Abstract Toleration is one of the fundamental principles that inform the design of a democratic and liberal society. Unfortunately, its adoption seems inconsistentw it the adoption of paternalistically benevolent policies, which represent a valuablemechanism to improve individuals’ well-being.
In this paper, I refer to this tensionas the dilemma of toleration. The dilemma is not new. It arises when an agent Awould like to be tolerant and respectful towards another agent B’s choices but, at thesame time, A is altruistically concerned that a particular course of action wouldharm, or at least not improve, B’s well-being, so A would also like to be helpful andseeks to ensure that B does not pursue such course of action, for B’s sake and evenagainst B’s consent. In the article, I clarify the speciﬁc nature of the dilemma andshow that several forms of paternalism, including those based on ethics by designand structural nudging , may not be suitable to resolve it. I then argue that one formof paternalism, based on pro-ethical design, can be compatible with toleration andhence with the respect for B’s choices, by operating only at the informational andnot at the structural level of a choice architecture. This provides a successful res-olution of the dilemma, showing that tolerant paternalism is not an oxymoron but aviable approach to the design of a democratic and liberal society.