How can "tolerate" not be considered a propositional attitude?


How can tolerate not be considered a propositional attitude? That is the question that has plagued me the last few days. This follows a graduate workshop in which another student put forth the argument. The reason provided was that "to tolerate" is not directed at the proposition like "to believe" since sometimes one is not tolerating the proposition but another object (e.g., oneself). So, it is a semi-propositional attitude. I am not satisfied with this idea. For, fear could be viewed the same way. Has anyone else heard this argument expressed? If so, can you clarify the grounds on which it is made? Or, can we just dismiss it?


Posted 2014-08-17T21:52:04.470

Reputation: 568

2A propositional attitude is per definitionem a mental state held toward a proposition. Still, I can accept or tolerate a person's behavior just like I can a proposition. Why would it be a problem that attitudes can target something other than a proposition? Can you explain your worry a bit more? – DBK – 2014-08-17T22:06:22.890

I can't as I find the argument absurd. I just wanted to make sure that I was not alone. :) But, to clarify, it is not tolerating someone's behavior (ex. I tolerate the baby crying) that was the issue. For example, consider, "I tolerate that I have no money." The argument is made for cases such as " I tolerate that it I have no money." In this case, it is argued that it is not the proposition in the sentence that is tolerated but rather the proposition "that you took all of my money" (assuming that you took it from me). Or, so it is claimed. – user155194 – 2014-08-17T22:17:17.833

I still don't understand, sorry. How is this an example related to your question? Your question involves cases where "one is not tolerating the proposition but another object". In your example it seems all parties agree that there's a clearly propositional attitude, but you disagree wrt to which proposition the attitude is directed at, right? – DBK – 2014-08-17T22:29:16.727

1In this case, the other party did not accept that there was a determinate proposition because it is indeterminate which proposition the attitude is directed at (the person tolerating might not even know). And, it was argued, this is not just an epistemic deficiency. It is an ontological one. Which leads to irrealism about the existence of propositions. So, in this case, there are no grounds on which we can claim there to be a propositional attitude. – user155194 – 2014-08-17T22:47:07.297

1Surely a propositional attitude must be an attitude relating to the truth of the proposition, eg "hope that" "deny" or "believe", but you don't tolerate a proposition; "tolerate that" is always ungrammatical. The example "I tolerate that I have no money" doesn't make sense - either "I tolerate my lack of money" or "I reluctantly accept that I have no money". You can tolerate a situation or behaviour referred to in a proposition, or you can tolerate someone who asserts the proposition, but you don't tolerate the proposition itself. Tolerance is not an epistemological attitude at all. – AndrewC – 2014-08-17T23:54:45.667

Correct uses of "tolerate" can be replaced with "put up with", so "I put up with my lack of money" is fine, but "I put up with that I have no money" is ungrammatical. – AndrewC – 2014-08-18T00:09:26.147

But being ungrammatical is not a criteria for exclusion - at least from the philosophy of mind literature. It is generally accepted that we can accept linguistic awkwardness to quote "Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy" in such cases, no? – user155194 – 2014-08-18T00:44:58.540

@user155194, it seems like English isn't your first language which is fine. Being tolerant generally refers to finding something abhorrent on moral grounds but thinking it should not be prohibited due to other values. Can you explain how this would work as a propositional attitude? I'm not quite seeing it just from what you have written and the comments. – virmaior – 2014-08-18T08:19:17.313

@virmaior Well, that's not my understanding of tolerance. One common definition is "tolerance is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own." Thus, it is an attitude toward something. – user155194 – 2014-08-18T11:06:27.817

@AndrewC Per previous quote, the definition that I am using above makes no reference to "put up with." Do you happen have a source for your position? If so, it might be helpful. – user155194 – 2014-08-18T11:14:09.157

Okay can you fix the English in your question then? There's several sentences with errors and a few fragments. – virmaior – 2014-08-18T12:12:18.483

@user155194 Your definition excludes all but people from being the object of tolerance. It is an attitude or behaviour towards something certainly, but not towards a proposition. If you want a source, we can defer to the OED; "put up with" is listed as a synonym in the OED, along with many more that cannot be grammatically followed by the word "that". – AndrewC – 2014-08-18T13:14:25.580

@AndrewC Yes, but the OED also lists the following synonym for fear: "to be afraid of (someone or something)." It would be more than a little awkward to say "to be afraid of that you are here." That said, "fear" is widely regarded as a propositional attitude. – user155194 – 2014-08-18T15:16:35.160

@virmaior I am far more interested in the substantive discussion about the question. Since this is a forum not a journal, I am not sure that we need to maintain such high standards. For, if we did, then we would have to attend to your punctuation after "OK" as well. :) That said, I will try to be more careful in the future. – user155194 – 2014-08-18T15:22:13.203

@AndrewC Furthermore, how does one differentiate between "I fear that you hate me" and "I tolerate that you hate me" then? Are the two not attitudes toward the same proposition? If not, could you clarify the difference? Is "fear" not a propositional attitude in this case? Thanks! – user155194 – 2014-08-18T15:29:32.073

@AndrewC Per your other point, you are right with respect to the definition provided. However, from my perspective, it would seem that tolerance could also be defined as "a permissive attitude toward beliefs, opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., that differ from one's own." Thoughts? – user155194 – 2014-08-18T15:36:39.527

Okay, looking at what you're saying substantively, I agree its complete nonsense on the normal understanding of propositional attitudes. I can, however, imagine some sort of pomo thing where something thinks that all of our propositional attitudes are really feelings towards propositions guised as propositional attitudes. E.g., "I believe there is no God" = I hate God. OR "I believe there are aliens out there somewhere" = the thought of aliens makes happy. In that case, "tolerate" would seem to be "I accept it is true but I hate it". I don't buy it, but that's something that crossed my mind. – virmaior – 2014-08-18T15:53:48.060

It's simple: "I fear that" and "I'm afraid that" are grammatical and "I tolerate that" is not. (When you say "I fear that you hate me" the meaning of the word fear is usually taken to mean uncertainty and worry, as opposed to the usual strong emotional meaning.) – AndrewC – 2014-08-19T10:30:53.530

You say it would seem that tolerance could also be defined as "a permissive attitude toward beliefs, opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., that differ from one's own.". I'm afraid if you choose to redefine words simply to suit your argument, there's no sense discussing it. What about defining tolerance as "a grumpy attitude towards propositions or cheeses"? – AndrewC – 2014-08-19T10:52:19.033

If I love chocolate ice-cream then I can't tolerate it ! Because if I have to tolerate some of it's qualities THEN how can I love it? – user128932 – 2014-08-28T06:21:33.400

No answers