Hypocrisy of Tolerance

I was in search of a good illustration for my point when I found this


As usual, Gandhi cuts it to the core.  I have a problem with the concept of tolerance because tolerance implies hate.  Without hate, tolerance is simply meaningless, there is nothing to “tolerate”.  Perhaps, instead of striving to be tolerant, we should strive to get rid of hate and take this bumper sticker off the car.  Each symbol in it implies a possible object of hate.  I had no idea, one could hate so many things.

Look at this enlightened cat.


Does it look like it “tolerates” mice on its head?  What are a few mice compared to eternity and vastness of the universe and vanity of existence? It seems to me that the cat simply does not care.

Which brings us to another issue with tolerance:

And another:

Is it good to be a man without convictions, indifferent to other people?

Perhaps, this extended quote from Gandhi clarifies the issue a little:

The key seems to be not to “tolerate” others, but to admit one’s own imperfections.  Without this admission, any moral teaching is hypocritical.  One of my favorite passages from NT – Luke 18:9-14.


9 thoughts on “Hypocrisy of Tolerance

    • I read your post. You point out some more issues with tolerance, morality, etc. The more I think about these issues, the more confused I am. Any philosophical question that I consider has circular reasoning at the bottom. There is always a contradiction between a part and the whole. Most moral issues can be reduced to the conflict between our self-interest as individuals and the interests of others. “Others” is everyone who is “not I”. So, interests of others are not my interests, by definition. At the same time, “I” am a part of society, I am one of those “others”. So, acting in the interest of others is, indirectly, in my own interest. This is the fundamental contradiction and paradox. Check out Russell’s paradox . I think, it’s related to this topic.

      Paradoxes cannot be solved with logic. All we can do is to say “yeah, it’s a paradox” and take it as such. My approach is, essentially, to take things and people as they are. If something cannot be explained or grasped by logic, I only have to accept my inability to explain or understand it and leave it alone. This is how I approach tolerance as well. I try to get rid of anxiety and worry which comes from the inability to understand and explain things and people, from not knowing the future, etc. I see many people having hard time to accept the fundamental irrationality of this world and people’s behavior. People get annoyed and angry at what they call “irrational behavior”. They also fear “the unknown” and feel insecure because of uncertainty. It’s irrational behavior by itself.

      Getting rid of this worry, anger, and undue anxiety is related to Christian precepts of not judging, not worrying, “relying on the Lord”, forgiving, etc. It’s also consistent with the Buddhist “living in the moment”, “here and now”.

      If I have to make an effort to tolerate something, it means, there is a problem with my mindset. Ideally, it should not even come to my mind that I have to “tolerate” something.

      • Thanks for sharing your thoughts – I think I get the general concept of Russell’s paradox and what you’re saying about paradoxes is fair in many ways.
        At the same time I have to acknowledge that there is some form of logical, intelligible, shared truth in the world for humanity – all of my experience of human behaviour points to this (as I think I kind of pointed to in my post) and makes me confident in my pursuit of truth.
        I think paradoxes can be separated into two categories – those which we have to submit to and those which we aren’t. Free will and determinism is a a paradox that I don’t think humanity can remove from its experience, whether we’re atheists or theists it doesn’t matter we still have it. I believe it’s important for every human being to not delude themselves into circular or illogical reasoning where possible and that’s one of the reasons I blog and want to talk things like this through – so that I can hone my viewpoint into its most helpful and loving form, which I believe is in line with its most reasonable form I.e. The one with the least paradoxes and greatest understanding of other people’s perspectives.
        You’re absolutely right to say responding to views we disagree with in anger or hurt shows there is a problem with our own mindset and that’s exactly how I’d like to think, though I acknowledge the things that I’ve said to a certain degree may encourage myself and others to do otherwise because of how invested we would be in our own beliefs (it’s undoubtedly the case for me). Honestly, I just don’t see a way out of that (caring for what you believe in) though.
        This subject really interests me as it’s probably the one that tests my integrity the most so thanks for sharing your perspective again!

  1. I don’t have a problem with the noun “tolerance,” which means to have an open attitude toward those whose opinions, beliefs, practices and even race, religion, or nationality are different from one’s own. To me that doesn’t have a negative connotation.
    But I do have a problem with the verb “to tolerate.” To me, that infers putting up with something one finds objectionable. So one who displays tolerance toward others is fine, whereas one who tolerates others is not so fine.
    Am I splitting hairs or does that make sense to anyone else besides me?

    • That’s what I meant. I think, when another person expresses my thought in his own words, sometimes, better than I do it myself, it’s a sign of understanding.

      I think, there are two kinds of tolerance. One “tolerant” person has negative feelings but makes an effort to suppress them. Another “tolerant” person simply does not have the negative feelings. The second kind of tolerance seems superior. Perhaps, the second kind of tolerance is the goal, but the first kind is the way to reach it. One can only “practice” the first kind of tolerance. The second kind cannot be actively “practiced” because it’s a state.

      Perhaps, it’s the same distinction that you make between the noun and the verb.

    • On a second thought, I’m not sure if distinction between the way and the destination is meaningful. Is journey a link between two destinations or destination a link between two journeys? For those who embrace the change, journey is the destination.

    • I’ll add it to my read list which is quite large. Thanks. The book seems to expand on my suspicion that tolerance is a controversial virtue, just like most other virtues.

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