A tolerant society would accept cultural practices that it finds offensive. Discuss. (30 marks)
‘Tolerance’ implies permitting objectionable cultural expressions – unless society found the expression offensive then accepting it would not be tolerance, just indifference. Tolerating offensive cultural expressions is required by any society that claims to value autonomy. Respecting a person’s autonomy/right to choose over-rides the objection to what they choose.
Tolerance of ‘offensive’ cultural expressions is inseparable from a society adopting a value-neutral stance on the governance of civil society.
Insofar as the overall benefits of freedom of thought, discussion and action outweigh the costs of offence, utility recommends society tolerate cultural expressions it finds offensive.
A limit to what is tolerable might be expressed in terms of harm. There may be some discussion of what harm is and/or of what should be included. Conservatives might argue that apparently self-regarding acts might undermine the moral fabric of society: radicals might be concerned that certain things are repressive and socially/psychologically damaging.
The notion of ‘offence’ is ambiguous: whether or not something merely offends or causes harm is debatable and there is no value-neutral viewpoint from which we can decide where to draw the line between offence and harm.
In multicultural societies there are bound to be differences amongst us. Tolerance should be recommended on the basis of minimising strife. Such pragmatism might be associated with conservative positions.
Cultural expressions that undermine the values tolerance is supposed to protect and promote should not be tolerated in a tolerant society. This might be linked to either the moral paradox or the problem of imposing a limit: does a tolerant culture undermine itself by not taking a stand against cultural expressions it finds offensive?
If offence is allowed to count as harm, then is...
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