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.
The idea of toleration as the appropriate response to difference has been central to liberal thought since Locke. Although the subject has been widely and variously explored, there has been reluctance to acknowledge the new meaning that current debates offer on toleration. This book starts from a clear recognition of the new terms of the debate, reflecting the capacity of seeing the other's viewpoint, and the limited extent to which toleration can be granted. Theoretical statements on toleration posit at the same time its necessity in democratic societies, and its impossibility as a coherent ideal. There are several possible objections to, and ways of developing the ideal of, reasonable tolerance as advocated by John Rawls and by some other supporters of political liberalism. The first part of the book explores some of them. In some real-life conflicts, it is unclear on whom the burden of reasonableness may fall. This part discusses the reasonableness of pluralism, and general concept and various more specific conceptions of toleration. The forces of progressive politics have been divided into two camps: redistribution and recognition. The second part of the book is an attempt to explore the internal coherence of such a transformation when applied to different contexts. It argues that openness to others in discourse, and their treatment as free and equal, is part of a kind of reflexive toleration that pertains to public communication in the deliberative context. Social ethos, religious discrimination and education are discussed in connection with tolerance.
of toleration. The need for toleration, and for an understanding both of the need for – and the limitations of – practices of toleration, is born after all in a context in which people not only disagree about how their common lives should be organised, but are willing to coerce others into seeing things their way, or at least into acting as if they did. Some of our most important theoretical treatments of toleration were born in contexts where philosophers were not just observing vigorous disagreement about justice or about the good life, but also the willingness
Toleration, justice and reason
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. For some, it is a desirable state of mutual respect or
esteem, while for others it is at best a pragmatic and at worst a repressive
relation between persons or groups.
In the following, I want to suggest an understanding of toleration that
both explains and avoids these ambiguities. First, I distinguish between a
I The promise and dialectics of toleration
We are not the first generation to live in societies marked by profound differences in forms of life and morals. For a long time, Christians in particular struggled with how to live together without seeing the actions of others as primarily the devil’s handiwork. Today, we can still gain an inkling of how extreme such conflicts could be when questions of abortion are discussed. But also controversies over same-sex marriage or the right to adopt for same-sex couples, circumcision on religious grounds, Islamic dress
Among the many significant contributions that Rainer Forst has made to political philosophy, his work on toleration has been amongst the most searching and original. Through a rich, detailed and sensitive excavation of the history of the theory (and, to a lesser extent, practice) of toleration, primarily in the West, he has developed a distinctive re-reading of that history, which then helps to shape what is a powerful philosophical and normative analysis of toleration. 1 Ultimately, if I have grasped his ambitions at all correctly, Forst seeks nothing less
Toleration and laïcité
France is an indivisible, laïque, democratic and social republic. It ensures equality of all citizens before the law with no distinction made on the basis of origin,
race or religion. It respects all beliefs.
(Article 2 of 1958 Constitution)
In September 1989, three schoolgirls wearing the traditional Muslim headscarf were barred from entering a school near Paris, and later expelled. The
headmaster claimed to be applying a long-established republican rule prohibiting religious symbols
Toleration and reasonableness
In the streets of a large city, people drive their cars for different reasons and
to different destinations. Because the roads are crowded and because these
different journeys cut across each other, with people going different ways
through various intersections, there is a potential problem. If two vehicles
pass through the same intersection at the same time, there may be a collision, and if there is, one or both of the drivers may fail to reach their destinations. (Indeed
Toleration and the character
This chapter addresses two influential ways of thinking about which
political principles we ought to adopt. The first way of thinking starts with
expectations about how persons ought to relate to one another in political
discourse. Political principles are justified by reference to these expectations.
The second way of thinking starts with certain values around which, it is
claimed, people ought to structure their lives. Political principles are then
Reflexive toleration in
a deliberative democracy
Any feasible ideal of democracy must face the unavoidable social fact that
the citizenry of a modern state is heterogeneous along a number of intersecting dimensions, including race, class, religion and culture. If that ideal
is also deliberative, and thus requires that citizens commit themselves to
making decisions according to reasons they believe are public, then such
diversity raises the possibility of deep and potentially irresolvable conflicts.