Tolerance — a moral virtue

We hear a lot about tolerance these days.

Tolerance is a moral virtue best placed within the moral domain – but unfortunately it is often confounded with prejudice.

Much of the psychological research about tolerance generally and about the development of children’s understanding of tolerance of others who are different from them has been examined through research about prejudice – and not through the moral domain.

The assumption made is that absence of prejudice by default means a person is tolerant.

Prejudice and tolerance are actually theoretically different concepts – and not the opposite of each other.

In fact, they coexist in most of us.

Tolerance is difficult to define, which may have led to limiting the study of tolerance in psychology in favour of studying prejudice.

But, unlike prejudice, tolerance can be grounded in the moral domain which offers a positive approach to examining relationships between groups of people who are different from each other.

Based on its Latin origin, tolerance, or toleration as philosophers often refer to it, is most commonly viewed negatively as “putting up with” something we dislike or even hate.

If a person is prepared to “put up with” something – along the lines of, I do not like the colour of your skin but I will still serve you not to lose your custom – that person is someone who does not discriminate but remains intolerant in thoughts and beliefs.

Besides, who wants to be tolerated or be “put up with”?

At the same time tolerance cannot be indiscriminate.

Indiscriminate acceptance in its most extreme form could lead to recognition of questionable practice and human rights violations – for instance, child marriages and neo-Nazi propaganda.

Tolerance as a moral virtue

An alternative way for us to think of tolerance is to place it within the moral domain and recognise that it is what it is, a moral virtue. Continue reading


Additional reading

News category: Features.

Tags: , , , ,