Volume 11, 2001
Social and Political Philosophy
Jonathan L. Gorman
Justice and Toleration
A Western Perspective on Philosophy and Social Justice
Are there independent standards of justice by which we are to measure our activities, or is justice itself to be understood in relativistic terms that vary with locality or historical period? I wish to examine briefly how far two inconsistent positions can both be accepted. I suggest that perhaps our ordinary understanding of reality itself—and in particular political reality—is essentially the outcome of a time of contest, and that there are areas of political reality where matters may be best seen as still being contested. I thus question the need for a single internally consistent point of view, as if it alone were the answer to any particular political problem, and propose that a shared belief that reality is inconsistent may be a viable solution. Using the political scenario of Northern Ireland, I argue that justice requires the deliberate and institutionalised toleration of inconsistent views of the world.