The Epistemic Justification for Tolerance

  • Joshua C. ThurowEmail author
Living reference work entry


Epistemic arguments for tolerance aim to show that intolerance has various bad epistemic consequences, whereas tolerance enables various positive epistemic consequences. The epistemic consequences at stake here are epistemic values – things or states that are valuable from an epistemic perspective, a perspective having to do with knowledge, truth, understanding, and the like. John Stuart Mill’s defense of free speech in On Liberty is a paradigm example of an epistemic argument and his argument is still widely accepted and defended today. He argues that intolerance prevents us from discovering our errors, decreases understanding, and discourages intellectual curiosity, courage, and boldness. More recently, Jonathan Rauch defends an epistemic argument according to which tolerance is a necessary ingredient of liberal science, which is our most successful method for finding truth. However, detractors have argued that often tolerance itself either does not produce epistemic value or has negative epistemic consequences. People sometimes irrationally inflate the evidence, producers and consumers of information often have other than epistemic goals that can encourage the spread of false beliefs, and the structure of networks of testifiers can be exploited to spread false beliefs. Some measure of intolerance – such as what Goldman calls content-related restrictions – might have positive epistemic consequences for society. The extent and effectiveness of such restrictions, as well as how they would relate to the full range of epistemic values both individual and collective, remains an underexplored topic.


John Stuart Mill Epistemic argument for tolerance Veritistic social epistemology Epistemic value Epistemic virtue Virtue of tolerance Marketplace of ideas Fake news Understanding Liberal science Free speech 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Mitja Sardoč
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Educational Research InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.Faculty of the Social SciencesUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

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