Thursday, December 06, 2018

On the concept of tolerance

There is the aspect of tolerance which occurs when we decide we disagree with someone's lifestyle choices. We are often taught in the name of tolerance not to disapprove of the lifestyle choices of others, but I think this is a misuse of the concept of tolerance. If I get to know someone well enough I am bound to disagree with a number of things that they do, but I impoverish myself and others if I allow differences to get in the way of all social interaction. (On the other hand, I probably ought to back away from all association with someone if I discover that they are a serial killer.) One important form of tolerance is the ability to not allow genuine disagreements and disapprovals get in the way of social interaction. But we are instead taught that disapproval = intolerance, and I think that's a big mistake. In fact, at one point I thought that tolerance is actually impossible unless there is a is a disagreement or a disapproval, but I think this is an exaggeration--I may believe that there is nothing wrong with something someone does or believes but it can still bug me, in which case I can still exercise tolerance by not letting it conflict with social interaction. But it is extremely important that we define tolerance in terms of a willingness not to allow something to impede social interaction, as opposed to equating tolerance with agreement or approval. Hence, a person who disapproves of homosexual conduct but doesn't let this undermine social interaction with practicing homosexuals is tolerant, not intolerant. 

Relativism does not support tolerance, it actually eliminates a significant form of it. 

4 comments:

Hugo Pelland said...

"But we are instead taught that disapproval = intolerance, and I think that's a big mistake."

Who supposedly teaches that?

But your general idea makes sense. Tolerance implies tolerating things we sometimes disapprove of.

Homosexuality is a bit different though, and a bad example imho, as "disapproval" isn't relevant here, just like I cannot approve nor disapprove anyone being Heterosexual. It's just a fact.

We can disapprove but tolerate certain sexual act perhaps, but then that's not so much about sexual orientation. It's about consent or an urge to control others' sex life even when they consent. Again, not much to do with homosexuality directly.

Victor Reppert said...

Christians who oppose homosexual conduct fall into two categories: those who think that there the orientation can and should be fixed in some way (prayer or therapy) and those who think the orientation can't be changed, but that biblical proscriptions against homosexual conduct require celibacy on the part of homosexuals. I think the first category leads to an implausible conclusion with respect to many cases, and the second, while it may seem repressive, is the more plausible version. On the other hand, if you are a pedophile, or you are married to someone no longer capable of comfortable intercourse, the "repressive" view does not seem wrong.

Mike Darus said...

Victor,
I believe that you made the point in the OP that tolerance does not happen until first a disagreement is identified. If there is no disagreement, toleration is not required. Now, toleration can take different forms. Toleration could ignore the difference and behave as though there is no difference. Toleration can also admit the difference and moderate the interaction to different degrees, the most extreme being perhaps condemnation to the point of the threat of legal punishment. You state that disapproval should not limit social interaction at the peril of personal impoverishment. However, there needs to be a determination of the weight of the disagreement. There may actually be a greater self impoverishment if the disagreement is ignored in favor of the social interaction. You offer the example of the pedophile. It seems that the logic of the discussion permits even the same sex controversy to impact and limit social interaction so as to not impoverish the significance of the underlying disagreement.

One Brow said...

Toleration requires quiet disapproval (most of the time at any rate). It's a mistake to conflate voiced disapproval with all types of disapproval.