Saturday, February 17, 2018

357. The success of failure

A Hegelian principle is that one gets to know something best in its failure.

This appeared in my discussion of what I made of Levinas (item 61 in this blog): in order to achieve the highest level of freedom, which is freedom from pre-conceptions and errors, one needs opposition from the other. 

It also appears in the Popperian principle of falsification in science. One cannot prove the truth of a proposition on the basis of evidence, but one can falsify it. Criticism of failures in science is needed, in the forum of science, for science to succeed.

It appears in democracy: cumbersome and often inefficient as it is, political opposition is needed to prevent survival of failed policies. In a centralized, non-democratic, authoritarian regime such failure is not recognized or acknowledged, to protect the prestige and position of the regime. The strength of democracy is that it can fail (item 339).

It appears in innovation: the failure of an innovative venture is not waste, but has value in showing what does not work, as a basis for further research and development. Entrepreneurs serve society in their failures.

The necessity arising from failure of what exists is the mother of invention.

Evolution arises from a selection environment that eliminates failures to fit. Humans, however, have a distinctive capacity to deliberately and consciously select or construct a favourable niche, and there failure may fail to succeed.

Similarly, a virtue of markets is that competition ensures that no waste of resources arises from failures that survive.

The present perversions of capitalism serve to clarify why and how capitalism fails, and to understand some of the sources of populism (item 47) and shortcomings of the political left.

The most fruitful failures are those that could not be foreseen, and were in that sense uncertain (as opposed to risky), because they most radically close off existing avenues, to open up new ones.

However, failures need to accumulate, to clarify the boundaries of validity of the old, to build up motivation to drop the old and search for the new, and to give indications of directions for the new. This progressive form of conservatism was recognized in a famous debate in the philosophy of science, between Popper, Kuhn and Feyerabend, in the 1960’s, in which Popper consented that instantaneous falsification, at the merest falsification, was not rational.

In ontology and epistemology, the need for outside opposition to success, in order to recognize failure, to motivate and indicate avenues for novelty, is the most convincing argument for objects in the world to exist independently from ideas, as a selection environment for the evolution of ideas.

Žižek argued that strict, universal rules demand too much from people, who are imperfect and are also caught in the vagaries of contingency, so that for the rules to succeed there must be some space for deviance, failure to conform (item 337).

All this is consistent with my argument for ‘imperfection on the move’ (items 19 and 127).     

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Žižek tells us[i] that Hegel’s dialectics has been falsely interpreted as a closed circle: he intended the end as a new beginning.[ii] This goes beyond the old Aristotelian idea that things have a potential that is realized in the end. With Hegel, on the path to realization of potential a new potential is created. The question now is how this works. Unless I missed something in Hegel, he gives no explanation how, by what logic, dialectics works, produces novelty, from opposition or tension.

In a later item in this blog I will discuss ontology: the philosophy of being, of things in the world. There, I will use the idea, shared by Graham Harman and Tristan Garcia, that there are two dimensions to objects in the world: first, how they are composed, ‘what is in them’ and second their position in their environment, ‘what they are in’[iii].

The first is the analytic view of science, breaking things down into their components, the second is the phenomenological view, considering the lived experience of things. The latter connects with philosophical pragmatism and Wittgenstein’s notions of ‘meaning as use’. I will now claim that the two arise from each other: how something is composed determines, in part, how it exists in its context, and that, in turn, affects how it is composed. How does that work?  

For transformation, in this blog (item 31), and in a book published in 2000), I proposed a ‘cycle’ of discovery or invention. I did not develop it with Hegel in mind, at least not consciously, but was perhaps fed by prior readings of Hegel. I was inspired, more explicitly, by the theory of the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget concerning the development of intelligence in children. The basic idea there is that when one is confronted with new experience, the attempt is made to assimilate it in existing mental frames, and when that fails such frames are accommodated. I now wonder if it can be seen as a further development of Hegelian thought. In a later item in this blog I will propose that it clarifies ontology, in what I call dynamic ontology.

To recall, I proposed that the cycle of change starts with generalization, defined as application of a practice in novel contexts. In the novel context, the practice is challenged by new conditions of survival. What had been adopted as a universal is confronted with novel particulars.

Note the link with evolution here, with the idea that novelty, in speciation, arises from challenges in a new selection environment. The classic example is the emergence of new species after the disastrous crash of a meteor on earth, which made the dinosaurs and other species extinct. In innovation policy some firms now actively seek novel markets to find out limitations by identifying failures, as a source of innovation.  

