Maybe natural law doesn't spell the end of democracy, but surely it spells the end of tolerance.

What do you mean?

Just what I said.  If there really is a natural moral law, then tolerance goes out the window.

You think everyone ought to be tolerant, is that it?

Yes.  And so do you -- or you ought to.  And you know it.

I do.  But consider.  You've just said that the duty of tolerance is both right for all, and known, or at least knowable, to all.  But to say that is to call it a natural law.

Trivially, yes.  But for all I know, it's the only one.

It can't be the only one.  Consider again.  You don't think we should tolerate everything, do you?

No, I suppose not.

But without the rest of morality, how do you know what should be tolerated and what shouldn't be?

But if we should only tolerate what is morally right, then the virtue of tolerance is redundant.

I didn't say we should tolerate only what's morally right.

Pardon me, but you did.  You said that the measure of what should be tolerated is the moral law.

That doesn't mean we should tolerate only what's morally right.  Some moral wrongs must be tolerated because suppressing them would require further moral wrongs.  Wrong does not become right just because it is committed to prevent a wrong.

Give me an example.

Here is an old, old example from the days when the Christian faith was supported by the state.  No parents, it was argued, should refuse to let their children be baptized.  The question arose whether the children of obstinate parents should be baptized against their parents' wills.  But the answer was no.  Doing so would violate the natural authority of parents to teach their children, which is itself ordained by God in the natural law.  The wrong of parental obstinacy was tolerated because suppressing it would require moral wrong on the part of official busybodies.

You're insufferable.  Even your tolerance is moralistic.

In a sense, certainly.  But you are a moralist, too.  You became one the moment you said that one ought to practice tolerance.

But the other party may disagree with your morality. 

Of course, but I can't help that.  Any way of deciding what to tolerate is some way of deciding what to tolerate.  The other party may disagree with yours.

No.  Tolerance requires being fair to both moral views.

What if the two sides have different views of fairness?  To be fair to different views of fairness you have to implement some view of fairness.

No.  Fairness requires moral neutrality.

What do you mean by moral neutrality?

I mean suspending moral judgment.

If you really suspended moral judgment, you couldn't judge what to tolerate.  You couldn't even judge whether to tolerate.  Tolerance requires practicing moral judgment, not suspending it.

I don't mean suspending moral judgment.  I mean giving equal standing to every moral point of view.

That merely gives higher standing to the opinion that morals are relative to point of view.

I don't mean giving equal standing to every moral point of view.  I mean seeking moral common ground.

I believe in the moral common ground too, but there is only one moral common ground, and that is the natural law itself -- common by virtue of our shared human nature.  What you mean by common ground is something different.  You want a way of making a decision without taking sides.  That's impossible.

Of course it's possible to suspend judgment.  The tolerant solution to the abortion controversy, for example, is that the state should refuse to take sides, letting people make up their own minds.

What you call letting people make up their own minds about the issue is taking sides on the issue.  You are siding with those who want the killing to be permitted, against those who want it to be forbidden.

But I'm neither pro-abortion nor anti-abortion.  I'm pro-choice.

The cause of legalized abortion is no more "pro-choice" than the cause of legalized slavery.  Although it facilitates certain choices, it makes others impossible.  To "choose" to abort the child is to deny him the choice to live, and to "choose" to legalize killing him is to deny his defenders the choice to protect him by law.  The issue is not whether to allow a choice, but which choices to allow.

I still think your approach is authoritarian.

The only thing authoritarian in these debates is your so-called neutrality.

How could neutrality be authoritarian?

It is authoritarian because it is a facade.  Neutralism is a method of ramming a particular moral judgment into law by pretending that it is not a moral judgment.

A Dialogue on Natural Law, Part 9