tolerance of action or thought?

Hunt Stilwell says that “the first principle of contemporary liberalism is, or at least should be, that a liberal abhors, and fights against, all forms of cruelty.” He explains that “this view of liberalism, and liberal world-view, determines when I think ‘tolerance’ is in order, and when I do not. First, I cannot be intolerant of someone based on race, religion, philosophy, etc. Among other things, this means that I cannot be intolerant of conservatism, simply because it is a different philosophy.”

I agree, but a clarification needs to be made. Are liberals intolerant of cruel actions AND thoughts? It seems that this is a vital distinction. Actions kill, thoughts don’t.

Hunt seems to bleed the two together. “I cannot tolerate conservative discrimination against gays and lesbians, racial minorities, religious minorities, the poor, or immigrants.” Is this discriminatory action (e.g. exclusion from a golf club) or just the idea that these folks should be discriminated against in one way or another?

On another tangent, who decides who gets put on that list with gays and the poor? The poor belong, but who is poor (what is the poverty line and should we consider relative or absolute poverty?). Pedophiles don’t belong on the list because its clear who are children and who aren’t, right? (You know, folks that have been walking around here for 568,036,800 seconds aren’t children… its so obvious.)

You can imagine a spectrum of people that consider themselves liberal that have vastly different ideas about these points. Which makes me think that the definition has limited use. The liberal/conservative dichotomy has always had limited explanatory power. Why not break the world up into a more useful dichotomy?

Thinking versus unthinking people.


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