Sunday, June 14, 2009

Defending Intolerance?

I'm currently working on an essay entitled "In Defense of Intolerance." The basic idea is this: we often tend to think that intolerance must be bad because intolerant individuals often do horribly violent things. But this confuses (or ignores) that the line between the tolerable and the intolerable has nothing to do with the lines we can draw between various means of acting upon our intolerance. In my view, that we find something personally (and morally) intolerable does not itself justify violent intolerance. But that, importantly, doesn't mean we should reject our own intolerance. Some things are intolerable. And sure, just what is intolerable is often a contentious issue. But the fact that issues are contentious does not, I think, justify the view that we must therefore put all our convictions on hold. On the other hand, as I'm putting it in the essay: while I may have the right to risk my own life for the sake of a thesis, I have no right to risk the lives of others for it (especially when they are not consenting).

(I hope the parenthetical appeal to consent doesn't "go too far," as I want the basic argument to have as broad an appeal as possible. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.)

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