The Limits of Tolerance

Sunday, December 19, 2021
First Aired: 
Sunday, June 9, 2019

What Is It

In order to reach compromise, people try to be tolerant of others with different beliefs. Despite its value, there are numerous factors that may hinder our exercise of tolerance. As the schisms between our beliefs grow larger, what happens when our moral and political ideals put us deeply at odds with our fellow citizens? Do we begrudgingly tolerate them by agreeing to live and let live? Do we shun them and their benighted views as beyond the pale? Or do we attempt to persuade them? Do we owe it to those we disagree with to be open to persuasion? The Philosophers are more than tolerant of their guest Reigina Rini from York University, author of "Abortion, Ultrasound, and Moral Persuasion."

Comments (5)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, May 23, 2019 -- 10:56 AM

I reply to your question

I reply to your question about power and its affect(s) on our ability to be tolerant. (the others, though important, are corollary to this one, IMHO). If Foucault was right, power is the engine which drives all of our other action/reaction motives. No one is immune to its attractions, unless we could count acolytes in a Trappist monastery---and, perhaps that notion is also faulty. As to whether tolerance is a paradigm, I am uncertain. We discuss all sorts of paradigms, speaking often of the new and the old among those. Tolerance might, at various points in history, have been considered a virtue, or at least a quality of 'humanness'...that it is older than most of our so-called new paradigms seems significant. It appears related to forgiveness, and, last I heard, forgiveness is, itself, more virtuous than its counterpart, vengeance. In any case, compromise and tolerance appear to be going out of fashion. We have a tendency to to revise and re-invent meanings for things that no longer fulfill our expectations---things which do not fit well with our situational ethics. I think this is a mistake. There are examples I could offer, but anyone who has thought about this topic can supply their own. (A friend who died about year ago always liked the militant quote concerning apology: Never apologize! It's a sign of weakness...I have always been told it is a sign of humanness.) Oops---guess that would count as an example?

If we get down to the bottom of these questions, tolerance (and even compromise) are merely ways of agreeing to disagree, without hauling out the 44 magnum or switchblade. They are algorithms to a peace process; a maintenance of detente. Don't be too hard on Ms. Rini. She is only another professional soul who has written a book she believes in. No different really than anyone else who seeks sense in their world---and, maybe, a couple of ounces of power.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Wednesday, May 29, 2019 -- 3:06 PM

I am becoming intolerant of

I am becoming intolerant of American government. Mostly, the dysfunctional aspects of American government. I find it intolerable that a miscreant can be elected; subsequently prove himself incompetent, and be defended as protector of American values, when it is clear he is only it in for himself. All of this talk about not prosecuting a sitting president? Come on now. How much are we willing to tolerate when a sitting president thumbs his nose at anyone and everyone who challenges his pedestrian decisions about anything, of which he knows nothing? What is that? I m about the same age as this moron. I find abhorrent that no one,save his staunch supporters, can support his lunacy. Sorry, gang. This nonsense just annoys me.

bmalkawi's picture


Friday, June 28, 2019 -- 11:16 PM

Power is dangerous thing and

Power is dangerous thing and over time leads to intolerance. Compromise is a good thing and the law should encourage this. Bashar H. Malkawi

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, October 9, 2021 -- 10:53 AM

See my remarks on

See my remarks on multiculturalism. Draw your own conclusions.

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Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Thursday, November 4, 2021 -- 8:19 PM

Toleration is not done to

Toleration is not done to reach a compromise. The schisms between our beliefs are not growing more significant. Our country is coalescing and coming to a consensus in the face of social and environmental turmoil, contrary to the presentation in the show ‘What is it’ leader.

The term 'schism' refers to the threat to those in power. Wealth, be it of knowledge, money, or power, is just and tolerable when it is earned. Those people with wealth like to justify that wealth with ideals and morality. Justifications like this are unjust and intolerable.

People are not equal. We were created equal, yet from conception to death, inequality is natural. A baby is not an adult, a boss is not an employee, and a teacher is not a student. What's more, some people can handle situations due to physical means, intellectual ability, or social privilege. Equality in these three senses, physical, academic, and social, aren't worth compromising. We don't give a short person stilts to play center on a basketball team; they play guard if they play at all. To some, life may not be a game, but inequality is a reality every second of one's life. Knowing who is your better is the surest way to get along.

When Ray and Ken ask Regina to be left alone without the burden of toleration, they, Ray and Ken, are being intolerant. When is intolerance allowable. Well…

This is as good a time as any to break out a little Meta Philoso?hy Talk. The Covid years (it's plural now) have brought a level of production to the shows that are themselves intolerant. A perfect example of which is Anti-Vaxxer Rick from San Francisco, who calls in pre-Covid, proclaiming to be scientific. This call is rich with content and foresight. Dr. Rini's takedown of this call is prophetic and wise.

Currently, live shows ARE possible, despite Josh saying they are not. Many shows and podcasts are presented with real-time interaction with callers, posters, and even Tweets. I'm not saying PT should do this, but I will say that calls like Rick's are not possible when shows are produced to the level they are now. Pre-production is a form of intolerance to the folk that somewhat contradicts the show's premise.

Dr. Briggs refutes Rick's claim to knowledge (and skepticism) of vaccines with her claim. Regina puts this all in perspective with a wise push for all of us to tolerate anti-vaxxers. Here is where I tuned in to Rini's philosophy and perhaps will embody it in the future. Where previously I had thought anti-vaccine rhetoric was specious – I no longer do. I wonder if Regina still does?

This critical turn in the show and deep point would not be possible in the current setup of post-production PT. I miss the crazy callers with their off-the-wall takes. Another good one was the caller who asked Christopher Lehrich if he had ever read 'Hamlet's Mill.' Well, I'm glad to say I have now due to that odd call. This is what toleration breeds; knowledge and potential growth that previously Ray would never experience reading her book on the train or bus, living and letting live.

… to get back to the question of acceptable intolerance and away from the meta, let me say the critical concept of intolerance is incompetence. When something is incompetent, no form of toleration is allowable. Unfortunately, incompetence is a can of woe that deserves its own universe and ontology. Failure is required for any progress, and those who claim incompetence too often call out failure, which is not the same and by all means needs tolerance and disambiguation.

Science, when practiced well, is tolerant. Our funding and publishing of science are intolerant. Autocratic societies counterbalance some of that with their flavor of intolerance and aggressive lack of respect for intellectual property. Somewhere, somehow, we need to compromise with Rick and all the callers who have lost their sense of identity with their skepticism.

Rick or Ray?, one of the more important philosophical questions of the year 2021 was when and if one should be vaccinated. If that is not a philosophical question to you, then I might say you are being intolerant.

Bring on the year in Philosophy. We can dig into this and other ideas shared and not in the shows of 2021, as there are decadal, centurion, and millennial issues that need attention.

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