Monday, June 23, 2008

An Ethical Paradox

Sometimes I land myself on some unresolvable ethical paradox like this:

We all know that we should be tolerant. Moral textbook tells us that, pastors preach that sometimes (I don't want to go into the irony here), and we certainly love to stamp it on habitual grousers who complain about every single petty issue.

So "tolerance" is a virtue everyone loves to preach. The thing is, when we tell intolerant bigots that "Intolerance is unacceptable", aren't we ourselves being intolerant towards the intolerant people, contradicting our own cause in the process?

Should we then change the ballpark of tolerance to "We should be tolerant to everyone EXCEPT intolerant people?" In that case, who are we to define what makes intolerant people? I am pretty sure lots of people would conveniently label all people who disagree with themselves as "intolerant" bitches.

Oh well.

6 comments:

jasmine said...

So horr, we should just advise them to be more tolerant instead of using the word "unacceptable" loh! Hahaha, that way our behaviour won't contradict ourselves. After all, being tolerant is about putting up with habits/people we dislike, right?

changyang1230 said...

That's true.

I guess the problem with my whole post is that, I have treated "tolerance" as an all-or-none, black-or-white virtue. So despite it being a virtue, my "paradox" example probably says that no virtue is a universally applicable rule.

In other words, instead of "we are either tolerant or intolerant"; we should realise the shades of grey in the spectrum of tolerance. Or any "virtue", in that matter.

Actually I am suddenly reminded of this old post, haha:

But It's Wrong in Principle

Things to ponder about, before we wave our huge moral stick around next time. :D

ShouFarn said...

I'd say there is something missing in the equation. Tolerance should not be a blank virtue covering everything.

The line should instead go like this:
"We should be tolerant towards other people because of [insert reason]".

If the reason is agreeable and works, we'll stick to it. The moment someone crosses that reason, we'll go all intolerant on their asses.

of course, idiots need not apply (the irony) :P

Anonymous said...

Hah, somehow I'm reminded of the Barber's Paradox (but I'm not trying to draw any meaningful analogies here).

Do pastors preach tolerance? Was Jesus tolerant? Is tolerance even a virtue to begin with?

Love is not tolerance.

It is truth, not tolerance, which should be revered.

btw any attempt to come up with a set of inviolable moral 'axioms' is bound to FAIL.

But I needn't worry about that :)


re: Shou Farn - there seems to be something vaguely circular with "We should be tolerant towards other people because of [insert reason]". And what determines whether the reason is 'agreeable' - principles which are intolerant of the antithesis of those principles?

Heh.

Anonymous said...

^ bluez

changyang1230 said...

** btw any attempt to come up with a set of inviolable moral 'axioms' is bound to FAIL.

But I needn't worry about that :)**


Cough cough. Contradiction detected. :P