Faced with failure in a novel context, the first step, which stays as close as possible to the existing frame, is to ‘tweak’ that frame, in differentiation, in trying out different variants of the same, with recollection of earlier forms that were at play in the emergence of the present practice.

This may not suffice for survival in the new context. Here is where Hegelian opposition or contradiction kicks in. In the failure of the practice one gets to really know it, with its limitations that call for renewal.

From the conflict between practice and the novel context, experiments arise, in what (adopting the terminology of Piaget) I call reciprocation, inserting elements from practices met in the novel context that seem to succeed where the old practice fails, into the logic of the old practice. This yields misfits between the old and the new, novelties that conflict with existing logic.

This, I think, is the fundamental step in dialectics: experimenting with hybrids of the old and the new, to discover ways of relieving the tension between them. It allows for the exploration of the potential of novel elements, and of the limitations of the old logic that obstruct the realization of the new potential, which gives hints in what directions a novel logic might be explored.  

Necessity is both the mother and the midwife of invention.

Novelty, as it emerges in a new basic logic, is hesitant at first, labouring with inconsistencies or frictions that remain, with fall-backs into the old, requiring further adjustments in the constellation of the new basic logic and its elements, until it settles into what in the innovation literature is called a ‘dominant design’.

In sum: in moving to a new place or context one encounters the need and insight to open up content to new possibilities. What was taken as a universal is confronted with deviant particulars (see the preceding item in this blog). Note the similarity to the hermeneutic circle (item 36, 252).

Note that the cycle is in fact a spiral, not a closed loop.             

 Is this helpful as an elaboration, elucidation, or twist of Hegelian dialectics?

[i] In his Parallax view.
[ii] The Latin word terminus can mean ‘end point’ as well as ‘starting point’.
[iii] Tristan Garcia, 2014,  Form and object; A treatise on things, Edinburgh Press.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

355. The universal and its particulars

Žižek adopts Hegel’s view of the ‘concrete universal’: the universal should be seen as incorporating all its particulars, which may be in conflict which each other, and inevitably there are anomalies that do not quite fit the universal.  

Repetition, in the manifestation of the universal in its particulars, is never quite repetition, duplication, but always differentiation. And this may erode or explode the universal, in what Hegel called ‘aufhebung’.[i] Žižek suggests (in his Parallax view) that such dynamics forms the essence of the universal. I will return to the issue of essences in a later item in this blog.  

The philosophical significance of this is that it deviates from the Platonic idea of the universal as transcending the messy world of particulars, and being fixed.

That is also of significance for politics, where the totality of the state should leave room for variety of individuals in the state as well as a variety of states.

Žižek also reminds us that Christ is the personification, particularization, of God the universal.

I now want to compare the Hegelian view with the view of the universal and its particulars presented in this blog (in items 16, 17, 135).

In my view, the universal is not the totality of its particulars, but an abstraction from them, from the rich variety of contexts where the particulars reside. This is in contrast with the Hegelian view that the particulars ‘fall’ from the universal. In my view they ‘feed’ it, form its roots. In its use, to become real, the abstract universal needs to be re-embedded in the richness of the particular context at hand. With a flourish, I would say: the abstract is a hermaphrodite, inserting itself in the context and being impregnated by a host of particulars that may give birth to a novel abstraction.  

For sceptical David Hume the abstract, the universal, is a fiction. I think it is a little more than that. It is rooted in the reality of its particulars, and is a wager on what is invariable across contexts, but this is open since there is no end to possible contexts. Unforeseeable contexts may arise.

An abstraction is itself a universal, an abstraction from varieties of abstraction. The abstraction of abstraction is, as I would now formulate it, that one drops features that do not systematically return in different contexts, in search for what seems essential, though that will never be found. It falls under what in this blog I have called ‘imperfection on the move’. The terms of the abstraction are ambiguous and themselves variable. What, precisely, is a context; is that notion liable to shift? What is essential: does that not imply some judgement of relevance, and how fixed is that? And other criteria may arise: some form that a formalization should have, perhaps. 

The universal is often supported by a prototype that yields an exemplar, that guides identification of particulars as belonging to the universal. I read somewhere that for the English the robin is the exemplar of ‘bird’, while for the Dutch it is the sparrow.

