Blind Tolerance is Immoral


Aug 7, 2020
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How do you feel about tolerance? Do you feel that we should be a largely tolerant people? What does tolerance mean, anyway? Does it have anything to do with the word "tolerate?" Like, "Yes, I'll tolerate my neighbor's dog barking all night long." So if you allow your neighbor's dog to bark all night long without saying anything about it, you are a tolerant person. And this is a virtue?

If you were to ask 100 high school seniors and college freshmen whether we should be a tolerant people or not, I'm willing to say that nine out of 10 would say yes, we should be. I don't blame them for that response because we've been taught to be tolerant our entire lives. But why is it that we always need to be tolerant of those who are behaving badly? Or more badly than we are? Why is it that we always need to be tolerant of those who are misbehaving or who are violating people's rights? Let me ask you a few questions:

- Should the United States have been tolerant of Hitler?
- Should you be tolerant of your son as he throws rocks through your neighbor's windows?
- Should you be tolerant of your girlfriend as she cheats on you?
- Should you be tolerant as you listen to your neighbor beat his wife?

So much of what we learn about tolerance has little to do with reality. I think what our teachers are referring to when they use the word "tolerant" is for us to avoid pointing and staring when we see someone of another culture wearing different types of clothing. Or speaking what seems like a funny language. Yes, of course, we should be tolerant of other cultures when it comes to things like these. I'm not even sure that tolerance is the correct word to use here because it's not like we need to tolerate these people in their different clothes and funny language. We can simply ignore them. It's not like there's any action on our part to take. But I digress.

If one nation tolerates the misbehavior of another nation, how does that other nation ever progress in the moral sphere? There have been plenty of nations throughout history that have done terrible things to their own people and people around them. And besides, in many instances, what's considered a "nation" is oftentimes just a small group of thugs who have taken over the show. It's not even the "nation" that's making the rules. It's the thugs. Should a neighboring nation tolerate the actions of the thugs? And if so, will the thugs ever become more moral if no one calls them out? In my opinion, I think they'll just get worse and the problem will spread.

Tolerance is about humility. It's about allowing for the possibility you're wrong. It's about considering the fact that someone else may be doing things a better way or that they've got different, but just as valid, ways of doing things. It's about understanding actions from different angles. It's not about allowing a culture to engage in slavery, the oppression of minorities, and the oppression of women. That's not tolerance at all. That's called weakness.

There's this thing out there called moral relativism. It basically says that groups and cultures different than our own are just as right as we are for what they do. By varying degrees, it says that if a nation engages in slavery, then it must be moral. If a nation engages in genocide, then it must be moral. Just by the mere fact that a nation engages in something, it must be right, moral, and just. And by some standards, we shouldn't even question it in any way. So yes, to moral relativists, if a small group of thugs somehow overthrew a legitimate government and began a genocidal campaign, everyone else on the planet should look the other way. That makes total sense. Right.

Did you know that only 27% of professional philosophers subscribe to moral relativism? And only a fraction of them subscribe to relativism about ethics? Anti-realism clashes with reality so frequently that I'm surprised anyone wants anything to do with it. It sure must be tough to defend a philosophy like that. These people must be fighting all the time. It's almost like they're in denial or are delusional somehow. Think about slavery. Think about the Holocaust. Think about someone telling you that 2 + 2 doesn't equal 4 in another country, just because they say it doesn't. It's enough to drive you nuts.

I found a few sites that discuss tolerance from different perspectives. They're pretty good reads. If you're interested in realism and anti-realism, moral relativism, and tolerance, check these pages out. They may enlighten you.
Blind Tolerance is Immoral was posted on 09-01-2020 by Cameron in the Philosophy Forum forum.
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