Philosophers' Carnival III

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The third Philosophers' Carnival is at Philosophical Poetry. My 5th affirmative action post on reparations is part of it, as is my co-blogger (and host) Matthew's Prosblogion post on problems with the incarnation.

Doing Things With Words has a great post on tolerance. His major claim is that tolerance in general doesn't require being tolerant of everything (i.e. true relativists), and it doesn't require being tolerant of those who tolerate everything (presumably because we should insist on some genuine moral claims). The upshot is that you can possess the virtue of tolerance while being intolerant of someone. That seems right, and it seriously undermines the argument I hear regularly that advocates of tolerance are inconsistent when they're intolerant of the intolerant. It's a problem for those who say they're tolerant of everything, but those with a principled tolerance of certain things can be intolerant at times without being inconsistent.

3 Comments

But I think that's the whole point of the argument, no? Pointing out "intolerance of intolerance" to one who professes to be a tolerance maven isn't supposed to be the end of the argument.

The purpose, as I've always used it, is simply to get the "tolerant" one to admit that there really are some things he won't tolerate. It simply takes away his supposed moral superiority over me because of his "tolerance" vs. my "intolerance," and allows the discussion to proceed to the particular issue at hand.

It's simply a tool with which to move to the more substantive issue of which things we should not tolerate--since none of us tolerates everything.

I assure you that in normal discussion, the "tolerance" card is not subtlely played--it's played as a trump card to shut down discussion by labelling the opponent "intolerant," as if the claim of intolerance were self-evident and self-justifying. It's not used to argue for "tolerance in general," it's used to a priori demonize an opponent. In such a situation, it's proper and necessary to demonstrate that the charge is completely invalid and self-defeating.

Thanks for the kind words.

I heard Jay Budziszewski give a lecture on tolerance as a virtue a while back. I wish I couls remember all of his points. A couple of them were 1) the virtue of tolerance consists in being tolerant of the things one ought to tolerate. Like any classsical virtue one may err to either side.


and 2) More tolerance is not necessarily better. This pretty much follows point one closely.

This seems just like common sense to me and should be acceptable to pretty much anyone who cares to think about it. Of course the idea of what we ought not tolerate in our society seems to be pretty contentious.

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