Slarrow

"Slarrow" refers to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" from Hamlet's soliloquy. Here are the chronicles of such darts and whatever attempt there may be to take arms against such a sea of troubles.

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Location: Ozarks, United States

Monday, January 03, 2005

On Tolerance

Hey, it's a blog post. Lately I've been more of a consumer than a producer of blog posting. Oh well, no harm done.

Before I get back into the longer pieces, I'll do a quick little analysis on one of the favorite terms that gets slung around political arguments: tolerance. For some, it seems to be the Be-All and End-All of discussion, but the concept suffers from two flaws that get overlooked in conversation.

(1) Tolerance entails dissent. One does not tolerate views with which one agrees; rather, one endorses or defends or accepts or supports those views. Sometimes the disagreement is mild, so no action is taken. Sometimes the disagreement is strong but other principles dictate that no action be taken. Tolerance, then, means to restrain oneself from taking action against views or positions with which one disagrees.

Why is that significant? Because a moment's thought will indicate that there are--must be--limits to tolerance, else there can be no political opposition or competition. Since such competition is vital to the lifeblood of a well-functioning democracy, calls for tolerance may only extend to pleas for restraint, not calls for surrender.

(2) Tolerance is not a virtue. Virtues are always proper whenever they're practiced regardless of the circumstances. It is always proper to act with love, compassion, and patience. Tolerance, however, is proper only if the action or idea being tolerated meets some minimal standard. Tolerance of slavery, for example, hardly recommends itself without some other qualifiers (and they better be damn good qualifiers, like trying to save a new country).

Whether tolerance is proper depends on the object of the attitude while virtues depend on the intention of the subject. Thus, to say that one is tolerant is not to say that one is automatically virtuous, nor does intolerance automatically mean that one is wrong about the topic in question.

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