Tolerance (from Latin tolerantia) is a quality that characterizes the relation to another person as an equidistant person and is expressed in the conscious suppression of a feeling of rejection caused by all that is different in the other (appearance, the manner of speech, tastes, lifestyle, beliefs ). Tolerance implies a willingness to understand and dialogue with others, recognizing and respecting their right to difference.
The Latin term “tolerantia” meant passive patience, the voluntary transfer of suffering, was associated with such concepts as “pain”, “evil.” In the 16th century, other meanings were added to this: “permission”, “restraint”. Since that time, tolerance has been interpreted as a concession on the issue of religious freedom – permission from the state and the official church to send other religious cults. Tolerance is historically the first and dominant form of manifestation of tolerance.
The most crucial period in its development as a socially vital principle was the era of the New Times when the problem of tolerance was solved in the form of an answer to two central questions: what are the principles of the coexistence of competing churches and what should be the interrelationships between secular and spiritual power. The primary means of achieving tolerance in the state was to limit the authority of the secular ruler to worldly concerns and also to deny the right to punish non-believers. The understanding of the problem of tolerance as the freedom of conscience of the believer was characteristic of the Reformers (M. Luther and his followers) and of the humanists who condemned the reform of the church undertaken by Luther (Erasmus of Rotterdam, T. Mor). Defending tolerance as a virtue and social good, thinkers of different epochs appealed to the moral arguments contained in the evangelical texts. During the period of confessional rivalry, for the establishment of a tolerance in society, it was suggested to forget dogmatic disagreements and remember the identity of the Christian moral doctrine, based on love for one’s neighbor, mercy, righteous life (S. Castellion, J. Böme, M. de Lospital).
The refusal of violence as an unacceptable means of familiarizing people with faith, and the emphasis on sincerity of beliefs, which is possible only on the condition of voluntary adherence to the community of believers, are the two main arguments in favor of tolerance, which persisted in 17 (B.Spinosa, R.Williams , J. Locke, and others), and in the 18th century (P. Beil, FM Volter, D. Diderot, GE Lessing, and others). The third argument, conditioned by the general tradition of all social philosophy of the 16th and 18th centuries, was the protection of a stable centralized state. Hence the inevitable interpretation of tolerance from political utilitarianism as a means of avoiding a greater evil-social instability, as well as all kinds of restrictions on the scope of this principle (M.Monteni, Locke, J.-J.Russo). A particular role in the theoretical comprehension and practical embodiment of the principle of tolerance belongs to the Age of Enlightenment, which proclaimed the freedom of conscience and speech. Thanks to enlighteners, mainly French, the notion of “tolerance” has become firmly embedded in the political dictionary.
In the 19th century, the problem of tolerance was further developed in liberal philosophy. In it, tolerance was understood as an expression of external and internal freedom, as an ability for a thoughtful choice between alternative points of view and ways of behavior. The variety of experience and opinions philosophers-liberals considered an indispensable condition forever more complete comprehension of truth, social progress. In continuation of this tradition, modern supporters of tolerance saw the prerequisite for the fruitfulness of scientific discussions, a means of mutual understanding of opponents. It is important to emphasize that tolerance for someone else’s point of view does not mean abandoning criticism or convictions. It means the recognition of pluralism. Especially, tolerance is needed in those areas where there is no precise criterion for assessing and proving the preferences of any views, principles or decisions (be it religious faith, moral belief, national traditions).
As an essential element of the culture of communication, tolerance is recognized today as a necessary condition for the social unification of people of different beliefs, cultural traditions, political beliefs. In this respect, it acts as the unity of the spontaneously negative perception of the other (rejection, condemnation) and positive action in its address (acceptance, assumption); Tolerant acceptance is not identical with indulgence towards another or forced reconciliation with the condemned phenomenon. Tolerance is the key moral principle of civil society. At the same time, experience shows that absolute tolerance opens the way to arbitrariness and violence; so under no circumstances should tolerance tolerate connivance towards evil, in particular, tolerance towards violations of the freedom and moral dignity of a person.