Philosophy: Tolerance


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  • Created on: 01-04-12 12:06

Key themes of liberalism

The individual - in classical liberalism - conceives relation in atomistic terms, society is a random aggregate of individuals, society is nothing more than a collection of self-sufficient individuals. In modern - emphasis on interdependency of human beings and more emphasised on need for collective responsibility. Posession of rights, for Locke each indiviual has right to life, liberty and property. For Kant each person is an end in themselves. 

Freedom/liberty - natural right, essential to human existence, for Mill - right to do what they please as long as it doesn't prevent others doing likewise. Negative freedom - freedom from constraint - able to do what you like. Positive freedom - ability to fulfil oneself - given by welfare state. 

Reason - power of reasons enables humans to fashion better future for themselves/humanity - emphasises need for debate to resolve conflict. 

Justice - giving each person what is due to them, foundational equality (born equal), formal equality (equal treatment in distribution of rights) equality of opportunity (meritocracy/positive freedom)

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Key themes (cont)

Tolerance - allowing people to express themselves with reason- aim of individual liberty. For Locke - issues of religious tolerance. Mill - matter of autonomy (experiments in living) 

Strong sense of tolerance - only tolerate what is different and important to us - vegetarians oppose eating meat but do not stop other people eating meat.      Weak - cannot object to how other people live - meat eaters don't care that others do not eat meat.

Tolerance as the virtue of a pluralist democracy - harm principle - only reason you can exercise power over another person is to prevent harm to others. Tyranny of majority formal and informal. formal - laws against homosexuality e.t.c. - informal - act as we do

Purpose of a liberal society - maximise freedom of each individual to pursue their own aspirations (positive freedom) therefore tolerance is the virtue required to enable society to fulfil its purpose 

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Neutrality of society?

Rawls' - society should be neutral between conceptions of the good life if is tolerance (should not favour e.g. art with funding over something else)

Objections - Raz - people cannot be autonomous (which is the point of tolerance) if society is neutral - people like art but would not be able to go to galleries if they were not supported by government 

Neutrality is not itself neutral as it assumes that the argument itself is better than others. 

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Arguments for tolerance?

Threat posed by strife - tolerance needed to avoid violence - positive ideal not a compromise - 2 options violence or pluralism

Argument from value of autonomy (Mill) - tolerance is key to a happy society as it allows autonomy it is a means to an end. 

Argument from fallibility (Mill) - we may be wrong so therefore it is wrong to impose our views on others. 

Variations of fallibility (subjectivism) - morals are subjective therefore you cannot say your morals are right and others are wrong. 

Variations of fallibility (reasonableness) Rawls - people disagree but we should realise that they are not being unreasonable when they think something different to us (burdens of judgement)

Ineffectiveness of coercion (Locke) - cannot force someone into believing something they do not want to 

Argument from diversity (Mill) - need lots of ideas to push society forward - need to know what is wrong for society to progress (experiments in living) 

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Criticisms of arguments

Argument from strife - could be said this isn't tolerance just resignation - but this is wrong because we think liberalism is good

Value of autonomy - does autonomy lead to happiness - people may not be able to make decisions which are good for themselves 

Argument from fallibility - would freedom of speech enable us to discover the truth better than censorship 

(subjectivism) - doesn't support tolerance because being in favour of tolerance is subjective 

(reasonableness) - people may not be reasonable or think they are being reasonable when they are not 

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More Criticisms

Ineffectiveness of coercion - No inherent value intolerance - if coercion was effective then tolerance would not be needed - you mght not be trying to change there views just exile them, in which caes it is effective. 

Argument from diversity - assumes more ideas lead to happiness - this has not happened - a society still moves forward under a dictatorship although it has less diversity - it assumes we learn from our mistakes

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Whether cultures which encourage tolerance should

The arguments for tolerance all suggest that a tolerant society should be nurtured 

Devlin - morality is essential part of the welfare of society, morality is social, the government should look after the welfare of society, the government should be able to pass laws preserving these moral values -  if you let there be too much tolerance then society will fragment. 

Objections to Devlin - Mill - without being able to test other conceptions of the good life then we are unable to test our own and find better ways of living - pluralism as the motor of moral progress. Rawls -Devlin places too much importance on people having to subscribe to a common set of values for society to flourish: his argument is that core value should be tolerance of other values. 

Marxist critique - ideological tool of the Bourgeoisie to divide and rule the Proletariat. 

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Different conceptions of tolerance

Permission - relation between authority/majority and a dissenting minority, the minority can live using their beliefs only if the minority accepts the majorities authority - they can practice their beliefs as long as it doesn't affect the rest of society. 

