Thursday, October 29, 2009

Moral Conviction and Disagreement: Getting Beyond Negative Toleration

Here it is.

ABSTRACT: Toleration seems essential for peace in any sufficiently diverse society. At the same time, no one thinks that we should (or can) tolerate everything. That there are limits to what is tolerable gives rise to a difficult puzzle to be resolved by any society in which some of the differences between individuals or groups are, or seem to be, differences in their moral convictions. Toleration of beliefs and practices that conflict with one’s moral convictions seems problematic: how can it be compatible with living in accordance with one’s convictions that one tolerate things that one judges to be morally intolerable? This apparent conflict can be resolved by showing that tolerant engagement is compatible with moral integrity, and is furthermore an appropriate relationship to cultivate with those with whom one has moral disagreements, given other basic values (of persons and of humility). Tolerant engagement can take the form of discourse, compromise, and integration. None of these activities guarantees the resolution of moral disagreements, but they provide a better starting point than more adversarial relations (such as what I call “civil intolerance”) because they encourage the development of a community moral judges rather than, as it were, a community of moral strangers.

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