The almost exclusive emphasis on moral obligation in ethical theory and teaching catastrophically misplaces what is important for everyday ethical decision-making. In practical contexts, people need to make correct judgements not only about what is right and wrong, but also about how to respond to perceived wrongdoing—in particular, whether to sanction it or tolerate it. Far from questions of toleration being confined to inter-religious or cross-cultural niches, ordinary people are faced every day with myriad instances of wrongdoing that invite, and sometimes demand, response. Yet morally appropriate responses in such situations require the consideration of a distinct set of ethical and epistemic factors—factors capable of distinguishing the ‘merely wrong’ from the ‘morally intolerable’, with the latter category licencing the attribution of blame and the use of social sanctions. A lack of attention to this distinction and its importance can set the stage for wrongful intolerance, and the serious injustices and fraught consequences that it engenders. (Joint work with Graham Wood)

Speaker: Dr Hugh Breakey

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