September 7, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

Why Tolerance Is Impossible

Love is good, but tolerance is impossible. Why? Because the very idea is self-refuting.

From the Baloney Detector

It is impossible to be tolerant of everything, else one would be tolerant of opposites (love and hate, truth and lies, war and peace, good and evil). Those appreciating your tolerance for their sexual orientation, for instance, would be offended at your tolerance of those who are intolerant of it. Tolerance, therefore, necessarily implies intolerance (e.g., intolerance of the intolerant). Yet if one is intolerant of intolerance, then one is by definition intolerant. (Note that love and righteousness are different, because they imply the existence of evil; it is intuitive one cannot love hate or call evil righteous. Tolerance has no such distinctions.)

To respond that certain groups cannot be tolerated (whether racists, homophobes, creationists, or people who believe Jesus is the only way to God) is not only to be inconsistent, but to make an arbitrary distinction within a universal virtue (tolerance). In logic, if you are inconsistent or arbitrary, you can prove anything, thus undermining your appeal to logic. Tolerance is thus a self-refuting value system if defended rationally. It can only be defended as an arbitrary, emotionally-laden preference.

In practice, it usually results in tolerance of certain groups (e.g., moral relativists) and intolerance toward other groups (e.g., those who believe in truth or absolutes). For example, students at some universities have violently protested against military recruiters on campus, screaming the most vile things at them through bullhorns and vandalizing their exhibits, because in their view the military is “intolerant” of gays. In 2008, a protestor in an angry crowd of homosexuals grabbed a cross out of the hands of a gentle, elderly woman, threw it on the ground and stomped on it, presumably because he considered all Christians intolerant. The intolerant behavior was rationalized on the basis of tolerance, thereby refuting the very meaning of tolerance, which is to have a fair, objective and permissive attitude toward those whose with differing opinions. Tolerance is thus impossible, despite its intuitive appeal and the warm feelings some people have toward the word.

Exercise: See if the above reasoning applies to a related politically-correct buzzword, “inclusion.”

This essay is found under Self-Referential / Self-Refuting in the Logical Fallacies section of the Baloney Detector.

Note: During September 7-23, CEH articles will be sparse or non-existent while the Editor is on travel and speaking. Thank you for your patience.

(Visited 427 times, 8 visits today)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.