If X is in a zone where there is a rule that while a person has right to have/follow any opinion/view point but is REQUIRED (MANDATORY) to respect (and accept) plurality of opinions as a condition to live in a zone. Essentially, if the zone says respecting/accepting plurality is supreme.

The logical paradox here is that by asserting supremacy of an idea (Plurality in this case), is it actually breaking its own rule by asserting supremacy of an idea. Thoughts on how to break this paradox?

  • If your rule is paradoxical, change it. Real laws usually penalise non-compliance with themselves, not with other people's opinion. Laws cannot stop anyone from thinking what they please and therefore from holding particular opinions. Only actions that have an impact provable in court can possibly be penalised. Commented Jun 11, 2022 at 17:09
  • It sounds like the zone has adopted an internally contradictory rule and that the rule is impossible to follow. I do not see a way out. I also think that the zone includes the location of Russell’s barber, who shaves every man in town who does not shave himself. Commented Jun 11, 2022 at 19:42
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    As Plato and Spinoza emphasized genuine ideas must correspond to real objects, thus all true propositions are exactly equal without an iota of supremacy of any one special. Maybe you’re unknowingly treating propositions as kind of rhetoric speech sentence which could be highlighted as an explicit sign of intended artificial supremacy… Commented Jun 11, 2022 at 23:46
  • @DoubleKnot Yes. That's possible. But that goes to the heart of question. How can we then claim religious fundamentalism (an idea believed to be genuine by followers) is inferior to secularism. Are they really equal propositions because if we do assume so, then we have a non-zero probability of what Popper called Paradox of Intolerance.
    – bazooka720
    Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 0:25
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    Literal interpretation of ploysem natural language terms can easily become paradoxical such as Liar sentence or sentence like "I'm thirsty to death". True tolerance has string attached, for example, it should be assumed within a rational argument scope. Because one cannot rationally convince another so one should tolerate another's opinion, in this sense you can see Popper's paradox of intolerance can be resolved... Even you're in a religious ecstasy/enlightenment, you're still bound to the realm of cause and effect, aka reason which applies to all contingencies including tolerance... Commented Jun 12, 2022 at 2:52

3 Answers 3


No Paradox in Practice

There's no real paradox in the political practice or philosophy of pluralism. You conflate two types of rules as a category mistake.

One can believe that one has a right to believe anything for one's own beliefs and that no one belief is required to be believed. Every major multicultural society or institution practices this. Ancient Rome practiced it. In the US, one can choose to be Protestant or choose to be Catholic, and Protestants and Catholics get along just fine if they respect that the other has the right of the freedom of and from religion. When religious beliefs fuel some sort of practical conflict, such as in the debate over abortion, a society simply provides a mechanism for conflict resolution, which is usually just a third-party imposing rules of its own to structure the situation.

Right now, in the famous case of Roe v. Wade, which is on the verge of being repealed by a religious minority sitting on SCOTUS representing the beliefs of a minority of the American polity, the rule is simple. In the absence of a federal law, the conflict is now handled by the state. Thus, we see California leaning towards enshrining the rights conferred by Roe V. Wade in its constitution, while politically conservative states are likely to criminalize it.

The US had the same challenges with the institution of slavery, and in that case, the minority attempted to secede from the US Republic, and civil war followed. In this case, when a political solution failed, a military solution prevailed.

Logical Paradoxes Can Be Dissolved

If there's any ground for claiming that a plurality of belief is somehow fundamentally paradoxical, the solution is simply to qualify. For instance, in Russel's paradox, one simply has to constrain the rules regarding sets having themselves as members. To avoid any further complications, Russel simply began advocating type theory. If Russel's paradox is interpreted as a state machine, again, the paradox is eliminated because the state at t0 can be opposite of the state of a system at t1.

So, if pluralism is established by a principle:

  1. Anyone can harbor any belief of their own to allow for individual freedom to encourage a pluralism of truth.

Then what happens when one believes they can impose their beliefs on others? Then, sure it appears to be a paradox of sort. But every paradox can be dispensed with by simply adding rules or context. That's why society simply accepts a second rule:

  1. No one can impose their beliefs on others to prevent tyranny.

But what if a person claims it’s their duty to impose their will on others, say, as a religious fundamentalist might do? Then they will claim rule 2 is oppressive, which brings us back to conflict resolution. If conflict resolution fails, the situation degrades into physical violence, and the victor of the physical violence then sets the terms, a phenomenon described as might makes right.

  • This is very helpful specially Russel's Paradox and Type theory references. One follow-up on this. Just like we talk of "religious fundamentalist" ...what if the religious fundamentalist accuses secular person as "secular fundamentalist" (someone who feels that being secular as the only acceptable path). How can we prove secular fundamentalism is not the same? Same principles of type theory at play?
    – bazooka720
    Commented Jun 11, 2022 at 23:21
  • Scientism can also be infused with an absolutist's fervor. I tend to see belief on a spectrum of absolutism-pluralism-relativism. The subject of belief is beside the point.
    – J D
    Commented Jun 11, 2022 at 23:27
  • The path to ammend any paradox might appear is excellent!
    – Nikos M.
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 8:50
  • "what if a person claims it’s their duty to impose their will on others, say, as a religious fundamentalist might do?" Outside of Islamic culture, this hasn't happened in over a century. Why not use a more current example like Communists murdering millions of people to force ideological submission, or American Leftists forcing people to pretend to believe a man is a woman or get fired for asserting their own belief? Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 10:40
  • @DavidGudeman Because Christian nationalism/white nationalism is the largest source of terrorism in the US. christianitytoday.com/ct/podcasts/quick-to-listen/… en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_terrorism?wprov=sfla1
    – J D
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 13:58

The analogy I like to use here is to think about the act of speaking itself. Speaking is composed of two components: syntax (the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language) and semantics (the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text). Semantics is open-ended — we can create whatever meanings and symbols we like through the artful arrangement of words — but syntax isn't. I can't 'decide' to write "concept this important an is" and expect my meaning to be understood. I am obliged to follow tules like spelling, grammatical structure, paragraph structures, etc, or I will be incapable of creating or conveying meaning entirely.

Likewise, public discourse has structural rules that need to be followed for communication to occur. Respect for others' opinions is one of those rules; if people won't follow it, communication is just as impossible as if people won't follow the rules of syntax. There is no paradox at all: allowing a plurality of views is foundational for public discourse.

More often than not, the people who most stridently shout about freedom of speech are in fact those who want to violate one or more of the rules of public discourse and thus make communication impossible. They do this because they don't in fact want to communicate; they want to dictate their opinion and bar others from discussing or disagreeing with it. It's a fundamentally hypocritical position.


You constrain what you mean by "opinion" in the rule, since the contradiction is generated between the necessity to respect opinions while following the rule and the inherent "disrespect" of the opinion of not respecting all opinions.

What you do, for instance, is constrain "opinions" to "political opinions", for which, if you hold a "political opinion" the possibility of holding the opinion of not respecting all political opinions is necessarily excluded, since it is foundational in political discourse to respect all political opinions for the purposes of communication.

This way, you can consistently respect all political opinitons while consistently disrespecting the opinion of not respecting all political opinions, since it is an unpolitical opinion and therefore not necessarily worthy of respect.

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