Against Tolerance

Philosophy Now 11:23-24 (1994)
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Abstract

I frequently have trouble with words that other people use with what seems to be blithe understanding (friends tell me that the problem is that I think too much about words, but I find that not thinking doesn't really seem to help). In the case of `tolerance', though, I have no trouble at all - it's a wishy-washy weasel, a mealy-mouthed mink of a word. I suppose I don't want to claim that it has no decent place in the language at all. I'm not particularly worried, for example, about our tolerating bad dramatic or musical performances by friends, close relatives, or children, nor about our tolerating the short tempers of those under great stress, and so on. What concerns me is the notion of tolerance that is so often to be found floating in the nebulous rhetoric of morality, both public and private.

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Peter J. King
Oxford University

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