By: Hendrik van der Breggen
“Be tolerant” is today’s oft-heard moral imperative. This principle of tolerance sounds good, but careful thinkers should ask: Is it sound?
Answer: No, and yes.
It turns out that there are two senses of “tolerance.” Let’s call them Tolerance 1 and Tolerance 2. (If my labels seem to lack imagination, blame Dr. Seuss.)
Tolerance 1 is the contemporary popular understanding of tolerance. On this understanding, all views or identity claims and expressions are accepted as equal and true and good.
“It’s all interpretation” or “it’s all perspective” or “it’s all feeling” or “it’s who I am,” so a view/ identity/ expression may be “true for you, but not for me” (and vice versa).
According to Tolerance 1, you are intolerant if you disagree with someone’s ideas or self-identity or self-expression/ conduct. To say someone is actually mistaken or wrong violates Tolerance 1. Such intolerance is a “sin.”
But, sin or no sin, Tolerance 1 is false.