Thursday, January 10, 2013

On Love and Tolerance: Part 2

I usually like to keep this a family-friendly blog, but this image macro represents the origin of the Brony slogan "Love and Tolerance." (More info here.)

This is a very interesting article critiquing the Brony slogan "Love and Tolerance." I offer a few thoughts below. By no means do they constitute a full response. Perhaps I'll write one in the near future.

I'm in agreement with the author in his critique of the formulation of "love and tolerance" that sees tolerance as "live and let live" or being indifferent to what others say or do. This kind of tolerance doesn't fit with an understanding of love as "willing" or "doing" good by another.

However, I'm thinking the author is limiting his understanding of love to a purely "natural" friendship (philia), as opposed to charity (caritas) as Christians tend to understand love. Philosophers (or at least those following Aristotle) usually understand friendship to be conditional, that is, friendship is exclusive and mutual (we reciprocate our love). If you don't meet the high standards of virtue, then you can't join the club, so to speak. I think C.S. Lewis made this point in his The Four Loves. So eventually, if Gilda or Trixie aren't willing to change their bad habits of being disagreeable and prideful, then they just can't be friends with the Mane Six.

Charity, on the other hand, loves another person for simply existing, however lovable or unlovable their character, even if they are actively opposed to us as enemies. The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic show mostly deals with friendship and the struggles needed to attain and maintain that kind of relationship, so there isn't much room for charity, though I imagine the forgiveness of Celestia for Luna and Twilight for Trixie are among the few examples.

I tend to think of tolerance as an allowance for human weakness and error (1). That is, we aren't perfect in being virtuous, in doing the right thing, so we have to coexist in the hopes that people might change.

If you consider love as simply an emotion and not a relationship requiring action (2), then conjoining this diminished understanding of love with a common reading of tolerance as indifference or non-interference reduces L & T to "doing nothing whilst having warm, fuzzy feelings." You might even say it means approving the disagreeable behavior of others.

But, once you understand the nature of both love and tolerance, then you can see that tolerance serves the ends of love, which is wiling the good of another.


1. Edward Feser, "Cardinal Virtues and Counterfeit Virtues," considers whether tolerance is a virtue.

2. David S. Oderberg, Moral Theory: A Non-Consequentialist Approach, 52-53

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