What is (social) tolerance?

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Cradarc
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What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Cradarc » Thu Feb 05, 2015 1:36 am UTC

According to Google:
Tolerance = "The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with."
Tolerate = "Allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference."

The tricky part is that tolerance is inherently a value/belief/code of behavior that a person holds. Does that mean having tolerance means you are okay with intolerance? People often phrase it as "agree to disagree", but what if I don't agree to disagree and continue trying to tell you you're wrong? Are you going to be okay with that or are you going to get mad?
To what extent can you be tolerant if you're not completely apathetic?
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby ahammel » Thu Feb 05, 2015 2:20 am UTC

When people talk about tolerance, they don't generally mean that tolerating things is good in and of itself. Rather, they mean that you ought to tolerate particular behaviours or ways of being for particular reasons. There is therefore no inconsistency in saying that you ought to tolerate some behaviours (e.g., being gay) but not others (e.g., homophobia).

People will sometimes say things like: "Ah, but by telling me that I shouldn't be a racist, you are being intolerant of my racism! That means that your position (viz. racism is morally wrong) is inconsistent. Checkmate, atheists!". These people are morons.
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Feb 05, 2015 2:23 am UTC

I've heard lots and lots of people claim that "tolerance" means some sort of blithe self-defeating illogical "acceptance of everything".

However, I've never met anyone who claims to actually hold to a "tolerance" that's anything like that.

Typically, when people say they are "tolerant", they are espousing a moral and philosophical framework that seeks to protect the individual's right to hold whatever beliefs they choose while simultaneously seeking to prevent individuals from being harmed by other individuals. It's not too terribly dissimilar from the Rede: "an ye harm none, do as ye wish".

Fundamentalists take issue with such a view of "tolerance" because they like to attach overwhelming significance to particular beliefs or creeds. But that's not where the actual difficulty lies. The difficulty is that even if the vast majority of people are willing to tolerate the existence of beliefs they disagree with -- even beliefs they disagree with strongly -- their view of what constitutes "harm" is still dependent on their individual beliefs. So even if Mike and Caitlin agree they can tolerate each other's beliefs, a conflict can still arise between what Caitlin believes is "harm" and what Mike believes is "harm".

Suppose Mike believes that vaccines cause autism, and Caitlin believes that vaccines are necessary to prevent illness. Mike can tolerate Caitlin's beliefs and Caitlin can tolerate Mike's beliefs, but Mike probably thinks that requiring vaccinations is harmful, and Caitlin probably thinks that not requiring vaccinations is harmful. So they are going to clash on what ought to be done even though they ostensibly tolerate each other's beliefs in an abstract sense.

TL/DR: Tolerance of the existence of a particular belief does not require tolerance of certain behaviors or policy decisions prompted by that particular belief.

ahammel wrote:When people talk about tolerance, they do generally mean that tolerating things is good in and of itself.

I think you meant "don't".

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby ahammel » Thu Feb 05, 2015 2:30 am UTC

Indeed, thank you.
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Cradarc » Thu Feb 05, 2015 7:38 am UTC

My point is the notion of tolerance falls apart completely if you define it subjectively. If you get to pick and choose when it is okay to be "tolerant", can you really say you are tolerant? If you simply set your threshold for tolerance very low, you become what anyone would call "intolerant".

Consider three people, Alice, Bob, and Cal. All three hate the color blue. All three live in a society where there are people that love the color blue. These people wear blue clothing, drive blue cars, etc.
Alice is angered by all the blue around her, but she accepts that there are people who simply like blue even if she doesn't understand why. She lives her life ignoring all the blue around her and being nice to everybody.
Bob is equally angered by the blue around him. Whenever he sees someone wearing blue or using something blue, he likes to convince them to give up on blue. He tells them blue is a stupid color and there's absolutely nothing to value in it. He says only stupid people would like the color blue.
Cal is also angered by the blue around him. He goes out every night and vandalizes blue property. He breaks into people's homes, steal their blue belongings and burn them. He spray paints blue cars black when the owners are away. However, he would never risk harming anyone that likes blue. If someone is using a blue inhaler, he would let them be. If someone is wearing a blue shirt, he would not touch the shirt.

Out of the three people, who is/are tolerant of people who like blue?

Now repeat this thought experiment and replace "liking blue" with a behavior/belief you dislike.
Repeat again with something you find offensive.
Repeat again with something you think is a serious moral wrong.
Finally repeat with something that you think is so bad, it deserves the death penalty.

At least in the U.S we are told tolerance is a good thing. But if it really is this vague, what exactly does that mean?
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Autolykos » Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:53 am UTC

You're already making the point yourself. Saying "I'm tolerant." is complete nonsense. You can only say "I'm tolerant towards X.".
This means two things:

- I dislike X.
- I will not try to prevent X.

