Walter Kaufmann, The Faith of a Heretic (True Tolerance)

…In the process of teaching and writing one must constantly consider the thoughts of men with different ideas. And prolonged and ever-new exposure to a wide variety of outlooks–together with the criticism many professors seek from both their students and their colleagues–is a more profound experience than most people realize. It is a long-drawn-out trial by fire, marked by frequent disillusionment, discoveries, and despair, and by a growing regard for honesty, which is surely one of the most difficult of all the virtues to attain. What one comes up with in the end owes quite as much to this continual encounter as it does to any other experience.

A liberal education, and quite especially a training in philosophy, represents an attempt to introduce young people to this adventure. We have no wish to indoctrinate; we want to teach our students to resist indoctrination and not accept as authoritative the beliefs of other men or even the ideas that come to us as in a flash of illumination. Even if one has experiences that some men would call mystical–and I have no doubt that I have had many–it is a matter of integrity to question such experiences and any thoughts that were associated with them as closely and as honestly as we should question the “revelations” of others. To be sure, it is easier to grant others their “revelations” as “true for them” while insisting on one’s own as “true for oneself.” Such intellectual sluggishness parades as sophistication. But true tolerance does not consist in saying, “You may be right, but let us not make hard demands on ourselves: if you will put your critical intelligence to sleep, I’ll put mine to bed, too.” True tolerance remains mindful of the humanity of those who make things easy for themselves and welcomes and even loves honest and thoughtful opposition above less thoughtful agreement…

– Harper’s Magazine, February 1959.

Full Text: http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/kaufmann.htm

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