Tolerance

Tolerance

There is a paragraph in Timur Kuran’s “Private Truth, Public Lies” which reads:

Secret balloting would serve no purpose if everyone were willing to put up with every offensive idea. Under such conditions of exemplarary tolerance, no one would ever seek punitive actions against others for their political views. By this account, to show tolerance is to object to an idea without objecting to its expression. It is to be prepared, more over, to live with the consequent inner tensions. Perfectly tolerant individuals would not even frown at a speaker promoting the most repulsive ideas. They might, of course, express reservations and offer alternatives. Tolerance is not apathy, indifference, or diffidence. What it requires is acceptance of the principle that no political lend, however noble, justified the suppression of an idea.

The line, “to show tolerance is to object to an idea without objecting to its expression” reminds me of one of my all-time favorite quotes, from John Staurt Mill:

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

We’d all do well to show some more tolerance in our daily interactions, especially with people we disagree with. Imagine our political climate if instead of agreeing/disagreeing with ideas because of the party that proposes it, politicians were able to debate (civilly) and arrive at balanced decisions. This lack of tolerance has stalled America on key issues like immigration reform, infrastructure spending, technology investment, healthcare reform, and countless other initiatives.

Subconsciously, one of the things I look for most in people I associate with is a high degree of tolerance. I like people who are able to listen and propose crazy ideas while understanding that these are ideas for the sake of ideas. I crave people who “would not even frown at a speaker promoting the most repulsive ideas. They might, of course, express reservations and offer alternatives.“ This balance and back and forth is what drives discussions forward. If we can’t tolerate things that feel taboo, we wind up not addressing them, which can do more harm than ‘daring’ to speak of them ever would.

Show Comments