Abstaining from preventing X should be interpreted rather loosely, IMHO. You are still permitted to get into arguments about it, as long as you stop badgering people who tell you that they don't care about continuing this argument.
I think tolerance is never a virtue, but sometimes the best you can do, being a fallible human. If you dislike something, but have no rational reason to believe X does harm, being tolerant is better than fighting it. But being accepting of it is even better. Don't waste mental energy on disliking harmless things.
If you have reason to believe X does harm, but can't prove it, tolerance might be a good modus vivendi. But you should strive to gather information until you're more certain whether there's harm in X or not (and either drop tolerance or start accepting it).
If X does provable harm, tolerance is just plain wrong (unless fighting it does even more harm). You might currently be unable to fight it effectively, but that's not tolerance, that's helplessness, and if the issue is important to you, the helplessness is what needs to change, not the lack of tolerance.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby morriswalters » Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:08 am UTC

Tolerance isn't an absolute. It's a recognition of the fact that everyone is not you. It doesn't mean that you accept anything. Other than the fact that you have to share space with people who do things you don't like.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Trebla » Thu Feb 05, 2015 12:36 pm UTC

When most people say "tolerance is good" or "you should be tolerant" for the most part it's a simplification to avoid ridiculously specific definitions which are difficult or impossible to describe perfectly.

Just like people say "it's wrong to kill." It isn't really wrong to kill, but it's understood that in context we're talking about "a human being killing another human being" in the general sense... it's too convoluted to say "it's wrong to kill humans, and maybe even most animals, but killing plants for food is ok... hmmm, cutting down trees for fun may not be though. And I don't really see a problem with killing viruses, etc etc etc." The same applies to "tolerance is good"...

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Feb 05, 2015 2:11 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:My point is the notion of tolerance falls apart completely if you define it subjectively. If you get to pick and choose when it is okay to be "tolerant", can you really say you are tolerant? If you simply set your threshold for tolerance very low, you become what anyone would call "intolerant".

It's actually pretty simple. Claiming a position of tolerance toward all beliefs, ideas, and preferences does not require me to be tolerant of all actions, behaviors, and policies. And that is the position most people who claim tolerance would take.

There is no contradiction in saying, "I am tolerant of all beliefs, but I am intolerant of various harmful behaviors." No one is asking you to tolerate all behaviors; that would be nonsense.

At least in the U.S we are told tolerance is a good thing. But if it really is this vague, what exactly does that mean?

Well, I'm not sure who you think is telling you this. But if anyone does tell you that tolerance is a good thing, chances are they're talking about tolerance of beliefs, not tolerance of behavior.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby leady » Thu Feb 05, 2015 2:24 pm UTC

If you dislike something, but have no rational reason to believe X does harm, being tolerant is better than fighting it. But being accepting of it is even better. Don't waste mental energy on disliking harmless things.
If you have reason to believe X does harm, but can't prove it, tolerance might be a good modus vivendi. But you should strive to gather information until you're more certain whether there's harm in X or not (and either drop tolerance or start accepting it).
If X does provable harm, tolerance is just plain wrong (unless fighting it does even more harm). You might currently be unable to fight it effectively, but that's not tolerance, that's helplessness, and if the issue is important to you, the helplessness is what needs to change, not the lack of tolerance.


Its no where near that simple. There are lots of things in modern life were intolerance is prohibited scenarios of trivial to no harm, and just as many were a good case for harm can be made from certain areas of enforced tolerance.

That is to say, in the modern world the word "tolerance" only really means the current preference of the mob :) (for clarity not the italians)

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Feb 05, 2015 3:50 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:My point is the notion of tolerance falls apart completely if you define it subjectively. If you get to pick and choose when it is okay to be "tolerant", can you really say you are tolerant? If you simply set your threshold for tolerance very low, you become what anyone would call "intolerant".


It is vague, squishy and potentially contradictory in the abstract. Being merely "pro-tolerance" could mean anything. But in practice, many people have other standards. I'm for toleration with regard to behaviors that do not produce harm for others. So, gay marriage, sure, knock yourself out. Anti-vaxxers? Not a fan of tolerating that. That gives you a fairly defined standard for what should/should not be tolerated, and the rationale for it is pretty basic(people are generally not a fan of being harmed).

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:19 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Being merely "pro-tolerance" could mean anything. But in practice, many people have other standards. I'm for toleration with regard to behaviors that do not produce harm for others. So, gay marriage, sure, knock yourself out. Anti-vaxxers? Not a fan of tolerating that. That gives you a fairly defined standard for what should/should not be tolerated, and the rationale for it is pretty basic(people are generally not a fan of being harmed).

Personally, I don't claim any "de facto" tolerance with respect to behaviors. I find some behaviors positive, some behaviors neutral, some behaviors potentially dangerous, and some behaviors significantly harmful. Of course my assessment of behaviors is informed by my beliefs.

