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Volume 34 Issue 4 (July 2003), Pages 387-538

Relativism, Absolutism, and Tolerance (pages 447-459)

Abstract: A common view is that relativism requires tolerance. We argue that there is no deductive relation between relativism and tolerance, but also that relativism is not incompatible with tolerance. Next we note that there is no standard inductive relation between relativism and tolerance—no inductive enumeration, argument to the best explanation, or causal argument links the two. Two inductive arguments of a different sort that link them are then exposed and criticized at length. The first considers relativism from the objective point of view ‘of the universe’, the second from the subjective point of view of the relativist herself. Both arguments fail. There is similarly no deductive relation between absolutism and tolerance—neither entails the other—and no inductive connection of any sort links the two. We conclude that tolerance, whether unlimited or restricted, is independent of both relativism and absolutism. A metaethical theory that says only that there is one true or valid ethical code, or that there is a plurality of equally true or valid ethical codes, tells us nothing about whether we should be tolerant, much less how tolerant we should be.

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