Rainer Forst's Toleration in Conflict (published in English 2013) is
the most important historical and philosophical analysis of toleration of the
past several decades. Reconstructing the entire history of the concept, it
provides a forceful account of the tensions and dilemmas that pervade the
discourse of toleration. In his lead essay for this volume, Forst revisits his
work on toleration and situates it in relation to both the concept of political
liberty and his wider project of a critical theory of justification.
Interlocutors Teresa M. Bejan, Chandran Kukathas, John Horton, Daniel Weinstock,
Melissa S. Williams, Patchen Markell and David Owen then critically examine
Forst's reconstruction of toleration, his account of political liberty and
the form of critical theory that he articulates in his work on such political
concepts. The volume concludes with Forst’s reply to his critics.
Rainer Forst begins his lead essay by discussing the concept of toleration.
He asserts that toleration involves three components – objection,
acceptance and rejection – and that its task is to bring
these components into the correct normative order. He then identifies two
different conceptions of toleration that have been advanced in the past: the
permission conception, an authoritarian attitude which grants
minorities the permission to live according to their faith, and the
respect conception, an attitude of citizens who know that they do
not agree with each other, but who accept that institutions must be based on
norms which can be shared by all. While it is tempting to believe that today
we follow the respect conception, in reality the permission conception is
still regularly employed. Negotiating these different conceptions requires a
normative principle beyond toleration; Forst proposes that this principle
should be justice. The central connection between justice and
toleration, he argues, consists in the following question: Does my objection
to a practice rest on reasons that do not merely reflect my ethical or
religious position that others do not share, but on reasons that are
sufficient to proceed to rejection? Forst concludes by arguing that if we
want to talk about genuine progress in toleration, the central question is
how to develop a secular moral language in which those affected can present
and discuss their claims – and in which there is a willingness also to treat
minorities as equals.
In contemporary debates about the idea and the problems of a multicultural society the concept of toleration plays a major but by no means clear and uncontested role. This chapter distinguishes between a general concept and various more specific conceptions of toleration. It shows that the concept of toleration is marked by two paradoxes. The first paradox consists in the problem of how it can be morally right to tolerate what is morally wrong. The second paradox says that toleration, as soon as its limits are defined by a certain content, becomes intolerant toward those 'outside'. The chapter argues that that toleration is a virtue of justice and a demand of reason. It outlines four paradigmatic conceptions of toleration such as permission conception, co-existence conception, respect conception and esteem conception.