I do, however, maintain an attitude of tolerance toward all beliefs. By which I mean I will not call for people to be punished or discriminated against simply because they hold different beliefs than me.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby leady » Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:21 pm UTC

You would be a near unique person in the world were that true - I suspect its not when pushed with some red button examples

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Cradarc » Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:24 pm UTC

I keep hearing something along the lines of "harm to others".
Consider my story with Alice, Bob, and Cal. Neither is causing any direct harm to others. However, Cal seems to be the most "extreme". Is Cal to be blamed for his actions or are the people who like blue to be blamed?
Naturally we say Cal is to be blamed. But if you really think about it, Cal is just responding to his beliefs the same way the people who like blue are responding to theirs. Why is it Cal cannot act on his beliefs but the people who like blue are free to do whatever? If nobody used the color blue, Cal would be a perfect citizen, causing no destruction.

It is not hard to imagine a different universe where the majority are people like Cal. In that universe most people don't use the color blue. If you live in the universe and make all of your property blue, you will get your property vandalized. In that case, who is to be blamed? Are you being intolerant of the people around you or are they being intolerant of you?

If intolerance is symmetric and mutual, why do we say someone is intolerant instead of saying they are part of an intolerance? Whoever they are intolerant of is equally intolerant of them.
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:45 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:I keep hearing something along the lines of "harm to others".

Beliefs on their own cannot cause harm. Another person's mental state alone cannot hurt me. Thus tolerance of belief is always warranted.

However, not all behaviors ought to be tolerated.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:57 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Being merely "pro-tolerance" could mean anything. But in practice, many people have other standards. I'm for toleration with regard to behaviors that do not produce harm for others. So, gay marriage, sure, knock yourself out. Anti-vaxxers? Not a fan of tolerating that. That gives you a fairly defined standard for what should/should not be tolerated, and the rationale for it is pretty basic(people are generally not a fan of being harmed).

Personally, I don't claim any "de facto" tolerance with respect to behaviors. I find some behaviors positive, some behaviors neutral, some behaviors potentially dangerous, and some behaviors significantly harmful. Of course my assessment of behaviors is informed by my beliefs.

I do, however, maintain an attitude of tolerance toward all beliefs. By which I mean I will not call for people to be punished or discriminated against simply because they hold different beliefs than me.


Beliefs are different than actions, yes. I may seek to change beliefs, or view certain beliefs as troublesome, but they are in a different category from actions. Meet words with words, actions with actions.

In the Alice, Bob, Carl example, Carl is taking actions that are harmful. Carl needs to be stopped.

Bob is merely rude. But he's not doing anything wrong. I might view his opinion as stupid, and he, mine. But the disagreement never need go beyond words.

Alice is like Bob, save that she is more pleasant to be around. I do not think, legally speaking, we should treat Alice differently than Bob, but socially speaking, Alice is probably more likely to make friends by not calling those around her stupid. So, there are some pragmatic reasons for such an approach.

Cradarc wrote:It is not hard to imagine a different universe where the majority are people like Cal. In that universe most people don't use the color blue. If you live in the universe and make all of your property blue, you will get your property vandalized. In that case, who is to be blamed? Are you being intolerant of the people around you or are they being intolerant of you?


Majority is irrelevant. It could be a belief that literally nobody else holds, but if it's a color or other similarly harmless preference, the person who paints their house blue is not causing harm. You can believe that you are Jesus or Odin, if you like. Whatever. I might think you're strange, but I still shouldn't beat you up, trash your house, or so forth.

And it'd be polite to not call you stupid at every turn, naturally.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Cradarc » Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:18 pm UTC

Belief that blue is a nice color does not cause harm, but making blue property visible to someone like Cal could cause emotional duress. Is that harm?
It's kind of like hate speech. Technically words can't harm anybody, but somehow they do.

When is it Cal's responsibility to avoid blue and when is it other people's responsibility to minimize the amount of blue Cal has to see?
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby sevenperforce » Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:34 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:I do maintain an attitude of tolerance toward all beliefs. By which I mean I will not call for people to be punished or discriminated against simply because they hold different beliefs than me.


Beliefs are different than actions, yes. I may seek to change beliefs, or view certain beliefs as troublesome, but they are in a different category from actions.

Which is why tolerance of beliefs should be absolute; tolerance of behaviors and policies should be conditional.

Cradarc wrote:Belief that blue is a nice color does not cause harm, but making blue property visible to someone like Cal could cause emotional duress. Is that harm? When is it Cal's responsibility to avoid blue and when is it other people's responsibility to minimize the amount of blue Cal has to see?

