Toleration vs. doctrinal evil in our time

The Journal of Ethics 8 (3):225-250 (2004)
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Our time is characterized by what seems like an unprecedented process of intense global homogenization. This reality provides the context for exploring the nature and value of toleration. Hence, this essay is meant primarily as a contribution to international ethics rather than political philosophy. It is argued that because of the non-eliminability of differences in the world we should not even hope that there can be only one global religion or ideology. Further exploration exposes conceptual affinity between the concepts of intolerance, ideology, and doctrinal evil. The last concept is developed in contrast to pure evil and average evil, and under the assumption of the metaphysical necessity of free will. Doctrinal evil is found to represent the main source of intolerance as a result of a mechanism that tends to confuse doctrinal evil (or the competing conceptions of the good) with pure evil. This connection between doctrinal evil and pure evil provides ideologies with their forcefulness. Tolerance cannot be properly understood in terms of a simple opposition to intolerance, however. Tolerance emerges as a sort of vigilance, conscientiousness, and non-negligence based not on a supposedly correct interpretation of the good, but rather on the acceptance of the fallibility of any such attempted definition. Conversely, the principal evil in doctrinal evil is found in arrogance that accompanies the intolerance-inducing irresponsible thoughtlessness. With this conceptual topology in mind the paper also addresses questions regarding religious tolerance, the ideology of human rights and democracy, the right to self-defense, ways to face evil, the dialectics of using old names for novel evils, and related issues

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Jovan Babic
University of Belgrade


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