Paris Peace Accords 23 Oct. 1991

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is it TOLERANCE (at the cost of justice, freedom) or RESPECT (with ability to disagree intact) that we want?

Dr. Michael Ramsden, Oxford professor, who challenged us to reconsider the word "tolerance" in relation to justice and freedom. 

1.  If "tolerance" means "acceptance" (and agreement with everybody) is it even compatible with justice?  

In the past, if we tolerate a position, it means we disagree with that position.  Because we wouldn't tolerate a position we agree with, as that would be agreement and therefore no need for tolerance.  If you disagree with a person, you're passing a judgment, 'no, that's morally or intellectually wrong'--and that space for disagreement is important and healthy.  But if we're talking about justice, you're not asking for tolerance to be exercised, e.g. rape.

2.  If "tolerance" means not to disagree, is it even compatible with freedom?  We associate "tolerance" as a positive, but we define it as a negative.  "She's tolerable."  Who wants to be tolerated?  Condescension.

If "tolerance" means accepting what everyone says, then we need to understand it's also the end of free society and free discussion, because we cannot tolerate someone and disagree with them the way that tolerance is now understood.  If disagreeing, then you're no longer tolerating them.  But you can RESPECT and disagree. 

Everyone wants to be RESPECTED.  No one wants to be tolerated.

Maybe, rather than tolerance, it is CIVILITY (posited by Os Guinness) and RESPECT that we desire; here, we can maintain justice and freedom.

The excerpt above (at 1:05:40) is part of the Q&A after the brilliant talk by Dr. Ravi Zacharias at UCLA "Is Tolerance Intolerant?" (below).

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