Why Pitting Prejudices Against Each Other Keeps Society Free

As part of the Institute for Humane Studies and Big Think video series, Jonathan Rauch, senior fellow at Brookings, discusses the importance of pluralism in society.

Rauch emphasizes how the concepts of free speech and toleration foster intellectual diversity by subjecting ideas to the public forum with rigorous testing and debate. In doing so, we confront all ideas – both bad and good – allowing fake knowledge and bigotry to be marginalized and ultimately rejected within the intellectual tradition and society as a whole.

“You need intellectual diversity,” says Rauch. “Those [ideas] will talk to each other, they’ll persuade each other. Sometimes they’ll conflict and criticize each other, but it’s through that process that as a group, as a country, as a society, we learn what’s true.”

He goes on to describe how pitting prejudices against each other is a vital component for rooting out intolerable viewpoints by challenging them within the marketplace of ideas. As such, better ideas are allowed to thrive and flourish while prejudiced and bigoted perspectives wane, unable to withstand the rigors of being tested in open debate. It is through this process that free speech and toleration culminate in helping to advance a free society.

This video is one of several in a series centered on discussions and suggestions for improving civil discourse in the academy and beyond. To view additional videos from the series, visit the Institute for Humane Studies blog.

Prior video in this series:

Free Speech on College Campuses: A Bottom-up Approach by IHS president Emily Chamlee-Wright.

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