From Lacan, Žižek adopts the notion of a ‘master signifier’ that symbolizes the universal. It is not necessarily an adequate characterization and often serves to bend thought in a certain direction, or hide incongruity, as a support of ideology. For an example, in item 348 of this blog I used the idealized model of perfect competition, as the master signifier of market ideology, while in fact it is never achieved and the endeavour of firms as market participants is to block competition.

The implication of this view of universals is that typically one cannot give necessary and sufficient features for something to belong to a category. For an example, I have used the example of ‘chair’. Once, in a newspaper I saw a man in a stuffed cow with a dent for the seat, with the caption ‘watch me sitting in my cow’. After that, when walking past a field with a cow one might say ‘look what a beautiful chair’.  

For further analysis, I used the notion of the hermeneutic circle, in item 36, as Heidegger also did. Words for concepts, abstractions, along the paradigmatic axis, are inserted into sentences, along the syntagmatic axis, and there are connected with other concepts, and this unique configuration may yield a novel perspective on the concept.

The variation of meaning is one of both context and people. In my discussion of meaning (item 32) I used the distinction, going back to Frege, between denotation/reference and connotation/sense. For Frege, sense was ‘the way in which something is given’: how does an object present itself? I reconstruct it as the way in which reference is established: how does one recognize or select something as a chair? That, I propose, happens on the basis of associations that one has with the concept, collected along a path of life, by which one recognizes something as belonging to the concept. Which connotation is picked out, or triggered, depends on the context. And then, misfits will appear, anomalies, which may occasion a shift of the universal, or a split, or absorption in a novel one. This yields a constitutive role for the individual, not as subjugated to the universal but as feeding it.

How, next, does dialectical change work? That is the topic for the next item.

[i] There is an English term for this: ‘ablation’, but I don’t like it and leave ‘aufhebung’ untranslated. It means at the same time ‘lifting up’ and ‘elimination’.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

354. Reading Hegel

I read Hegel long ago (in the late 1960’s), and I remember being highly impressed with some of his work and disgusted with another part. I let myself be diverted from Hegel by Popper’s attack on his historicism and his groundwork for totalitarianism[i]. Žižek is an admirer of Hegel, and studying Žižek I wondered if I had missed something. So I started re-reading Hegel.

I was, and still am, immensely impressed by Hegel’s dedication to dynamics, of ideas and social structure, in the form of structural change arising from oppositions or what Hegel called contradictions, in dialectical change, notably in his Phenomenology of the Spirit. That was a welcome change with respect to earlier Western philosophy, which I read as being almost exclusively preoccupied with substance and permanence.

Thinking back, I now see that it may be largely due to inspiration from Hegel that I dedicated myself professionally to innovation. But why stick to Hegel? Surely, there has been development of thought on dynamics since Hegel, certainly in the self-manifestation of the absolute spirit that Hegel proclaimed. 

In Hegel’s Logic, which is not a logic in the usual sense, but a metaphysics, the prime category is Being, and to Hegel being is not like some fixed object but a process of becoming, in the dialectical process. That sits well with my process view of philosophy, and of knowledge, meaning, etc., as discussed in this blog (item 342).

On the other hand, what I abhorred, and still do, is the idea that history is a progressive, teleological, process of self-realization of the Hegelian Absolute Spirit. Here one recognizes the notion of an Aristotelian final cause that in my view is a mistaken way of looking at history and society. It even seems contradictory in Hegel’s own thought, which I read as pointing to non-linear transformations that may not be progressive, may embark on a cul de sac, and may be degressive.

I do recognize the philosophical significance of the attempt to bring together the infinite and the finite, with the absolute spirit replacing God, in its self-realization through the actions of the finite spirit of mankind. But politically that has inspired a communist ideology of a march towards utopia in which human sacrifice and suffering are of negligible significance. Of course this is an anachronism: Hegel could not foresee such perversion of his ideas. But Hegel did also see war as an inevitable clearing of what exists, to make room for the next transformative step in the march, which I find hard to stomach but do recognize as possibly true, harsh as it may seem.

