The tolerant individual

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Belief and values

What is it about the individual the tolerant person actually tolerates? Do we tolerate what people belive and value or what they do and what they say? 

If we start off by thinking about tolerating what people believe and value then here we can become covered by the fact that tolerating such things becames plain irrational! We do not have a 'window into men's souls'.

Our beliefs and values may be entirely private with no public expression at all, in respect of those things tolerance seems poor. Only a true monster would want such a 'window' so that we might be punished for out contrary, if sincerly held, attitudes.

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By tolerating a persons actions we require a genuine level of acceptance. 

If an atheist was transported back to Puritan England would be in trouble if they did not spend Sunday in church. Some people would have been particularly happy to see into the atheists mind and punish them, but if that failed they would thus be content to control the physical actions.

Maybe out of well meaning, perhaps? Letting a 'godless heathen' do as they please would be a threat to social order- a possibilty of putting people's souls at risk by giving them a bad example. When tolerating a persons actions, we have a serious test of how tolerant a person is willing to be.

For 'autonomy valuing liberals' the issue of which actions to tolerate were not difficult. For Mill, only actions to not be tolerated were the ones which harmed others. 'Harm' defined as 'harm' to the autonomy of others.

So to the puritan, you are endangering another person's immortal soul by flauting your atheism. In Mill's case you are only offering others an alternative vision of what it is like to live a meaningful life- in this case one without God.

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Expression 1

Firstly, the case of expression of views that are offensive to particular groups or individuals. Controversy around the portrayal of the prophet Mohamed in a series of cartoon published in Denmark. Muslim people have particular problems with the portrayal of their prophet and this is clearly intensifies when that portrayal is critical or disrespectful. 

How can this be allowed? Well the possibility that we may want to allow such publication despite our personal disapproval of them. Not wishing to offend someone is not the same thing as saying that other people should not be allowed to do so. Tolerance, by definition, involves the possibility of allowing things we don't particularly like very much.

Under what circumstances might it be tolerable to offend people? It is must be tolerable, to JOHN MILL, to offend others so long as this does not pose a threat to their autonomy. To him, the only reason to not express a particular thought or view is if the view is a direct threat to allowing people to get along with their own lives unmolested. This is a broad defence of freedom of expression and would Mill would thus have to accept the publication of offending cartoons based on it.

If incited violence against Muslims or a repression of their religion AVL's would want to stop the publication! To Mill, offence has nothing to do with autonomy. If one objects to your views and attitudes they are not forcing you to change your life! You don't even have to listen if you don't want to or in the case of the cartoon, look at it.

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Expression 1


Many people feel uncomfortable with this conclusion from Mill. 

Accepting to make an argument from evil in the philosophy of religion may cause religious believers some distress but this is different to the case of the cartoons.

The case of the problem of evil may be that three great monotheistic religions is incoherent, this could be hurtful and offensive for religious believers to hear! The claim that their concept of God makes no sense surely won't be wanted to hear. Regardless of whether you think the argument from evil is very good can be prepared of the rights of people to put it forward.

The cartoon causes gratuitous offence. The argument from evil however is just put forward as a part of a debate not to poke fun at beliefs of a particular group and people.

You cannot however, bring in a law against rudeness!! It is also unclear for when something crosses the line between offence and criticism.

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Expression 2

Issue of ***********. How far is this actually a form of 'expression'?? We can't argue for *********** using Mill's defence of freedom of expression based on fallibilty because *********** does not represent any particular view.

To be tolerant of such, the extreme, material we have to be so on the more general grounds of toleration of an action. If the people involved in *********** have entered into this process etc then when should thus be tolerant of it, and the choice of people buying the magazines and newspapers they are in.

This shows how someone may be uncomfortable with something but as an AVL has to accept that people use their autonomy in ways that they might not like! Almost, they are bound into being tolerant of something they in fact disapprove strongly of.

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