A Critique of Pure Tolerance
A Critique of Pure Tolerance is a 1965 book by the philosopher Robert Paul Wolff, the sociologist Barrington Moore Jr., and the philosopher Herbert Marcuse, in which the authors discuss the political role of tolerance. The book has been described as "peculiar" by commentators, and its authors have been criticized for advocating intolerance and the suppression of dissenting opinions.
Cover of the first edition
|Authors||Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore Jr., Herbert Marcuse|
Freedom of speech
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
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The book includes a foreword jointly written by its authors, and three other contributions, "Beyond Tolerance" by Robert Paul Wolff, "Tolerance and the Scientific Outlook" by Barrington Moore Jr., and "Repressive Tolerance", by Herbert Marcuse.
The authors explain that the book's title refers to the philosopher Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1781), and suggest that their ideas may resemble those of Kant. They note that they have different perspectives on philosophy, with Wolff accepting, and Marcuse opposing, the approach of analytic philosophy, and Moore being critical of philosophy in general. They write that the purpose of the book is to discuss the political role of tolerance and that despite their disagreements with each other they believe that "the prevailing theory and practice of tolerance" is hypocritical and conceals "appalling political realities."
Marcuse argues that "the realization of the objective of tolerance" requires "intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed." He makes the case for "liberating tolerance", which would consist of intolerance to right-wing movements and toleration of left-wing movements.
A Critique of Pure Tolerance received a negative review from the sociologist Nathan Glazer in the American Sociological Review. The book was also reviewed by the philosopher John Herman Randall Jr. in The Journal of Philosophy and L. Del Grosso Destreri in Studi di Sociologia.
Glazer described the book as "peculiar". He credited Marcuse with being open in his advocacy of intolerance, but accused Wolff of being incapable of distinguishing "facts from theory" in his criticisms of tolerance and pluralist democracy. He disagreed with Wolff's view that "The application of the theory of pluralism always favors the groups in existence against those in formation", maintaining that it was contradicted by many historical examples, including the civil rights movement of the 1950s, and described his views as "politically naive." He accused Moore of advocating violence, and wrote that Marcuse appeared to support measures such as breaking up meetings and destroying the literature of his opponents. He considered it fortunate that "the means by which he might impose his opinions are not terribly impressive."
In 1970, the philosopher Maurice Cranston called A Critique of Pure Tolerance Marcuse's most popular and disturbing work to date. Cranston commented that it was published, "in a peculiar format, bound in black like a prayer book or missal and perhaps designed to compete with The Thoughts of Chairman Mao as devotional reading at student sit-ins." The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre argued that Marcuse's theory of the right of revolutionary minorities to suppress opinions is both false and could potentially become "an effective barrier to any rational progress and liberation". He accused Marcuse of having "taken over from liberal and right-wing critics of the European revolutionary tradition a theory which they falsely ascribed to the left, but which was rarely held until Marcuse espoused it." Against Marcuse, he argued that the proper end of tolerance is not truth but rationality, and that Marcuse's proposals undermined the possibility of rationality and critical discussion. He stated that Marcuse's case against tolerance made those radicals who espouse it "allies of the very forces which they claim to attack." The political scientist Ronald Bayer identified Marcuse's arguments about "repressive tolerance" as an influence on gay rights activists, who disrupted lectures by psychiatrists and refused to tolerate the views of their opponents as they campaigned for homosexuality to be declassified as a mental disorder.
- Wolff, Moore & Marcuse 1969, pp. v–vi.
- Wolff 1969, pp. 3–52.
- Moore 1969, pp. 53–79.
- Marcuse 1969, pp. 81–123.
- Marcuse 1969, pp. 109-111.
- Wolff, Moore & Marcuse 1969, p. ii.
- Glazer 1966, pp. 419–420.
- Randall 1966, pp. 457–465.
- Del Grosso Destreri 1968, pp. 99–101.
- Cranston 1970, p. 87.
- MacIntyre 1970, pp. 89–91.
- Bayer 1987, pp. 98–99, 227.
- Bayer, Ronald (1987). Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02837-0.
- Cranston, Maurice (1970). "Foreword". In Cranston, Maurice (ed.). The New Left. London: The Bodley Head. ISBN 0370003977.
- MacIntyre, Alasdair (1970). Marcuse. London: Fontana.
- Marcuse, Herbert (1969). "Repressive Tolerance". A Critique of Pure Tolerance. Boston: Beacon Press.
- Moore, Barrington (1969). "Tolerance and the Scientific Outlook". A Critique of Pure Tolerance. Boston: Beacon Press.
- Wolff, Robert Paul (1969). "Beyond Tolerance". A Critique of Pure Tolerance. Boston: Beacon Press.
- Wolff, Robert Paul; Moore, Barrington; Marcuse, Herbert (1969). "Foreword". A Critique of Pure Tolerance. Boston: Beacon Press.
- Del Grosso Destreri, L. (1968). "Review of A Critique of Pure Tolerance". Studi di Sociologia. 6 (1).
- Glazer, Nathan (1966). "Review of A Critique of Pure Tolerance". American Sociological Review. 31 (3).
- Randall, John Herman (1966). "Review of A Critique of Pure Tolerance". The Journal of Philosophy. 63 (16): 457–465. doi:10.2307/2024137.