Žižek offers an alternative reading of Hegel. I am not sure I fully understand it, so I give a direct quote: ‘.. what gets lost in it (the usual reading) is the interaction between the epistemological and ontological aspects, the way ‘reality’ itself is caught in the movement of our knowing it (or, vice versa, how our knowing of reality is embedded in reality itself’ (Parallax view p. 30). That may approach my approach, as set out in this blog. I would add language as an intermediary between epistemology and ontology.
Also, I detested what I thought was Hegel’s agreement with Rousseau’s view of the general will of the people to which the individual should surrender his own opinion or interest. There is too much of a platform for totalitarianism there. A platform on which populists are now eager to dance their folk dances. But re-reading Hegel (and reading Rebecca Comay’s Mourning sickness), I now see that while Hegel was thrilled by the French revolution as a necessary step in the march of the absolute spirit, he in fact opposed Rousseau’s absolute general will in which individuals should be eager to dissolve themselves, for the same reason that he rejected Kant’s duty ethics for its demand to transcend individual interests and contingencies.   

That fits with Hegel’s view of any universal, including that of the state as the universal will of the people, as a ‘concrete universal’, though that sounds like a contradiction in terms. What this means is that the universal is not homogeneous, but includes a variety of particulars some of which may even be at odds, in some partial way, with the universal. Indeed, according to Žižek’s reading of Hegel the essence of the universal is the strife between its particulars. Hegel insisted that the state must allow for the free development of individual personality, and should respect the rights of individuals, existing in and through its particular citizens.

What, then, is democracy? As I noted earlier in this blog, what I can make of it is the following. In a democracy one has to accept what has been democratically debated and decided, but that does not require that one drop one’s conviction, saying and testifying that one must have been wrong.

The issue concerning the universal and its particulars is important, but I take a somewhat different view of it, as I will discuss in the next item in this blog. The challenge there is to show how there can be space for deviance of particulars, and how that can shift or topple the universal, doing what Hegel seems to have left undone. 

[i] In Popper’s Poverty of historicism and The open society and its ennemies.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

353. Žižek and Basic Income

It can be difficult to find coherence in Žižek’s oracular utterances. The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are beautiful, and I have learned a lot from them, but they do not seem to fit together.

Here I give an example from a lecture and subsequent questions on ‘The courage of hopelessness’ at the Schauspielhaus In Hamburg, in 2017, available on YouTube. In the process I contest Žižek’s  arguments against a Basic Income (BI), for which I have been an advocate since the 1980’s (see also items 154 and 226 in this blog). I think a BI would fit in what he pleads for.

As I discussed in a preceding item in this blog (item 346), I go along fully with Žižek’s diagnosis of a crisis in capitalism.

Strikingly, and interestingly, Žižek came up with a defence of Ayn Rand’s[i] claim that the use of money in capitalism, in payment for labour, is the only alternative to direct domination and exploitation. But later he also railed against monetization, commodification, of clean air, water and soil. I don’t know how to reconcile these two things.

On the question what to do in the face of capitalist crisis, Žižek does not see any utopian model to replace capitalism, but something needs to be done because present representative democracy proves unable to curtail capitalism. He is against evasion, a passive flight into hedonism, and pleads for ‘doing something revolutionary, dialectical … to develop a new solidarity’ in ‘full ethical engagement’.

In question time, one question was ‘how to do revolution right this time … avoiding a fall into fascism’. Žižek replies that there is no answer, but we are moving towards fascism anyway, so let us …. Let us do what? He doesn’t say.

In another question, someone from Iran asked what Žižek would think of a revolution in Iran.
Žižek put her down, saying that the notion of revolution is too abstract. She should be more concrete. ‘What would you do about the economy’, he asked.

In another question, Žižek was asked how he would reconcile his plea for revolution with his plea for modesty concerning big ideas. He answered that one should look for something simple that could still fit in the capitalist system but would operate as a kernel of radical change from within. One might call this the Trojan horse approach to revolution (my words, not his). For an example he mentioned Obama’s health bill.

He was also asked about his view on the idea of a BI. He answered that he was somewhat sympathetic to it, but rejected it because ‘people should work and contribute to society’. Here, he goes along with the view of economists, the neo-liberal view, that without wage as reward for labour people will do nothing. In fact, all the available evidence from experiments points the other way.

I propose that a BI is a good case of the ‘something simple’ that can be introduced into the capitalist system to develop a revolution from within. The radical thing about a BI is that it enables people to choose their own activity, and reinforces the bargaining position of employees (‘Treat me better or I will exit and fall back on a BI’). At some point elsewhere in his voluminous work, Žižek defines liberty as room to follow ‘inner necessity’. A BI gives that room.

