Lifelong education or learning theory is presented by its apologists as a universal normative ethic. That ethic may be understood as an aretaic ethic, embracing a number of ethical values or informed commitments and a teleology of optimising universal human flourishing through learning. In an effort to examine possible barriers to the universality of that ethic, this paper explores its limits to the tolerance of difference. While those limits are suggested here to be objective in nature, they exclude nothing a priori , but are matters of skilled judgement and action, which is situationally contingent and evidenced in context‐specific differences. The limits of tolerance across the informed commitments are interdependent and vary in relative important across contexts. They do, nevertheless, make a real and important difference. Compatibility with contemporarily influential moral philosophies – as an indication of possible barriers to the universality of a lifelong learning ethic – suggests important differences with utilitarianism, authoritarianism and situationism, but limited compatibility with deontological ethics, egoism, communitarianism and an ethic of care. Lifelong learning could be embraced by cultural realities strongly informed by the former moral philosophies only in an ethically impoverished form. Individuals who are committed or subject to such cultural realities will be excluded or marginalised from full participation in lifelong learning.