Encyclopedia of Global Bioethics

Living Edition
| Editors: Henk ten Have


  • M. Patrão Neves
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05544-2_419-1


Retrieving the etymological meaning of the word “tolerance,” accompanying the evolution of the concept along its history, and exploring some of its major current uses and their impact in common morality and within bioethics, this article proposes to make clear and accurately define the legitimate usage of the term “tolerance.”

“Tolerance” started to be advocated in the wake of the rejection of moral absolutism and gained importance in an increasingly pluralistic world. But its growing hegemony in the moral debate leads dangerously to a moral indifferentism, which subsequently leads to the suppression of morality itself. The issue of the limits of tolerance becomes unavoidable.

In this context, the moral status of tolerance is also examined, being challenged as an ideal, and as a value, and being redefined as a virtue.

This reflection will unfold at the level of philosophical clarification of “tolerance,” the common morality perception of it, and its impact on bioethical theory and practice.


Moral absolutism Moral indifferentism Pluralism Value Virtue John Locke John Stuart Mill Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. 
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Further Readings

  1. Forst, R. (2007). Toleration. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2012 ed.). http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/toleration/. Accessed 1 Oct 2014.
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  3. Mendus, S., & Edwards, D. (Eds.). (1987). On toleration. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  4. Rawls, J. (1987). The idea of an overlapping consensus. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 7(1987), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Raz, J. (1988). Autonomy, toleration, and the harm principle. In S. Mendds (Ed.), Justifying toleration. Conceptual and historical perspectives (pp. 155–175). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ricoeur, P. (1988). Tolérance, intolérance, intolérable. Bulletin de La Société de l’Histoire du Protestantisme Français, 134(2), 435–450. Avril-Juin.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bioethics Research Centre, Bioethics InstituteCatholic University of PortugalPortoPortugal