Important policy questions to be sure, but this really has nothing to do with tolerance per se. Tolerance of belief is absolute; tolerance of policy and behavior is conditional. There is no true paradox of tolerance because absolute tolerance of belief does not clash with conditional tolerance of behavior.

It's kind of like hate speech. Technically words can't harm anybody, but somehow they do.

"Technically words can't harm anybody" isn't even close to being true, not even "technically". By that logic, you could say that libel is "just words" and thus "technically can't harm anybody" but we all know this is false. Of course words can be harmful. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is a child's fantasy.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Cradarc » Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:52 pm UTC

sevenperforce wrote:Which is why tolerance of beliefs should be absolute; tolerance of behaviors and policies should be conditional.

Well, no duh. It's impossible to not tolerate beliefs if there are no actions to indicate they exist.

sevenperforce wrote:Important policy questions to be sure, but this really has nothing to do with tolerance per se. Tolerance of belief is absolute; tolerance of policy and behavior is conditional. There is no true paradox of tolerance because absolute tolerance of belief does not clash with conditional tolerance of behavior.

It has everything to do with tolerance in any practical sense of the word. You can say all you want about the theory of "tolerance", but if it doesn't translate to any real value, it might as well not exist.

Also, your idea that words technically hurt people is a great reflection of your own moral code. Someone can easy do an experiment and show that the sound waves produced by a human vocal chord does no non-trivial damage to your body in any way. You are creating this "policy" that says it is indeed harmful. By stating your policy as fact, are you denying the existence of any belief to the contrary?
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby leady » Fri Feb 06, 2015 12:34 am UTC

I suspect you all live in democracies, hence there are no beliefs without action in practice

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Feb 06, 2015 2:31 am UTC

It would seem, Cradarc, that you're very intentionally setting up a great many strawmen here. I hope that's not the case.

Cradarc wrote:
sevenperforce wrote:Tolerance of beliefs should be absolute; tolerance of behaviors and policies should be conditional.

Well, no duh. It's impossible to not tolerate beliefs if there are no actions to indicate they exist.

Au contraire. There are a great many nonexistent beliefs which still happen to receive intolerance. Nonexistence is no shield against intolerance. A prime example: this very thread. You've repeatedly raised the strawman of "blanket tolerance" (a belief system that doesn't actually exist) and made it quite clear that you won't tolerate it.

But I digress.

There's a conflation here that should be pretty obvious. I didn't say "actions"; I said behaviors and policies. It's entirely possible to relay the existence of a particular belief without exhibiting behaviors or demanding policies based on that belief. If a fellow relays to me that he believes bisexuality to be unnatural, I'll probably ask him whether he's interested in evidence which might cause him to reconsider his belief, but I'll be entirely tolerant of his right to maintain that belief. If he tries to base behavior or policy on this belief (e.g., demanding that I be legally prohibited from dating both men and women), then I will have a problem. But the problem is not intolerance of his belief, just intolerance of his behavior and policies.

Your idea that words technically hurt people is a great reflection of your own moral code. Someone can easy do an experiment and show that the sound waves produced by a human vocal chord does no non-trivial damage to your body in any way. You are creating this "policy" that says it is indeed harmful. By stating your policy as fact, are you denying the existence of any belief to the contrary?

Well, we have a non sequitur, another conflation, AND another strawman.

Of course my view of what constitutes harm is a reflection of my "moral code". By definition, any view of what constitutes good or evil is a moral stance of some kind. What's wrong with that? Part of what makes us human and allows us to function in collective as a society is our ability to maintain individual assessments of what is moral and what is not. You seem to think that having a moral code is somehow incompatible with a tolerance of all beliefs, but that's a non sequitur.

Physical damage to someone's body is a type of harm, but it is not all types of harm. Bodily harm is only one of many possible offenses against a person. The very example I gave -- libel -- is a type of harm which is not bodily harm but is nonetheless harm. So that's a pretty obvious conflation.

You actually have a double strawman. By stating my belief that libel is harmful, I am certainly not denying the existence of contrary beliefs. Rather, I am denying the correctness of contrary beliefs. But denying the correctness of a particular beliefs is not intolerance, either. I can tolerate the belief that vaccines cause autism even though I'm entirely certain it is a false belief and will not hesitate to make this certainty public.

leady wrote:I suspect you all live in democracies, hence there are no beliefs without action in practice

No, but that doesn't prevent me from separating the belief from the action. I can simultaneously tolerate a belief but not tolerate actions it prompts.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Cradarc » Fri Feb 06, 2015 4:33 am UTC

My intent was not to start an argument. In fact, that is exactly why I didn't explicitly state my opinion in the OP. I didn't want people discussing what I think instead of presenting what they think. I'm a pretty Socratic person when initiating discussions.