Žižek next says that if there were a BI, people would have to be forced to work, in jobs assigned to them for the public good. So, while first he defended wage labour as freedom form direct domination he now pleads for such domination in assignment of jobs without wage.

So, again, as I asked in the preceding item in this blog: what does Žižek want? I appreciate the Hegelian virtue of seeing something good in the bad and something bad in the good, but with that, how can one avoid paralysis? Next to all the critical rejection, does he have any positive proposal? He makes far-ranging statements and when challenged retracts, twists or dodges them. The problem is not that he wants to have his cake and eat it too, but that he wants his cake but does not dare to eat it. Without thinking them through, he rejects suggestions for the simple trojan horses that he recommends. He did that in rejecting the local ‘commons’ as a form of direct democracy, as I argued in item 347 in this blog. He does it also to the idea of a BI.

He recommends strategic thinking in the design of Trojan horses: they should plausibly fit in the ruling capitalist order. With the BI, the strategic twist is that it appeals to the libertarian drive for deregulation: many elements of social security can be abolished when people have a BI to fall back on. The arch-libertarian economist Milton Friedman was an advocate of a BI.

An other objection of Žižek to the introduction of a BI in a well-developed country is that it would enlarge the gap with the poor elsewhere in the world. In other words: you may only introduce something if it solves problems everywhere. How can this be reconciled with his gradualist view of bringing in a Trojan horse somewhere? And in any case, a BI could well, perhaps especially, be introduced in poor countries. Successful experiments were conducted in India[ii] and Namibia.       

[i] Libertarian icon, (author of The fountainhead and Atlas shrugged)
[ii] Sarah Davala, Renana Jhabvala, Soumya Kapoor Metha, & Guy Standing, 2015, Basic Income; A transformative policy for India, Bloomsbury.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

352. Žižek: What does he want?

Žižek lambasts and lampoons much of what he comes across but rarely offers alternatives. That is not the task of philosophy, he claims. This is vintage Hegel: philosophy can and should only try to understand and clarify what happens, and can do this only when it has already passed, after the sun has set. That is the meaning of the famous dictum that ‘Minerva’s owl spreads its wings only at dusk’.

To me, this is a cop-out. At the basis of present problems lie philosophical issues, and philosophy should learn from this not only to clarify but also to contribute to ideas for improvement. Such as the crisis of capitalism, discussed in preceding items in this blog. It is a matter of elementary intellectual decency, in my view, that when you criticize something you must give some indication of at least the direction for an alternative.

In fact, Žižek does make suggestions. In a debate with Will Self, the latter gave up on solving problems and advocated a withdrawal into the comfort of one’s private bubble, closing the curtains. During and after the debate, Žižek quite rightly burst out in indignation at this. An example of his suggestions is how one should deal with the refugee problem.

For Žižek, true faith is not based on logical or empirical reason, but is a commitment regardless of that, going back to the old motto ‘I believe because it is absurd’, in a leap of faith. Here, he admits to being a fan of Kierkegaard. He also remains a revolutionary, and does not exclude violence. Peaceful attempts to change the existing order by argument are lost in advance, in concession to the established symbolic order of ‘reasonable discourse’. It is a weakness of leftists to say that yes, radical change is needed, but the time is not ripe. The time is never ripe.

On the other hand, Žižek calls for patience, for not rushing in, for having trust, and taking time, and being self-critical. Perhaps one can have both: belief as an unreasonable leap, action in prudence and patience. But how can that still be revolutionary? 

Žižek picked up Kant’s distinction between the private and the public use of intellect. The first is aimed at answering practical questions raised by private concerns. The second stays away from that, to maintain intellectual independence. Žižek claims, and I agree, that in recent years there has been an increasing pressure on academia to develop useful knowledge. In the Netherlands the motto for that is ‘valorization’.

I agree that this has adverse effects, of two kinds. First, it indeed jeopardizes the independence and intellectual integrity of science. Second, it is myopic: independent, fundamental research uninformed by practical interests has proven to be the most productive.

How far the perversity of private reason can go is illustrated in the following case in my own experience. When working at a semi-public institute for research I produced a report that did not sit well with established policy, and I was asked, or rather muscled, to align the report more with it. I was told that next to scientific rationality there was something called ‘policy-oriented’ rationality (’beleidsmatige rationaliteit’ in Dutch). That should take into account the costs sunk in the political decision process, and corresponding political commitments crafted with much effort. Many similar cases of pressure have been reported. It is disastrous for trust in science.   

