Feb 19, 2024

Zurich43 Retreat 2024: Demarcation of Tolerance

In mid-February, the annual Z43 retreat was held at the Hotel Pilatus Kulm to discuss the timely topic of “Demarcation of Tolerance in Science, Society and the Individual” with the goal to better understand the importance and limitations of tolerance.

Tolerance – generally accepted as a fundamental principle that fosters harmony and understanding – permeates various facets of our world, including science, society, and individual perspectives. But what defines tolerance and how does its meaning differ across different contexts? What are the benefits of tolerance, and what are its challenges and limits? Is science tolerant?

This year, from February 15–16, 2024, we were (again) high up in the mountains, 2132 meters above sea level, at the Hotel Pilatus Kulm, to discuss exactly that.

Under the title "Demarcation of Tolerance in Science, Society and the Individual", the sessions were made up of the traditional book presentations, supplemented by scientific publications, internet research, and other sources. The retreat started with an overview of the history of tolerance and universal human rights, followed by an introduction to the neurobiological underpinnings of tolerance and potential implications. Then it was time to begin diving into details about science, society, and individuals with reviews of books, including Frank Furedi’s On Tolerance, Oliver Neumann’s Wie lässt sich nach Karl R. Popper und Imre Lakatos die wissenschaftliche Methodologie kennzeichnen; und welche Kritik übt Paul Feyerabend an beiden Positionen?, Anne Philips’s Multiculturalism without Culture, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s Nathan der Weise, Michael Sandel’s The Tyranny of Merit, and Paul Bloom’s Against Empathy.

In society, tolerance is often revered as the cornerstone of peaceful coexistence, a way if promoting respect for cultural differences in beliefs and identities. On an individual level, tolerance signifies an open-minded approach that embraces diversity and promotes empathy. Over the course of the 2 days, however, it became clear that topic is much more complex, in particular as thresholds for tolerance and intolerance vary from person to person and cannot simply be categorized as black and white concepts.

The presentations were complemented by brainstorming sessions and self-reflection on the tolerance and culture practiced at Z43, stereotypes and misconceptions in the workplace and how tolerance could and should be promoted in our daily lives, recognizing situations where we may be too tolerant and should stand up for others, goals related to practicing tolerance in the future, and defining the pillars and boundaries of tolerance at Z43.

It is fair to say that the retreat left a lasting impression, not the least due to the sometimes provocative statements and lively discussions.

A big thank you to all participants for their hard work and contributions!

Participants of the Zurich43 Retreat 2024.