Here's a straightforward breakdown of my thoughts:
I started this thread because I'm been thinking about how the word "intolerant" is often used to describe people in the society I live in (United States). It has almost become a charged word. People seem to view "tolerant" more favorably than "intolerant" regardless of the context. I wondered why.
I concluded people view "intolerant" as "you're morally deficient" and "tolerant" as "you're morally sound" even though that's not what it means.
So what does "tolerance" mean? I decided "tolerant" is actually not an absolute term that describes someone, but a reflection of the opinion of the speaker. Someone who I feel is being respectful is "tolerant" while someone who I think is stepping beyond some moral threshold is "intolerant". So saying someone is "tolerant" is equivalent to saying "I think you're responding to your beliefs the right way" and saying someone is "intolerant" is equivalent to saying "I think you are responding to your beliefs the wrong way".
Under this definition, tolerant/intolerant has as much meaning as "I agree" and "I disagree". Nobody finds him/herself intolerant of other people's beliefs. However, each person can view different people as "tolerant" and "intolerant".

I discovered you all pretty much agreed with me that tolerance is a subjective thing. That led to the question: If it is subjective what place does it have in the society? What value does the notion of tolerance have in how we treat each other? Each person is governed by his/her own moral code. Each person can use that moral code to judge another. Yet there seems to be a shared notion of "meta-tolerance" that defines when one can act out against someone one finds intolerant. But what if someone finds that meta-tolerance intolerant? What are the deciding factors then?

Sevenperforce,
You said:
I do, however, maintain an attitude of tolerance toward all beliefs. By which I mean I will not call for people to be punished or discriminated against simply because they hold different beliefs than me.

Unlike most people, you feel you are completely tolerant on the base level. I was curious to see at which level of meta-tolerance will you become intolerant.

"Technically words can't harm anybody" isn't even close to being true, not even "technically". By that logic, you could say that libel is "just words" and thus "technically can't harm anybody" but we all know this is false. Of course words can be harmful. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is a child's fantasy.

You obviously don't believe that is intolerance, but what if I do? You felt the need to punish my assertion in addition to stating your own. I could consider that intolerant.

What happened afterwards was interesting. You started to talk about logical fallacies and became what I like to call "politely aggressive". I saw this as a red flag, and to ease the tension, made this post instead of pushing you further.
To be clear, I didn't intentionally use you as some sort of experiment. However, I couldn't help but notice your increasingly assertive attitude. You were transitioning from Alice into Bob so to speak.
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby sevenperforce » Fri Feb 06, 2015 5:02 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:I started this thread because I'm been thinking about how the word "intolerant" is often used to describe people in the society I live in (United States). It has almost become a charged word. People seem to view "tolerant" more favorably than "intolerant" regardless of the context. I wondered why.

My guess is that they are presuming that "tolerant" means a person has the capacity to coexist with other people who hold different beliefs, while "intolerant" means a person who lacks that capacity.

The capacity to coexist with people you disagree with is a very important capacity indeed, and thus it makes sense that tolerance is viewed more favorably than intolerance.

"Technically words can't harm anybody" isn't even close to being true, not even "technically". By that logic, you could say that libel is "just words" and thus "technically can't harm anybody" but we all know this is false. Of course words can be harmful. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is a child's fantasy.

You obviously don't believe that is intolerance, but what if I do? You felt the need to punish my assertion in addition to stating your own. I could consider that intolerant.

Punish your assertion? Disagreeing with you -- even strongly -- is not punishment of you. Disagreement is not persecution.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Feb 06, 2015 2:29 pm UTC

Sometimes calling your own actions "tolerance" is just a way of sluring the other side.

Personally I like the definition of
If I had to define “tolerance” it would be something like “respect and kindness toward members of an outgroup”.


Your real outgroup, not just people who are somewhat different to you with whom you are allied.

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i- ... -outgroup/

In Chesterton’s The Secret of Father Brown, a beloved nobleman who murdered his good-for-nothing brother in a duel thirty years ago returns to his hometown wracked by guilt. All the townspeople want to forgive him immediately, and they mock the titular priest for only being willing to give a measured forgiveness conditional on penance and self-reflection. They lecture the priest on the virtues of charity and compassion.

Later, it comes out that the beloved nobleman did not in fact kill his good-for-nothing brother. The good-for-nothing brother killed the beloved nobleman (and stole his identity). Now the townspeople want to see him lynched or burned alive, and it is only the priest who – consistently – offers a measured forgiveness conditional on penance and self-reflection.

The priest tells them:

It seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. You forgive a conventional duel just as you forgive a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.

He further notes that this is why the townspeople can self-righteously consider themselves more compassionate and forgiving than he is. Actual forgiveness, the kind the priest needs to cultivate to forgive evildoers, is really really hard. The fake forgiveness the townspeople use to forgive the people they like is really easy, so they get to boast not only of their forgiving nature, but of how much nicer they are than those mean old priests who find forgiveness difficult and want penance along with it.