Coexistence - Groups roughly equal power but tolerate each other mutually - allow the other group to exist alongside them 

Respect - recognise people with separate beliefs as moral-political equals. (Formal) - distinction between political and private realm - secular republicanism - e.g. French authorities say that headscarves not allowed at public schools (Qualitative) - formal equality tends to favour cultural people whose beliefs makes it easier to accommodate the private public distinction

Esteem - more mutual recognition - have ethical esteem for others ideas. 

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Characteristics of tolerant individual

Responsible judgement - accept your fallibility, then reflecting on it to make sure your idea is correct 

Reasonableness - tolerant individual's opposition must be reasonable 

Tolerance as a virtue - instead of just acting tolerant you actually are tolerant and believe that you should be

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Do you have to be liberal to be tolerant?

Fundamentalist's responses to arguments for tolerance 

Fallibility - unlikely to accept as they would think that they are going to be right otherwise would not be fundamentalist

From diversity - Same as above - do not need to have any more 'experiments in living'

Ineffectiveness of coercion - might agree as might think that religious belief is only real if arrived at freely

From reasonableness - same as fallibility 

Argument from strife - they might think that humans should be peaceful 

Whether someone is tolerant depends on how they respond to those who disagree with them - if someone approves of a society that forces its beliefs on others cannot be called tolerant - but could say to allow beliefs - e.g. arranged marriage to continue where people choose to do so 

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Does tolerance mean leaving others alone to do as

No - if you disengage with society when you could engage you cannot be considered tolerant - should convince others to act in a way we believe e.g. not harming others - but cannot use any method except persuasion to do so. 

Giving offence - will a tolerant individual avoid giving offence - maybe if their tolerance is born of a commitment to respect and not giving offence to others - however - if you will give up expressing your tolerant view in order to not offend someone's intolerant view means you're being intolerant as it is intolerant to require people not to express their views - this is damaging to a liberal society if people do not express their views because their views are not being heard so the society is not liberal. 

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Should a liberal society tolerate a minority cultu

This assumes that the minority rejects values of autonomy and tolerance - although it does not force its views on others if it was the majority it would oppose those who did not hold their point of view

If tolerance is valued for the sake of autonomy then the liberal society would increase autonomy by not tolerating the minority 

However - it could be that people choose to be part of the minority in question so therefore they would be acting autonomously 

Practical limits - although a liberal culture can tolerate the minority culture the liberal culture would not be able to tolerate a minority whose beliefs violated the harm principle. 

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Could a liberal culture society nourish a particul

Neutrality - Rawls' a tolerant society should be neutral - from arguments e.g. fallibility we can be wrong therefore a society should not favour one conception of the good life over another 

Objections - Raz - neutrality undermines autonomy because individuals will be unable to pursue certain ways of living if society is neutral - e.g. art galleries need government backing or will not be able to survive

by basing your social and legal sanctions on values of tolerance then you are imposing tolerance as a conception of good on people 

however could be said that what makes a society tolerant is how it responds to unreasonable views and those who hold them - it should not actively discourage unreasonable views but must try to contain them so that they do not extend into the public sphere in a way that would suppress other views

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Does tolerance foster critical faculties or does i

Marcuse argues that technological progress has created less freedom rather than more freedom - society gives a means-end rationality where end is technological progress - cannot reject this so we are not free

False need - characteristic of capitalist society where 'traditional' needs are met - in order to perpetuate itself system needs to create new needs in the name of human progress. 

Repressive desublimation - We are unable to think critically as we think to agree with what society agrees with and suppress feelings which society wants us to suppress 

Criticisms of Marcuse - the society which Marcuse suggests is not so repressive that Marcuse couldn't think to criticise it 

Would a Marxist alternative be better

Marcuse's idea of RD is dependent on Freudian analysis of human drives which is questioned by many psychologists

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Should we tolerate beliefs/practices/lifestyles/la

Arguments for - strife, fallibility about religious truth, irrational to try and convert people through force, religious allegiance is an expression of autonomy, pluralism, variety of religious beliefs can be reasonable

Against - Devlin, threatens social cohesion causing society to fragment - also tolerance will not help us discover religious truth or better ways of living while intolerance could help us to preserve them 

shouldn't tolerate beliefs that undermine autonomy but only intervene when people want to submit to the laws if the laws contradict harm principle 

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Should we tolerate unpopular lifestyles and cultur

For - strife, fallibility, autonomy, pluralism, burdens of judgement

Against - will not help us find better ways of living but tolerance will let us preserve them, Devlin - disintegration of society 

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Paradox of tolerance

If tolerance involves not acting on your opposition to a view which you think is wrong why should you be tolerant? We should surely condemn what is wrong and correct it? - communist says it avoids real social change, conservative that it is morally spineless and religious thinkers say people need moral guidance

This is why the arguments are needed 

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felix knox



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