On the Conceptual Insufficiency of Toleration and the Quest for a Superseding Concept

Public Reason 2 (10-11):61-76 (2019)
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The concept of toleration occupies an important position in contemporary societal debates. I will analyse the concept by considering the apparent inconsistency between what I regard as the genuine meaning of the concept of toleration and the prevalent common perception of toleration. One essential factor in the concept of toleration is the negative evaluation of the subject matter. However, this decisive feature appears to have become obsolete in the prevalent common perception of toleration. I will examine the normative implications of the imprecise usage of ´toleration´/´tolerance´ caused by the vague perception of the concept. Furthermore, I argue there to be a significant, yet underemphasised linguistic power inherent to ´toleration´/´tolerance´, which is influential in how it perpetuates negative attitudes towards various minorities and maintains thereby unjust societal relations. Since ´toleration´/´tolerance´ appears insufficient to address the changed social reality in which attitudes towards minorities have remarkably progressed, I will adopt the approach of conceptual engineering to outline a concept capable of replacing ´toleration´/´tolerance´. I suggest that a new concept to supersede toleration should carry the ethos of respect, yet have the conceptual scope and precision of tolerance/toleration, to be intuitively appealing to replace it. I propose to replace ´toleration´ with ´respectation´ and ´tolerance´ with ´respectance´.
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