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The Paradox of Tolerance. Michael Lacewing enquiries@alevelphilosophy.co.uk. Tolerance. We can only tolerate practices, values, and beliefs of other people when these differ from our own.

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the paradox of tolerance

The Paradox of Tolerance

Michael Lacewing

enquiries@alevelphilosophy.co.uk

tolerance
Tolerance
  • We can only tolerate practices, values, and beliefs of other people when these differ from our own.
  • Not minding or caring isn’t really tolerance, which involves not acting (in certain ways) on one’s opposition to the practice etc.
  • Restraint is not out of fear or powerlessness.
can racists be tolerant
Can racists be tolerant?
  • If tolerance is just not acting on disapproval, then racists can be tolerant.
  • One’s disapproval must not be based on ‘mere prejudice’, but e.g. on ‘responsible judgment’ or being ‘reasonable’
    • But is there a neutral account of what is ‘reasonable’?
  • Tolerance as a virtue: one’s restraint is for the right moral or political reasons
tensions psychological
Tensions: psychological
  • What reason can there be to tolerate what you think is wrong?
  • If you think it is morally right to show restraint, are you still morally opposed to the other view?
tensions political
Tensions: political
  • Should a liberal society tolerate a minority culture that doesn’t respect its values?
    • It rejects the values of individual autonomy and tolerance in favour of the authority of tradition, and seeks to enforce its values within the cultural community.
    • If it were the majority culture, it would advocate legal and social sanctions against those who disagreed.
  • Can, or should, liberals tolerate the intolerant or intolerable?
paradox
Paradox
  • Tolerance is most needed when one view rejects tolerance. If both agree that individual autonomy must be respected, little tolerance is needed.
  • If the reason for tolerance is to respect autonomy, why would we tolerate a view that did not respect autonomy? Don’t we increase autonomy by not tolerating views that do not respect autonomy?
  • But if a liberal society could only tolerate cultures that accept liberal values, how would this be tolerance at all?
defending tolerance
Defending tolerance
  • To argue that intolerant views cannot be tolerated is not intolerance. E.g. it is quite different from the intolerance of a view that tries to impose a specific way of living on people.
  • We cannot refuse to make any value judgment about different cultures or we lose the value judgments that favour tolerance over intolerance.
why be tolerant
Why be tolerant?
  • Strife
  • Fallibility
  • Autonomy
    • As happiness
    • As respect for equality
  • Diversity