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Toleration and Compassion: a Conceptual Comparison

Nehushtan, Yossi; Prince, Emily

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Emily Prince


This paper aims to explore a currently under-developed conceptual comparison between toleration and compassion. The paper clarifies the meaning of toleration and compassion, highlights a few misconceptions regarding both concepts, and describes the often overlooked differences and similarities between them. As to toleration, it entails making adverse judgement about another, having reasons to harm another, and not acting on those reasons. As to compassion, it entails witnessing the suffering of another and acting in order to alleviate this suffering. Building on these definitions, we find that both toleration and compassion can result from the same state of mind and be justified behind the ‘veil of ignorance’; both can result in the same behaviour – and be expressed simultaneously; both can be expressed by either acts or omissions; both can be exercised by the powerless; and both may be desirable under certain circumstances – yet both are not moral virtues, i.e. they are not inherently morally valuable.

Acceptance Date Dec 1, 2020
Publication Date Aug 31, 2021
Book Title Palgrave Handbook on Toleration
ISBN 978-3-030-42122-9
Publisher URL


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