Peeve OTD: Tolerance versus Acceptance

Why is it, when some poor specimen of a social conservative writes something breathtakingly offensive/stupid/bigoted/hateful, and gets responses of “hey, that was breathtakingly offensive/stupid/bigoted/hateful”, the response is all too often snark along the lines of “this must be the famous liberal tolerance I’ve heard so much about”?

Nothing wrong with snark per se, but that particular rhetorical choice is either monumentally ignorant or deeply disingenuous.

Tolerance does not mean acceptance, with all that implies about sharing the same ideals and working for the same goals. Tolerance means lack of persecution, that’s all. No-one is persecuting anybody by simply challenging their opinions/behaviours, especially if one has expressed their opinion on a forum open to public comment.

The only acceptance required when tolerating others is acknowledging that people have the right to hold divergent opinions and engage in divergent behaviours from one’s own. Tolerance does not mean that others’ opinions and behaviours cannot be criticised and challenged. Just that tolerant folk don’t attempt to prevent others from expressing their divergent opinions and engaging in their divergent behaviours.

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy

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5 replies

  1. I think the key confusion here is between the meaning of “tolerance” and “agreement”.
    (pulls out the Concise Oxford, because she’s a pedantic geek)
    · n.
    1 the ability, willingness, or capacity to tolerate something.
    2 an allowable amount of variation of a specified quantity, especially in the dimensions of a machine or part.
    – ORIGIN ME: via OFr. from L. tolerantia, from tolerare (see tolerate).
    · n.
    1 accordance in opinion or feeling. Ø consistency. Ø Grammar the condition of agreeing with another word.
    2 a negotiated and typically legally binding arrangement.
    Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I won’t tolerate you. But just because I tolerate you doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with you either (I’m just lazy sometimes).
    (Generic “you” used in all cases)
    Meg Thorntons last blog post..Today’s list of "gotta do dat"s.

  2. I find it terribly interesting that this is consistent among the English speaking cultures. It’s inescapable here, especially of late.

  3. I have always disliked the injunction to be “tolerant” of, to pick a random example, Muslims in Australia, or whoever. It seems to be an endorsement of the idea that there is something wrong with these groups, such that they need to be tolerated.

  4. That seems to be an acquired connotation, I agree.

    The original formulation was merely to tolerate difference or non-conformity. I believe the concept arose from the days of the Religious Conformity Act in England, whereby every subject was required to conform to the rites of the Church of England, and non-conformity was persecuted. So the Toleration Act for Non-Conformers was a big deal.

  5. Totally agree with this post, tigtog! So much so that it is kind of a physical relief to read someone articulating this.

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