Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tolerance, apathy, last virtues of a dying society?

IF YOU ARE VISITING FROM FACEBOOK, I shall be adding thoughts periodically to the end of this blog. I have continued here because Facebook sometimes has a problem with to many posts to a single thread. Thanks!

Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society. Aristotle

I was suspicious of this quote when I encountered in in PLURK.

I began to search for it in google, and found over 5000 places where it was posted

I found my answer on

No, this looks like a classic example of fake attribution to add weight to a modern statement - in this case, an anti-liberal slogan circulating on the right-wing / religious web circuit.

It appears in a number of variants, such as "Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society", but a thorough look in Google Books finds nothing even like it in any works of Aristotle.

The "tolerance is the last virtue of a depraved society" version seems to be attributed to the modern evangelical minister D James Kennedy.


Kara asks:

Nevertheless, there does seem to be a problem with tolerance for its own sake... regardless of whose authority you source. wouldn't you agree?

Sitaram replies:

interesting question, ... I must give this some thought, much thought. I am not Muslim, but have been involved with some issues regarding Islam, and Qur'an and Hadith, which raise questions of tolerance, as well as issues of tolerance in the context of Hinduism and Buddhism, and of course, issues of tolerance in Judaism, and in ... Christianity, with the long history of eastern Orthodoxy, and then the split of 1054, and then the reformation of Luther, and the counter-reformation led by the Jesuits, and certain interesting things in Vatican II, such as the brief encyclical Nostra Aetatis, and then issues regarding toleration in the political arena,... Truman and the non-proliferation doctrine, starting with a Russian plot to sic Turkey on Greece... I must give much thought to this... (I am not trying to be cute by the way with this long Pauline like run on sentence, but am simply thinking out loud.

What suddenly pops to my mind is the interesting beliefs of the Zoroastrians..

Now, perhaps you are responding to the SECOND LINK by the pastor who actually is supposed to have originated the quote attributed to Aristotle. I must review that.. reread a few times. BUT, the Zoroastrians were most likely in power under King Darius during the time of the Babylonian captivity which undoubtedly had a tremendous influence upon ... Judaism. In fact the Book of Ezra, in the Old Testament, is the first book where the word Jew occurs, and the first book to describe a form of Jewish worship which resembles current Jewish practice as it evolved after the destruction of the Temple, and the disappearance of the Sadducee priestly influence, and the dominance of Pharisee scribal Talmudic Halakic with its stress upon Law (mitzvahs).
Back to the Zoroastrians, ... they believed that God created a religion for each tribe, and that one must respect different ways, but CONVERSION to Zoroastrian (Parsi) worship is even today strictly forbidden. One MUST be born into it. And the greatest sin

Now, IMHO, the Qur'an was influenced by Zoroastrian ideas to the extent that it claims Allah "sent messengers to every nation".. but it then argues that each nation or tribe somehow corrupted the message, and that now a great restoration would be necessary, by the "seal of the prophets" and his revelation. Their idea of tolerance is that "peoples ...of the Book" should be tolerated, if they chose to be subject to the Jizyah taxation, but that idolators and polytheists were NOT peoples of the book. We see a notion of tolerance in the Torah, with the Noabitic laws of Noah, after the ark and flood, stating "do not worship the STARS for THAT has been given unto the nations" (conceding that a difference was divinely ordained and to be tolerated. I think we should also look a bit and the writings of Thoreau, essay on Civil Disobedience (the first use of the term "human rights") And we must look at Locke and Hobbes and the development of notions of constitutional authority drawn from the people

I want to think a bit about the role of Tecumseh in uniting the great diversity of North American native tribes against the threat of the white man. Yes, indeed, there is a form of tolerance which is inspired by the threat of some common enemy. We must look at legislation which attempts to preserve minority interests and yet inact the will of the ... majority. And of course, we must find examples of people who advocated tolerance simply for the sake of being tolerant, and decide examples which were good, and examples which led to undesirable results... This may take some time for me...

The concept of tolerance is intricately entangled with the resolve that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" should become the justification for violent revolution and the creation of an independent sovereign government. There is the notion of what I might call INTERIOR TOLERANCE, in our own mind, namely, what we choose to tolerate in our heart, and why we would choose to tolerate. The essence of inner tolerance is what Viktor Frankl calls the final freedom, to choose ones own way of how one will regard their circumstances, even in a concentration camp. (and we may read about this in "Man's Search For Meaning." Then I would call "exterior tolerance" that we we choose to allow for the sake of things like freedom of speech, or freedom of (and from) religious belief.

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