RECON Online Working Paper 2010/15

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Two Stories about Toleration



Rainer Forst (Johann Wolfgang Goethe University)



In current social conflicts in European societies such as the ones concerning the crucifix in classrooms or the foulard or the burka worn in public, toleration is a concept claimed by all involved. The paper uncovers the historical and conceptual reasons for such ambivalence about the notion of toleration. It starts from a conceptual analysis and then reconstructs two stories about toleration which lead to two different conceptions of it – the hierarchical permission conception and the democratic respect conception. The paper applies these to current conflicts and argues for an understanding of toleration based on a certain form of mutual respect despite deep ethical disagreement.


Bayle – Critical Theory – Democracy – Diversity/homogeneity – Locke – Permission Conception – Respect Conception – Right to Justification – Normative Political Theory – Toleration

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