Tales of toleration
in Toleration, power and the right to justification
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John Horton begins his chapter by acknowledging Rainer Forst’s contribution to rewriting the history of toleration in the West, as well as the important conceptual work he has done by providing an account of the concept of toleration that is notable for its clarity and precision. Despite this, Horton raises questions about Forst’s approach. The weight of Forst’s argument depends on his principle of the right to justification and the robustness of the associated distinction between the moral and the ethical, i.e. between reasons that are general and shareable and those that are not. Despite being a frequently cited principle in contemporary political philosophy, this distinction is more problematic than most of its adherents acknowledge, since exclusive reliance on non-public reasons of the sort that run afoul of the requirements of generality and reciprocity is uncommon in real life. Horton then goes on to criticise the epistemological component of the right to justification, observing that the distinction between the moral and the ethical is difficult to sustain. These and other arguments undermine Forst’s claim to be able to resolve practical disputes about toleration, or at least demonstrate that he is only able to do so by importing controversial substantive content into the argument. Horton concludes that moral/political principles, no less than ethical beliefs, are radically underdetermined by the criteria of reciprocity and generality, and that appealing to reciprocity and generality in order to resolve disputes about toleration is no more than an act of faith.

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