in category Politics

What is meant by tolerance in Western political thought?

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What is meant by tolerance in Western political thought?

Definitions of tolerance vary and there is vast literature on the issue. The scholar Leslie Green's account is helpful:

"As a distinctive moral and political ideal, tolerance has a particular structure: it involves the notion that an activity is wrong or to be disapproved, together with the idea that one has moral reasons for not acting on that disapproval in certain ways."

Tolerance is neither acceptance nor merely indifference but suggests a disapproval by some of the differences of others.

Tolerance is more meaningful in the context of power relations, so being tolerant is to be disdainful of difference while also having the power and authority to grant the freedom to others to be different. Bernard Williams argues we may

"think of toleration as an attitude that a more powerful group, or a majority, may have (or may fail to have) toward a less powerful group or a minority."

Whilst Raphael states,

"Toleration is the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. One can intelligibly speak of tolerating, i.e., of allowing or permitting only if one is in a position to disallow. You must have the power to forbid or prevent, if you are to be in a position to permit."

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