However, on the other hand the essence of science is testing, and application is a form of testing. At some places, Žižek himself admits that for ideas the proof of the pudding lies in its eating. I can even put this in the Hegelian parlance that Žižek covets: the real is the rational and vice versa. The rational gets embodied in the real, and the real reflects the rational.

My argument is that of pragmatist philosophy: one develops new ideas by using and rejecting them. That also is vintage Hegel. It is connected to the issue of the universal in relation to its particulars, which I will discuss in a later item in this blog: practical use of reason is attention to particulars that will shift or topple the universal. And how, in the manifestation of absolute spirit through the working of individual spirits, can this be if those spirits only reflect and do not contribute to action?  

So, how to proceed? One can engage in practical reason while not being diverted by private reason. The difference is that one does not adopt the problem as formulated by private interest, but as formulated by oneself after thorough familiarization with the practice and one’s analysis of it, preserving one’s intellectual autonomy. This ethic should be defended in academic teaching and research.

The risk is, of course, that when defending such integrity one no longer gets the commissions for research that bring in the money one is expected to chase. The answer to that is to become one’s own principal, taking the initiative of initiating and applying one’s research according to one’s independent formulation of the problem. Again from my own experience: when I did that in a project for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, I became a persona non grata there. The money then should come from state institutions such as science foundations. The problem there is that they also begin to give in to the demands of ‘valorization’.   

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

351. When is tolerance tolerable?

Tolerance can be a sham, as indicated by Žižek. It then falls into politically correct gestures and intimations of respect towards the excluded (immigrants, Muslims, Jews, blacks, ….), not with corresponding actions of acceptance and solidarity, but rather as a front to hide indifference, and the will to keep them at distance, or even to surreptitiously dominate or suppress them. That is the false gloss of multiculturalism.

That fits in the present politics of identity, of who you are, and what you think, rather than what you do, while justice is about what you do.

Žižek gives the example of colonialists who expressed respect, even awe, for indigenous cultures, as a cloak to cover exploitation and lack of rights. He also relates it to the rhetoric of ‘opening our hearts’ to refugees, instead of recognizing their rights, regardless of your feelings for them.   

Yet tolerance is needed as indispensable for a just society, because modern societies are multi-cultural, as a matter of fact. But it should then be a solidarity that yields actions of justice and solidarity.

There is a connection here with the discussion of empathy, in the preceding item in this blog. You don’t have to love the refugees or have the same views, but you should try to understand them, for a workable society.  

What does all this do to the universality of, in particular, human rights? Should tolerance include tolerance of violations of such rights? Honour killings? Clitorectomy? Enforcement of chadors? Of bourka’s? Arranged marriages? If not, where, precisely, does tolerance end?

Žižek adopts the Hegelian view of the ‘concrete universal’, that a universal allows for variety of its particulars, according to which one should allow for variety in the adoption and practice of universal rights. He mentioned the example of the autonomous Kurdish Rojava region in Nort-Eastern Syria, which should be allowed to ‘do it their way’.

That seems an easy case. Their constitution is in accordance with international laws of human rights, including equal rights for women, freedom of religion, equality of all ethnic groups, and a ban on the death penalty and torture. However, they do engage in child labour and military conscription of children. Is that tolerable?

So, what is ‘sufficient’, tolerable accordance with human rights? I do not think that there is some single, context-independent essence here, anymore than anywhere else. What then? Can we fall back, perhaps, on Wittgenstein’s family resemblance? There, things belong to the same class if they resemble each other in a sufficient number of features from one member of the family to the other, even without having a single feature in common for all? Or can tolerance depend on circumstance, of history, education, religion, economy? Then the questions till remains: how far can that go?

However that may be, it seems simple to say that within a democratic nation tolerance concerns obedience to the laws of the land, not on ideas, feelings, thoughts or inclinations. But how about things not covered by laws? There, people have to deal with it together, in discourse and activities. And that, again, requires empathy in the sense of understanding how people think and feel, as a basis for trying to work things out, without necessarily sharing those thoughts and feelings.

As argued before in his blog (item 35), the notion of scripts may help to bridge the gap between ideas and actions: what does an idea or concept entail in terms of underlying elements and their connections, logically, causally or sequentially? Mapping that helps to pinpoint, identify and understand differences, depending on how fundamental they are. Variety of how nodes in a script are filled in are easier to accept than a difference in the structure or logic of the script.