Fish on "Tolerance"
Mark.Scarberry at PEPPERDINE.EDU
Mon Jan 7 11:20:23 PST 2002
If tolerance requires an openness of mind, then those who who have reached
firm conclusions about anything are somehow intolerant. I think the essence
of tolerance is not the absence of firm beliefs but rather respect for
another's right not to hold those beliefs. There is some truth in C.S.
Lewis's remark that the point of an open mind, as with an open mouth during
eating, is to close it again on something solid.
Mark S. Scarberry
Pepperdine University School of Law
mark.scarberry at pepperdine.edu
From: Larry Sager [mailto:lgs at WORLD.STD.COM]
Sent: Monday, January 07, 2002 8:15 AM
To: RELIGIONLAW at listserv.ucla.edu
Subject: Re: Fish on "Tolerance"
I'm not at all tempted to defend Fish's style of expression, but I am
inclined to stick by my interpretation of what he is at bottom saying.
Consider: ..."openness of mind turns out to be closed to any form of
thought not committed to its hegemony...." In what way can openness of mind
be hegemonic? Presumably by insisting that others act as though they shared
an openness of mind. To some degree, fidelity to tolerance will inevitably
include that insistence.
The scope of that insistence of toleration can vary, of course. We could,
for example insistent on openness in public institutions but treat all
not-public institutions like employment relations and landlord-tenant
relations as outside the appropriate scope of the state's demand for
tolerance. So Fish could, I suppose, be complaining of the scope of demands
for tolerance. But then the sweep of his condemnation is hard to explain.
At 10:02 AM 1/6/2002 -0800, you wrote:
>Perhaps it is simply a matter of differing styles of expression, but if
>Fish only means to say that "the one thing tolerance cannot embrace is
>intolerance" and not that "tolerance is sometimes or often used as a mask
>for something different," he chooses interesting language to assert his
>If I wanted to say that all proponents of tolerance fail to adequately
>grapple with the reality that they need to reject intolerance, I would not
>"Tolerance is defined in a way that renders the
>troubling views unworthy to receive it; openness of
>mind turns out to be closed to any form of thought not
>committed to its hegemony; and mutual respect is less
>a formula for ecumenical generosity than the cant
>phrase of a self-selected little club of right-minded
>I'm not sure that the fact that he spreads his condemnation broadly changes
>the character of his remarks.
>At 01:50 PM 1/4/2002 -0600, you wrote:
>>Fish doesn't say or mean that tolerance is sometimes or often used as a
>>mask for something different. He says the invocation of tolerance is
>>"always the same" , "invariably" leading to the mirror-image of the
>>intolerance it decries. And he names a broad roster of names of those who
>>have so sinned: " Locke or Nagle or Conkle or Thiemann or Gutmann and
>>Thompson--philosophers, theorists, liberals, conservatives". The claim
>>that intolerance is sometimes or often abused is not very interesting, and
>>as a statistical ad hominem, not easy to confirm or disconfirm. But Fish's
>>claim is deeper and would be interesting if it were original and if it
>>weren't simply wrong.
>>Fish is simply exploiting something most of us discovered in high school
>>or thereabouts: that the one thing tolerance cannot embrace is
>>intolerance. Anyone arguing for tolerance is arguing for a stance towards
>>"the other" that makes space for the other on terms of mutual fairness and
>>acceptance. In the domain of religion tolerance requires that all members
>>of the relevant community mutually adopt terms of membership and
>>governance pursuant to which no one is extended greater or lesser regard
>>on account of their religious views. Now some group within the community
>>might hold religious views that insist that their's is the only true
>>religion and only those who hold their views should be entitled to
>>respect, to membership in the political community, to the vote, etc. Now
>>proponants of tolerance have to insist that the views of this group not be
>>made operational as the terms of membership in the political community.
>>Otherwise toleration is meaningless.
>>But when they do so insist, Fish wants to say that they are being
>>intolerant of the group that want to exclude everyone else from full
>>membership and regard. Not a an original idea. And wrong. Of course
>>toleration cannot endorse intolerant demands on the shape of the political
>>community. But that does not make it a flawed or unattractive ideal.
>>Fish might say in defense that toleration is not "neutral" or above the
>>fray. That it is an ideal in conflict with others, that has to be
>>defended. Of course that is right. But no modern, thoughtful liberal of
>>whom I am aware thinks or argues to the contrary.
>>At 10:39 AM 1/4/2002 -0800, you wrote:
>> >--- Steve Jamar <sjamar at LAW.HOWARD.EDU> wrote:>
>> >> So, those who trash tolerance should come up with a
>> >> better, workable alternative.
>> >> Until then, I vote for liberal values of tolerance
>> >> and acceptance of diversity.
>> >What I take from the Fish quotation is that
>> >"tolerance" arguments are often used to mask
>> >intolerance and to attack those who have a different
>> >view of the good. For example, I have written about
>> >the irony that occurs when certain advocates of
>> >tolerance and diversity attack Cardinal O'Connor and
>> >his Catholic beliefs as evil and homophobic. Tolerance
>> >there is "defined in a way that renders the troubling
>> >views [of orthodox Catholics] unworthy to receive it."
>> >So, like Alan Brownstein, I support both the concept
>> >*and the practice* of tolerance. But when I hear many
>> >people talking about taking action in the name of
>> >tolerance, I am on full alert for the club that is
>> >about to be used by the tolerant activists to batter
>> >people who have a different understanding of the good.
>> >Cheers, Rick Duncan
>> >"Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs the
>> > --President George W. Bush (quoting John Page)
>> >"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or
>> Mordred; middle things are gone." -C.S. Lewis
>> >Do You Yahoo!?
>> >Send your FREE holiday greetings online!
>> > http://greetings.yahoo.com <http://greetings.yahoo.com/>
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Religionlaw