"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.