Analysis Of Toleration: An Impossible Virtue By Bernard Williams

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Political liberalism is thought to have two central values -- autonomy and equality, both essential to reinforcing the value of the individual in society. To add on, tolerance is generally thought to go hand in hand with equality. The idea is that in order for every individual to have equal civil liberties and be treated as political equals, others that strongly disagree with their beliefs or lifestyles must at least be tolerant of them. However, the idea of tolerance in itself seems paradoxical. As philosopher Bernard Williams points out in his essay, Toleration: An Impossible Virtue, the biggest puzzle concerning toleration is that “tolerance...is required only for the intolerable” (18). To clarify, it seems absurd to say that in order to tolerate something, you also have to be intolerant of it--meaning that you must believe it is “blasphemously…show more content…
In fact, Williams clearly differentiates indifference from intolerance. He claims that if an individual does not care about what another believes, then it can not be said that the individual tolerates the other because the individual does “not need the attitude of toleration, any more than you do in regards to other people's tastes in food.” Williams goes even further to hypothesize that tolerance may just be “an impossible virtue.” Some individuals may wonder why they ought to be tolerant of others if they deeply believe that what the others are doing is wrong on some ground. If someone said that they believe two plus two equals five, why should I have to be tolerant of their mathematically incorrect answer? Williams would argue that I have to allow them to have a wrong belief because their liberty allows them the right to get it wrong. However, it is important to distinguish that toleration does not always include something as black and white as math problems or other matters with a definitive correct answer. Often times, the beliefs in question are
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