunately, someone has with him a stick of dynamite.] There seems no way to get the fat man loose without using [that] dynamite which will inevitably kill him; but if they do not use it everyone will drown. What should they do?

Dostoyevsky, who has in these pages come in for comment in relation to Existentialism and atheism, imagines a classic right vs. good dilemma:

“Tell me yourself — I challenge you: let’s assume that you were called upon to build the edifice of human destiny so that men would finally be happy and would find peace and tranquility. If you knew that, in order to attain this, you would have to torture just one single creature, let’s say the little girl who beat her chest so desperately in the outhouse, and that on her unavenged tears you could build that edifice, would you agree to do it? Tell me and don’t lie!”

This idea is carried out to awesome effect in, “those who walk away from omelas.”  Read it below: 

ones who walk away from omelas