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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S061-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

Toleration emerged as an important idea in the seventeenth century, receiving its fullest defence in John Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689). Initially developed in the context of attempts to restore peace in a Europe convulsed by religious conflicts, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it came to be extended to the accommodation of disputes about racial, sexual and social differences. Toleration is widely thought to be an essential element of a free society, especially one marked by moral and cultural pluralism, and it figures particularly prominently in the political theory of liberalism.

The paradigm example of toleration is the deliberate decision to refrain from prohibiting, hindering or otherwise coercively interfering with conduct of which one disapproves, although one has the power to do so. The principal components of the concept of toleration are: a tolerating subject and a tolerated subject (either may be an individual, group, organization or institution); an action, belief or practice which is the object of toleration; a negative attitude (dislike or moral disapproval) on the part of tolerator toward the object of toleration; and a significant degree of restraint in acting against it.

Philosophical arguments have mostly concerned: the range of toleration (what things should or should not be tolerated?); the degree of restraint required by toleration (what forms of opposition are consistent with toleration?); and, most importantly, the justification of toleration (why should some things be tolerated?).

Citing this article:
Horton, John. Toleration, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S061-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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