I’m not tolerant

Except that I am.

Okay, let me explain that a bit further. There are some people – the ‘regressive left’ – who practice ‘tolerance’ of other cultures But I fear that I am not one of them, even though this might mean the regressive left tells me that I’m not a liberal.

But I am not here to get labels from other people. I’m here to say what I believe, and for what I stand. So let’s back up a moment and ask what morality might be.

Morality is a sort of value system. And what are values? Well, there are two types of values: instrumental and intrinsic.

Something with positive instrumental value is a thing that helps in the achievement of an intrinsic value or helps to prevent something of a negative intrinsic value. Something with a negative instrumental value is something that helps to prevent something with a negative intrinsic value, or makes something of a positive intrinsic value harder to achieve.

But, what things are of an intrinsic positive or negative value? We can say ‘You ought to value this.’ But what does that mean? What is this ‘ought?’ ‘Ought’ implies ‘Do this, or suffer something of lesser value.’ But that, in itself, presupposes a value system. Therefore, even with intrinsic values, there is no way in which we can say ‘this value system is less valuable than that one,’ unless both we, and those with whom we converse, hold a single set of values in common.

Very well. Then what are moral values? Well, they are a certain type of preference. A certain type of value. Historically, the notion of moral preferences developed with the evolution of human society. However, humans now have an ethical side, in addition to the other sides. That is to say, we have a sort of preference. A preference that may or may not be evolutionarily advantageous. Maybe our morals will be evolutionarily disadvantageous. But the beautiful thing is, that we humans have evolved to the point that if some group embraces some moral standard, that is, some standard of values, we can eliminate those others that disagree.

Okay. So, to me, what is intrinsically valuable, is that each individual person should be autonomous over themselves. As such, I approve of people choosing to live with different cultural traditions. But I do not approve of cultures that take away our autonony over ourselves.

Now, to my mind, the morality of the individual, is the set of things for/against which the invidiual will exert themselves. I will exert myself so that each person may be autonomous, and so that nobody will be dominiated from without! That means, however, that I will oppose certain ‘other cultures,’ and also that I will oppose my own culture, the culture of the U.S.

In general, my moral values are not ‘tolerant’ of cultures. That is to say, I tolerate humans making choices for themselves, but I do not tolerate cultures that inflict or impose upon individuals their choices over themselves. That means, I do not tolerate a culture that wants to dominate the world in the sense of dominating every individual (even if that culture is one I happen to enjoy; I do enjoy many aspects of Irish-American culture, even when that does not approve, e.g., abortion). Nor do I tolerate a culture that attempts to dominate a given gender. Or a given profession. Or a given race.

From where, however, do morals come? Well, in the end, if you choose not to agree with our morals… be excluded. That is, apart from the punishment, all any moral code can give you. For morality is a system of values. But all values are either intrinsic or else relative to an already accepted value – so intrinsic values must be agreed upon ‘arbitrarily.’

However, what is most important is, that I do not care about most of the things in which different cultures differ. I do not care, for instance, if a film decides to break into song partway through (as Indian films tend to do). The basic thing about which I care is about individual freedom: is everyone free to live their lives free from bullying?


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