Tolerance vs. Progressivism

Tolerance is not equivalent to approval or “acceptance.” On the contrary, the very notion of tolerance presupposes differences of opinion, disapproval of behavior, and perhaps even personal distaste. In a political context, tolerance entails a willingness to forego any legal objections against, or punishments for, beliefs or behaviors that are regarded as socially unorthodox or disagreeable to the common view, but which have been judged not to be directly harmful to other people, such that outlawing or punishing people who hold those beliefs or engage in those behaviors would establish principles and precedents that could have a deleterious or harmfully constraining effect on public discourse or individual liberty. In the broader, private sense — from which the political sense is derived, whether this be acknowledged by its advocates or not — tolerance entails in large measure the willingness to concede that humans are not perfectible, nor we ourselves perfectly knowledgeable, and hence that the indignant inclination to condemn outright any human who holds opinions or moral tenets inconsistent with ours, or who engages in (non-coercive) behavior which we regard as improper or objectionable, is ultimately more harmful to ourselves qua rational, self-developmental beings, and more limiting to the peaceful coexistence required of a free society, than the alternative (intolerant) position would be.

Thus, the current progressive push to normalize every deviant attitude or behavior, and to impose acceptance of these on the mainstream population, by aggressively condemning and outlawing all objections to any form of unorthodoxy — or rather by artificially designating disapproval of unorthodoxy itself as the only true unorthodoxy, and then to criminalize this newly-designated unorthodoxy as racist, sexist, capitalist, white supremacist, and the rest of the Marxist labels du jour — has nothing in common with the classical liberal notion of tolerance, but is in fact the negation of tolerance. For it is premised on the rejection of any legitimate judgment for or against anything, and hence denies genuine intellectual difference or moral disagreement based in reason, in favor of nihilistic relativism. But nihilistic relativism, in practice, having rejected reason and being as the method and standard of life, ends not with demands for tolerance of difference, but rather with the most extreme and illiberal condemnation, and even criminalization, of any disagreement with its new, coercively imposed orthodoxies in morality and ideology.

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