After some thought I agree with Chesterton’s point. There are a lot of people who say “I forgive you” when they mean “No harm done”, and a lot of people who say “That was unforgiveable” when they mean “That was genuinely really bad”. Whether or not forgiveness is right is a complicated topic I do not want to get in here. But since forgiveness is generally considered a virtue, and one that many want credit for having, I think it’s fair to say you only earn the right to call yourself ‘forgiving’ if you forgive things that genuinely hurt you.

To borrow Chesterton’s example, if you think divorce is a-ok, then you don’t get to “forgive” people their divorces, you merely ignore them. Someone who thinks divorce is abhorrent can “forgive” divorce. You can forgive theft, or murder, or tax evasion, or something you find abhorrent.


I mean, from a utilitarian point of view, you are still doing the correct action of not giving people grief because they’re a divorcee. You can have all the Utility Points you want. All I’m saying is that if you “forgive” something you don’t care about, you don’t earn any Virtue Points.


The Emperor summons before him Bodhidharma and asks: “Master, I have been tolerant of innumerable gays, lesbians, bisexuals, asexuals, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, transgender people, and Jews. How many Tolerance Points have I earned for my meritorious deeds?”

Bodhidharma answers: “None at all”.

The Emperor, somewhat put out, demands to know why not.

Bodhidharma asks: “Well, what do you think of gay people?”

The Emperor answers: “What do you think I am, some kind of homophobic bigot? Of course I have nothing against gay people!”

And Bodhidharma answers: “Thus do you gain no merit by tolerating them!”
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Feb 06, 2015 3:14 pm UTC

Tolerance is actually fairly simple. "We should tolerate anything that does not cause any significant harm to others". Gay marriage? Doesn't harm you, no matter how much your gods say otherwise, so shaddup. People burning abortion clinics? That causes harm, not tolerated.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Feb 06, 2015 3:30 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Tolerance is actually fairly simple. "We should tolerate anything that does not cause any significant harm to others". Gay marriage? Doesn't harm you, no matter how much your gods say otherwise, so shaddup. People burning abortion clinics? That causes harm, not tolerated.


People are remarkably good at coming up with convoluted trains of logic to explain how things that happen to offend them are "harmful" in some direct,indirect,abstract, philosophical, spiritual or intellectual way while anything they do themselves isn't.

Or to put it another way, from their side they'd hold that abortion clinics facilitate massive direct harm to lots of innocent children so they shouldn't be tolerated.

when people try to ban religious/cultural dress or practices they can easily not class their own actions as intolerance because they, quite reliably, will have some thin justification for how the other cultures religious dress harms members of that religion, harms society or somehow endangers people.

And when you get into people classing hurt feelings as harm there's no end to what you can class as "not intolerance" when it's done by yourself.
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Feb 06, 2015 4:23 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Tolerance is actually fairly simple. "We should tolerate anything that does not cause any significant harm to others". Gay marriage? Doesn't harm you, no matter how much your gods say otherwise, so shaddup. People burning abortion clinics? That causes harm, not tolerated.


People are remarkably good at coming up with convoluted trains of logic to explain how things that happen to offend them are "harmful" in some direct,indirect,abstract, philosophical, spiritual or intellectual way while anything they do themselves isn't.


Sometimes. People use bullshit excuses for ANYTHING, regardless of if harm is the basis of the reasoning or not.

But when you ask them to explain how they are harmed, it's usually clear that it wouldn't hold up. Certainly wouldn't grant standing in a court. As an example, ask someone who opposes gay marriage to ask how it harms them. You usually get some bullshit evasive crap that somehow equates "harm" to the definition of a word with harm done to them.

Obviously, they are not a word, so such arguments are idiotic.

Or to put it another way, from their side they'd hold that abortion clinics facilitate massive direct harm to lots of innocent children so they shouldn't be tolerated.

when people try to ban religious/cultural dress or practices they can easily not class their own actions as intolerance because they, quite reliably, will have some thin justification for how the other cultures religious dress harms members of that religion, harms society or somehow endangers people.

And when you get into people classing hurt feelings as harm there's no end to what you can class as "not intolerance" when it's done by yourself.


Misclassifying harm is the most common source of disagreement. Hurt feelings cannot constitute harm under such a system.

Abortion is a special case, as it does not rely upon feeling, but upon the identity of who should be included in the system as entities. Similar, slightly less divisive instances might exist for one who feels that great apes, etc should have rights. All systems of rights will have to deal with such boundary conditions, no matter what you base them on.

Cradarc wrote:Belief that blue is a nice color does not cause harm, but making blue property visible to someone like Cal could cause emotional duress. Is that harm?
It's kind of like hate speech. Technically words can't harm anybody, but somehow they do.

