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Paradoxes of Toleration

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Abstract

Although one of the fundamental pillars of liberalism, toleration has come to be seen as a paradoxical value. This chapter explores four paradoxes surrounding toleration and discusses the solutions put forth by toleration theorists. The paradox of moral toleration arises from the conflict between the objection component and the acceptance component of toleration. Toleration requires us to accept beliefs or practices that we find objectionable. But it may seem paradoxical that the acceptance of what we consider wrong should be virtuous. The paradox of self-destruction refers to the fact that unlimited toleration is bound to lead to the destruction of toleration. Paradoxically, for a liberal society to survive, it must itself be intolerant towards some groups, namely those that seek to subvert liberal society. The paradox of drawing the limits concerns the demarcation of the boundaries of toleration. Skeptics have claimed that there is no neutral or universally acceptable way of drawing the limits of toleration, which would mean that any way of drawing the limits would itself be an arbitrary act of intolerance. Finally, the paradox of the tolerant racist points to an oddity of the standard account of toleration. If to tolerate is to accept what one finds objectionable, it seems to follow that a racist who accepts people of other races qualifies as tolerant. But the idea that a racist deserves to be praised as tolerant is counterintuitive.

Keywords

  • Toleration
  • Paradoxes
  • Liberalism
  • Justification

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Acknowledgments

Peter Königs is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany ́ś Excellence Strategy – EXC-2023 Internet of Production – 390621612

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Correspondence to Peter Königs .

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Königs, P. (2022). Paradoxes of Toleration. In: Sardoč, M. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Toleration. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-42121-2_13

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