This chapter explains why granting conscientious exemptions is almost always the outcome of toleration – and always the outcome of toleration – in cases where the exemption is granted from a law that reflects or enforces moral values. The chapter explains why the principle of toleration better explains both the practice of granting conscientious exemptions and the attitude of those who grant the exemptions.
Much of the discomfort that this argument causes and much of the criticism of it, result from confusing the dominant descriptive aspect of toleration with its non-existent normative aspect; from mistakenly seeing toleration as a reason or justification; and from mistakenly perceiving it as a political or moral virtue. The chapter explains why toleration is a descriptive concept and never a reason or justification to act in a certain way, and why toleration is not a political or moral virtue, but rather either morally good, morally allowed, morally prohibited or a lesser evil – all according to the circumstances.
The chapter then continues to explain why the concepts of neutrality and respect fail to accurately describe the practice of granting conscientious exemptions and the attitude of those who grant the exemptions. As to neutrality, it fails to describe the practice of granting conscientious exemptions, both because the state is not and can never be neutral, and because the argument that granting conscientious exemptions results from state’s neutrality can never be coherent. As to respect, it either misses the nature of conscientious exemptions – or collapses into the definition of toleration. The chapter concludes with a conceptual note according to which the concepts of neutrality and toleration have some overlooked similarities, generally, and also within the context of granting conscientious exemptions.
- Conscientious exemptions
- Moral virtue