When is it Cal's responsibility to avoid blue and when is it other people's responsibility to minimize the amount of blue Cal has to see?


The color blue is not harm. We have a fairly well established methodology of establishing harm within the legal system. It might not be perfect, but being exposed to a color you dislike would safely be classified as "not harm".

Something like exposing someone to cyanide would definitely be harm.

There is potential for more fuzzy conditions to exist, such as exposing someone to small amounts of cigarette smoke. Obviously, this is much less severe than the cyanide example, and would warrant much less rapid and dramatic action, but it probably should still be discouraged at some level. Just because both are harmful does not mean they are equally harmful, and some consideration for the level of harm is only reasonable.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Feb 06, 2015 4:33 pm UTC

The general metric is 'reasonable person'. If Alice wears a miniskirt and this offends Bob, Bob is unreasonable.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby HungryHobo » Fri Feb 06, 2015 5:24 pm UTC

And if Bob wears see-through PVC and it offends Alice, Bob is unreasonable... depending on who you talk to.

though we seem to have switched from "harm" to "offends" quite smoothly there.

If they want to imply he's doing harm they'll talk about Bob being an "exhibitionist" to imply he somehow psychically harms everyone who seems him.

Again, lots of quite reasonable people would take the view that the UK's "naked rambler" isn't harming anyone just by walking around with his dangly bits visible but the courts tend to be staffed by the elderly and conservative.

my point is that the quite neat sounding harm/not harm approach just turns into a standard coded Us vs Them mess where each side defines harm as whatever the outgroup is doing and dress party-politics up as tolerance vs intolerance when really it's just an intolerance vs intolerance slog match.

Hell you even happened to choose examples that split down party lines above.

https://www.popehat.com/2012/03/12/the- ... -and-them/

Tolerance, real tolerance, the kind that's hard, not the kind that's easy is a pro-lifer and a pro-choicer being able to sit down to a meal together and talk honestly without ending up screaming profanities at each other.

Tolerance, real tolerance, the kind that's hard, not the kind that's easy is a (moral based) vegan and someone who holds that factory farming is a net moral good because it allows cheap protein for humans and maintains that animals lives/suffering have ~0 moral relevance vs humans being able to sit down together and talk over a game of chess without anyone flipping the board screaming.
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Cradarc » Fri Feb 06, 2015 6:57 pm UTC

HungryHobo seems to know what I'm getting at.
Being people on this forum, we all agree to a certain set of what is right and wrong. However, how far can we generalize that? The more people we include in our social group, the more vague words like "harm", "offend", "intolerant" seem to become.
Which brings us back the original question. Do we really have a good definition for tolerance? Is it a unique social attitude or is it a vague description of a larger, more general phenomenon?
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby mcd001 » Fri Feb 06, 2015 6:58 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Tolerance is actually fairly simple. "We should tolerate anything that does not cause any significant harm to others". Gay marriage? Doesn't harm you, no matter how much your gods say otherwise, so shaddup.

So shaddup? Hmmm... Doesn't tolerance allow for those you are tolerating the latitude to speak their beliefs?

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby PeteP » Fri Feb 06, 2015 7:09 pm UTC

mcd001 wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:Tolerance is actually fairly simple. "We should tolerate anything that does not cause any significant harm to others". Gay marriage? Doesn't harm you, no matter how much your gods say otherwise, so shaddup.

So shaddup? Hmmm... Doesn't tolerance allow for those you are tolerating the latitude to speak their beliefs?

He didn't say he was tolerating anti gay marriage people.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby kozlkmk » Sat Mar 28, 2015 3:31 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:
When people talk about tolerance, they don't generally mean that tolerating things is good in and of itself. Rather, they mean that you ought to tolerate particular behaviours or ways of being for particular reasons. There is therefore no inconsistency in saying that you ought to tolerate some behaviours (e.g., being gay) but not others (e.g., homophobia).

People will sometimes say things like: "Ah, but by telling me that I shouldn't be a racist, you are being intolerant of my racism! That means that your position (viz. racism is morally wrong) is inconsistent. Checkmate, atheists!". These people are morons.



Well, that depends on how you define homophobia. By its dictionary definition, homophobia is not necessarily intolerance of homossexuals. I know plenty of people who don't like homossexuals, yet they are well-socialized enough to be aware that you should not interefe with another human being's life. They are, by definition, homophobes. By OP's definition of tolerance, they are also tolerant of homossexuals. So if you're being intolerant of tolerant homophobes, your position might be inconsistent.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby ahammel » Thu Apr 02, 2015 1:55 pm UTC

kozlkmk wrote:
ahammel wrote:
When people talk about tolerance, they don't generally mean that tolerating things is good in and of itself. Rather, they mean that you ought to tolerate particular behaviours or ways of being for particular reasons. There is therefore no inconsistency in saying that you ought to tolerate some behaviours (e.g., being gay) but not others (e.g., homophobia).

