Acquire some tolerance

“Is Relativism Good for Tolerance?” was another lecture given at the Humanities conference

By Jennifer Hughes

The Humanities Conference continued its third and final day with Humanities teacher Nadia Khouri answering the question: Is Relativism Good for Tolerance? in Conrod’s (2F.4) last Thursday.

“My answer is a definite no,” said Khouri, who teaches courses on philosophy and ethics. “I would say that it… [acts] against tolerance.”

“This discussion implies that tolerance can only be a value or a virtue if it’s backed by the right normative reasons. The key idea is that tolerance has no value in itself, but it does have a value when it is a normatively defendant concept. Its value must come from other normative resources, such as human rights, for example,” Khouri said.

At the conference Khouri discussed the positions defended by relativists, the definitions of culture, the question of human rights, and tolerance and its components.“Relativism, we are told, is a nonjudgmental tolerant approach to peaceful coexistence between people of different cultural practices and values,” said Khouri, “yet there are situations where relativism enters into strong conflicts with human rights. This puts our tolerance to the test.”

Khouri went on to speak of such topics as ethical subjectivism or individual relativism, ethical cultural relativism, routines, as well as the is-ought or naturalistic fallacy.

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“If we prefer that each culture’s moral standards are equally plausible and should therefore be recognized as the ultimate measure of morality for the culture’s conviction and commitments, logically we should have to regard such practices as violent antisemitism or a society’s belligerence against his neighbor’s for the purpose of taking slaves as being immune to criticism.”

Khouri concluded with the hope of having convinced students that group opinions and unexamined assumptions are not judgments at all. Sound ethical judgements must be based on sound good complete facts.

Khouri’s conference, “Is Relativism Good for Tolerance?” began at 10 a.m. and was followed by Eileen Manion’s, “If I Get Sick, Is It My Fault? Or Is It the System?” at 11 a.m.

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