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Toleration (Polity Key Concepts in Philosophy) (Polity Key Concepts in the Social Sciences series) [Paperback]

Andrew Jason Cohen

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Book Description

17 Jan 2014 Polity Key Concepts in the Social Sciences series
In this engaging and comprehensive introduction to the topic of toleration, Andrew Jason Cohen seeks to answer fundamental questions, such as: What is toleration? What should be tolerated? Why is toleration important? Beginning with some key insights into what we mean by toleration, Cohen goes on to investigate what should be tolerated and why. We should not be free to do everythingÑmurder, rape, and theft, for clear examples, should not be tolerated. But should we be free to take drugs, hire a prostitute, or kill ourselves? Should our governments outlaw such activities or tolerate them? Should they tolerate “outsourcing” of jobs or importing of goods or put embargos on other countries? Cohen examines these difficult questions, among others, and argues that we should look to principles of toleration to guide our answers. These principles tell us when limiting freedom is acceptableÑthat is, they indicate the proper limits of toleration. Cohen deftly explains the main principles on offer and indicates why one of these stands out from the rest. This wide–ranging new book on an important topic will be essential reading for students taking courses in philosophy, political science and religious studies.

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"Cohen tells us that the history of liberalism is the history of toleration. The claim survives reflection: few events in human history have been more important than when your religion ceased to be regarded as a good reason to kill you. Toleration is remarkably bold yet remarkably engaging, simply written, and brimming with insight." David Schmidtz, Center for the Philosophy of Freedom "Cohen′s book provides an exemplary analysis of what toleration is (and is not), and a lucid assessment of the reasons – strong and weak – why it is so valuable." Hillel Steiner, Professor Emeritus, University of Manchester and Research Professor, University of Arizona "Written in an accessible style and unafraid to embrace controversy, Andrew Cohen provides a lively and challenging introduction to the meaning and justification of toleration. He robustly defends his own principles of toleration, and his conclusions about some of the examples he discusses, along with the arguments in favour of them, are especially likely to stimulate debate and discussion, both among students and their teachers." John Horton, Keele University "The iron–fisted King Feris treated everyone equally but tolerated little, while King Juris tolerated everything except for harm to others. Who would not prefer King Juris? And who would argue that toleration is not important? Andrew Cohen′s snappy, often amusing, style makes the issue come alive, and is more effective than a straightforward argument for the importance of toleration. Cohen also challenges society–wide shibboleths by arguing that drug use, pornography, and prostitution by and with consenting adults ought to be tolerated, but corporations as they are currently instituted ought not. The book is a fine introduction to toleration." Neera Badhwar, University of Oklahoma (Emerita) and George Mason University (Affiliate)  

About the Author

Andrew Jason Cohen is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgia State University

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5.0 out of 5 stars A detailed and accessible look at tolerance 8 Jun 2014
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"If the young are to be instructed at all, it seems to me that they ought to be instructed in the high human value of this toleration. They should be taught what they learn by experience in the school yard: that human beings differ enormously, one from the other, and that it is stupid and imprudent for A to try to change B. They should be taught that mutual confidence and good will are worth all the laws ever heard of, ghostly or secular, and that one man who minds his own business is more valuable to the world than 10,000 cocksure moralists." H.L. Mencken

One of the great mysteries of our world is how it suddenly became so rich. For over 50,000 years of human existence, humans were poor. Only a small elite could raise itself, but only on the backs of everyone else. Then something mysterious happened and over the last two hundred years, but a blink of the last 50,000 years, the world became much richer. About forty times richer in the leading developed countries.

Though there are no clear answers about what happened to trigger this massive, wonderful and ongoing rise in human prosperity, values surely have something to do with it. Tolerance must be among the necessary values.

This scholarly yet admirably accessible work of philosophy describes, evaluates and dissects tolerance with clarity, care and rigour.

Tolerance is the virtue in the middle of the spectrum, with agreement on one side and opposition on the other. As defined by Dr. Cohen, tolerance does not imply agreement. Indeed, disagreement is an essential element of tolerance, for you can not tolerate what you don't disagree with. Not opposing what you disagree with is what makes it tolerance, exactly as you hope another would not oppose you if they disagreed with you. Imagine the breakthrough in human relations to simply live and let live, even if one disagrees with another's choice of religion, marriage partner, customs or politics?

Like Goldilocks' porridge, to be effective tolerance has to be just right. At one extreme, tolerance fails to oppose evil, while at the other, tolerance opposes good. The harm principle is key to striking a balance. Outside of harm, none of the other possible norms considered by Dr. Cohen strike the right balance. Harm, not offence, is what justifies an end to toleration and the beginning of opposition.

Finally, Dr. Cohen considers toleration in the context of children, animals, the environment and social groups, including countries and corporations.

Overall, this book is a worthy addition to the body of knowledge that grapples with the challenge of how we all might live together such that all of us achieve our fullest potential.
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