Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Paradox of Tolerance

I've written before about the paradox of tolerance (How can you be intolerant of my intolerance!? You're a hypocrite!). It's as salient as ever these days, so when I saw an interesting take on it shared as a text graphic this morning I wanted to share it, but I wondered who had written it, since the friend who posted it didn't give a source.

Well, it appears it comes from an early-2017 essay called Tolerance is not a moral precept by a writer named Yonatan Zunger.

The part I saw quoted was basically this:

Tolerance is not a moral absolute; it is a peace treaty. Tolerance is a social norm because it allows different people to live side-by-side without being at each other’s throats.... the model of a peace treaty differs from the model of a moral precept in one simple way: the protection of a peace treaty only extends to those willing to abide by its terms. It is an agreement to live in peace, not an agreement to be peaceful no matter the conduct of others. A peace treaty is not a suicide pact.

Another part I want to include, now that I see the whole thing:

If we interpreted tolerance as a moral absolute, or if our rules of conduct were entirely blind to the situation and to previous actions, then we would regard any measures taken against an aggressor as just as bad as the original aggression. But through the lens of a peace treaty, these measures have a different moral standing: they are tools which can restore the peace.

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