Saturday, February 20, 2010

Social Democratic Tolerance as Appreciation

After a couple of weeks of squabbling about veiled Trotskyists and halal hamburgers, I was heartened to come across this eloquent description of tolerance in a multicultural society, which concisely captures my own attitude: "The idea of social democracy is an open society, which means a society in which alternative ways of life are not only tolerated but appreciated, even when regarded as partially mistaken." This is from Avishai Margalit's brilliant and important book, On Compromise and Rotten Compromises. I recommend it to you all.

Why is it important not just to tolerate but also to appreciate ideas and ways of life that we regard as partially mistaken? Because appreciation connotes the recognition that we, too, may be and probably are partially mistaken in some or all of our beliefs and transforms tolerance from condescension into dialogue, both with oneself and others. For me, a secular atheist social democrat gourmet, veils, dietary laws, fast food, revolutionary vanguards, and hyper-republican zealotry are alternative ways of life, which I regard as partially mistaken but symbolic of important truths and indicators of lacunae and contradictions in my own thinking. I appreciate them for preventing me from falling into complacency.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you for this recommendation as well as for your insight into the difference between tolerance and appreciation. what ever happened to the french expression, vive la difference?