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Roman Republic: Res publica Romana • View topic - Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Is Tolerance a Virtue?

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Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Mon Jan 01, 2018 1:11 pm

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Re: Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:05 pm

Salvete Dialectici

Is Tolerance a Virtue?

This question has been under debate for a long time and by better minds than mine. And it still goes on. So 'Adversus Melius Iudicium Meum' I will enter the fray.

If we start with the Roman Virtue of Tolerantia as "the ability to go through pain and suffering when the need arose" (I would add) 'and still be be true to the other virtues', and we consider mental as well as physical 'pain and suffering', then the current concept of Tolerance would be a combination of virtues, tolerantia and iustitia.

This presents a problem in a society where there is a separatibon of religion and state, when individual beliefs of right and wrong do not necessarily correspond to what is legally right and wrong. Where is the virtue in tolerating something you believe is wrong, looking the other way and not acting to right the wrong?

In a mono-religious state, this is not a problem. There is one standard and the enforcement is clear. If this appeals to you, I can tell you where to go.

However, if you don't, it gets more complex. If we consider that we live in many layers of community (family, religious organization, town, employment, state/province/region, country, world), each has its own set of norms that we agree to, if only by living/working there. If you don't believe in {enter your religious taboo here}, then you should marry someone not of {enter your religious taboo here}. But if your neighbors are {enter your religious taboo here} and you offer civil services, the virtuous action would be to tolerate your religious indignation, and provide your neighbors the services justly under the law of that community layer in which you are functioning. What you may not tolerate in your family, you would be obliged to tolerate in your town.

Everyone has the right to their own belief, to state that belief and to function in each of their community layers to promote that belief (and others to oppose it) ...virtuously of course.

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Re: Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:25 pm

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Re: Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:51 pm

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Re: Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:17 pm

Well argued, amice, and thanks for quoting the Vulgata text instead of the King James translation.
Yes, you can find arguments for reciprocity in the bible, since like all modern world religions Christianity is also a philosophy, and reciprocity is a basic principle not too difficult to grasp.
However you will find people of all religions on eirher side of this dispute, because these religions are not so clear about it.
But I agree, a monoreliguous environment has less potential for conflict, so that tolerance would become more relevant for conflict resolving in a pluralistic society.
But is it a virtue? Is not justice the better virtue?
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Re: Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Postby Spurius Iuventius Catulus » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:34 pm

I think I take exception to the manner in which you're characterizing tolerance in the modern sense. In building your argument, latching onto only one of the word's modern definitions (i.e. to put up with a thing which does not please you) to contrast it with the virtue of respecting others' differences. I also think that you've chosen a particular way of interpreting the modern definition in its worst possible light, construing "tolerance" with being a doormat.

Doormat status is obviously not a virtuous position for anyone. Nor is being indifferent to crime or harm, but ascribing those traits to tolerance is, I think, overextending.

As for the matter of tolerentia vs. the avoidance of conflict, I do not see a contradiction. One of the main reasons to cultivate tolerentia is to avoid unnecessary conflicts, which enhances a society's ability to be vibrant and diverse in ideas and influences, which was one of the many reasons Rome was so successful and influential for so long. A thing that improves discourse and inclusion, and promotes the exchange of goods, ideas, and cultures without imposing arbitrary and harmful constraints allows one to more effectively address necessary conflicts -- matters of health, safety, justice -- without sapping one's energy on trifles.

Whether one wishes to consider tolerance a virtue on its own I think depends on how the individual wishes to construct their own ethics. From a Stoic standpoint, one could argue that tolerance arises from the proper application of the virtues: Wisdom in discerning what is and is not a necessary conflict, being Just in personal and civic interactions, Temperance in managing one's activities (as well as our desires regarding comfort/discomfort), and even Courage in coexisting with the Other, and finding constructive ways to make that work.

Does this make sense?
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Re: Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sat Jan 13, 2018 6:51 pm

Salve Catule Magister!

I agree with tolerance being compatible with the Stoic virtues of wisdom and temperance. It is however not necessarily compatible with justice, since the act in question, towards which we are supposed to be tolerant, might be unjust. Tolerance is however never an expression of courage, since it means not acting, while courage is acting.

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Re: Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Postby Spurius Iuventius Catulus » Mon Jan 15, 2018 5:57 pm

Salve Lupe!

I disagree. Stoic thinkers even in antiquity included endurance as a part of courage -- -- which I think does confirm that tolerance as a practice is compatible with that virtue.

Also, recall that my response addresses matters of justice in the sense that matters of justice are necessary conflicts, not things to let stand on the basis of what one might call "idiot tolerance," i.e. allowing things to happen without considering whether the object of concern is simply a matter of difference or taste, or a matter that needs resolution because others may come to harm, oppression, etc.

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Re: Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:05 am

Salve Catule!

I think we have no disagreement here. Endurance is the meaning of the Latin word tolerantia. There is no doubt about it being virtuous. But it is quite different from the English word "tolerance", which refers to abstaining from taking action against questionable actions of others.

I think justice, not tolerance in its modern understanding is the actual virtue.
If others do something, which is their legitimate right, even if it might be unpleasant for us, then it is just to tolerate it.
If others commit acts of injustice, it would be unjust to tolerate it.
Ergo nothing becomes virtuous by tolerance alone, only by justice. Tolerance can either be just or unjust. It is not a virtue per se.

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Re: Is Tolerance a Virtue?

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:43 pm

Salvete Lupe et Catule

Although I cannot quite place the quote, in a field of study it is common to have particular definitions of terms that are specific and not as broad as in general use. Since we are discussing Virtue, I would propose that the 'Virtue of Tolerance', being from endurance, be 'If others do something, which is their legitimate right, even if it might be unpleasant for us, then it is just to tolerate it.' Yes it is tied into 'Justice', but all of the virtues are tied in together, to be virtuous is a package deal.

To the converse, 'If others commit acts of injustice, it would be unjust to tolerate it.', here the 'Virtue of Tolerance' I would propose would be to have the endurance to not respond 'in kind'* but to act virtuously (the whole package).

The crux of the problem is in what is 'their legitimate right'. If you live where the public legal 'right' conflicts with the private understanding of 'right', this conflict heats up.** Here is the conflict between public virtue vs. private virtue and one's private virtue vs. another's private virtue, which manifests itself in political debate and civil (and sometimes uncivil) disobedience leading to court cases. And hopefully not civil war again.***

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