Defining "liberal tolerance"

Russell Blackford takes on Terry Eagleton’s bullshit, and in doing so gives us a particularly good definition of liberal tolerance:

A liberal is not someone who takes the contorted view that her own viewpoint is no better than others on offer (that would be a vulgar and implausible sort of relativism). She is someone who takes the principled political stance that, although she considers her comprehensive worldview (perhaps a rationalist one, but perhaps even a religious one of some sort) to be superior, she will not attempt to impose it by means of fire and sword, as long as others do not attempt to use fire and sword to impose their views on her.

Generally speaking, liberals are even prepared to tolerate (at least up to a point) those who do not reciprocate. That’s a practical necessity in modern societies because it may well be that the majority of religious and similar groups are not totally prepared to reciprocate. They do so only with reservations.

There are, of course, difficult issues about how far liberals should tolerate the intolerant, such as Catholic cardinals with theocratic tendencies. However, the general assumption is that individuals and groups which advocate intolerant laws and social arrangements will themselves be given a broad measure of tolerance. That doesn’t mean that they should receive credence or be immune from criticism or beyond satire.

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