Toleration and Compassion: A Conceptual Comparison

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This chapter aims to explore a currently underdeveloped conceptual comparison between toleration and compassion. The chapter clarifies the meaning of toleration and compassion, highlights a few misconceptions regarding both concepts, and describes the often overlooked differences and similarities between them. As to toleration, it entails making adverse judgment about another, having reasons to harm another, and not acting on those reasons. As to compassion, it entails witnessing the suffering of another and acting in order to alleviate this suffering. Building on these definitions, we find that both toleration and compassion can result from the same state of mind and be justified behind the “veil of ignorance”; both can result in the same behavior – and be expressed simultaneously; both can be expressed by either acts or omissions; both can be exercised by the powerless; and both may be desirable under certain circumstances – yet both are not moral virtues, that is, they are not inherently morally valuable.


Toleration Compassion Harm Power Moral virtue Empathy Sympathy Pity 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Keele UniversityNewcastle-Under-LymeUK
  2. 2.University of SheffieldSheffieldUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Mitja Sardoč
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Educational Research InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.Faculty of the Social SciencesUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

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