People will sometimes say things like: "Ah, but by telling me that I shouldn't be a racist, you are being intolerant of my racism! That means that your position (viz. racism is morally wrong) is inconsistent. Checkmate, atheists!". These people are morons.



Well, that depends on how you define homophobia. By its dictionary definition, homophobia is not necessarily intolerance of homossexuals. I know plenty of people who don't like homossexuals, yet they are well-socialized enough to be aware that you should not interefe with another human being's life. They are, by definition, homophobes. By OP's definition of tolerance, they are also tolerant of homossexuals. So if you're being intolerant of tolerant homophobes, your position might be inconsistent.

I meant homophobia the pattern of behaviour, not homophobia the mental state, yes.

That said, if I learn and somebody's homophobia (mental state) in any way other than them explaining how they realise that it's pretty messed up to have such strong, negative feelings about an entire class of people, and then going to to explain what they're doing to overcome those feelings, that person is probably being an assface.
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby leady » Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:36 pm UTC

As a counter point - do you apply that say to a US Marine that fought at Okinawa (or any number of equivalents go darker if need be)? Are there not some intolerances which even whilst irrational are worthy of tolerance in individuals?

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:53 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:And if Bob wears see-through PVC and it offends Alice, Bob is unreasonable... depending on who you talk to.

though we seem to have switched from "harm" to "offends" quite smoothly there.

If they want to imply he's doing harm they'll talk about Bob being an "exhibitionist" to imply he somehow psychically harms everyone who seems him.

Again, lots of quite reasonable people would take the view that the UK's "naked rambler" isn't harming anyone just by walking around with his dangly bits visible but the courts tend to be staffed by the elderly and conservative.


Bob is not doing harm. He's being rude, and I certainly don't want to see it, but you need to demonstrate harm over and above dislike. Does seeing bob hamper mental development of children or something? If you can demonstrate that pretty conclusively with data, then you have a solid case for harm.

Otherwise, treat it as you would someone wearing an offensive t-shirt or something. Avert your eyes, perhaps express your opinion verbally, whatever. Sometimes, in life, there will be things you don't want to see. That doesn't make them all harmful.

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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Sizik » Thu Apr 02, 2015 4:45 pm UTC

(Assuming you're responding to ahammel)
leady wrote:As a counter point - do you apply that say to a US Marine that fought at Okinawa (or any number of equivalents go darker if need be)? Are there not some intolerances which even whilst irrational are worthy of tolerance in individuals?


Being a Marine doesn't automatically exempt someone from being an assface.
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby HungryHobo » Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:56 pm UTC

Sizik wrote:Being a Marine doesn't automatically exempt someone from being an assface.


You appear to be choosing to ignore his actual point which was implied by the example and the claim that he can go darker.

but I think leady failed to consider that soldiers/veterans are a very unpopular group amongst the blue tribe and as such don't get extended any special understanding or respect.

So lets go with some other groups.

trigger warning, if you suffer from triggers from pretty much anything dark, just don't unspoiler this text:

Spoiler:
In your worldview is a jewish Holocaust survivor who spent months forced to push wheelbarrows full of corpses including many of their own family to the incinerators who considers absolutely every non-persecuted person of german decent to be evil, untrustworth and culpable for the actions of their countrymen an assface?

Or is their view while unfair both understandable and worthy of tolerance?

Spoiler:
In your worldview is a woman who spent decades and most of her childhood as a sex slave subjected to constant rape who now treats **all** men with suspicion and fear and isn't remotely ashamed of it an assface?

Or is her view while unfair both understandable and worthy of tolerance?

Spoiler:
In the same vein is someone who spent his teenage years being raped by a couple of homosexual priests in a care home who now reacts to all homosexual men with fear and isn't remotely ashamed of it an assface?

Or is her view while unfair both understandable and worthy of tolerance?

Spoiler:
Is a young afghan guy who was unlucky enough to look too much like someone the US military were offering a reward for and ended up spending a few years experiencing "enhanced interrogation" by means of waterboarding, beatings and electrical stimulation of the testicles comes out of the experience with strong feelings of hatred and fear towards all american citizens and isn't remotely ashamed of it an assface?

Or is her view while unfair both understandable and worthy of tolerance?
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:15 am UTC

Which is why the blue tribe is always the one seeking to cut veterans' benefits, right?
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Re: What is (social) tolerance?

Postby Sizik » Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:16 am UTC

HungryHobo wrote:
Sizik wrote:Being a Marine doesn't automatically exempt someone from being an assface.


You appear to be choosing to ignore his actual point which was implied by the example and the claim that he can go darker.


Ok, I didn't get that reference.
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