Toleration and the Challenges to Liberalism

September 11, 2017 - September 13, 2017

United Kingdom

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Johannes Drerup
University of Koblenz-Landau
Gottfried Schweiger
University of Salzburg

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Toleration is among the most pivotal and the most contested liberal values and virtues. Debates about the conceptual scope, justification, and political role of toleration are accordingly closely aligned with historical and contemporary philosophical controversies on the foundations of liberalism. Since there is neither a canonical understanding of toleration nor of liberalism in contemporary political theory, the precise role of toleration in liberalism and the nature of a distinctively liberal conception of toleration, however, remain disputed. Despite this diversity of approaches, many aspects of competing conceptions of toleration and of liberalism seem to share the same conceptual and normative structure and thus face similar theoretical and political challenges. The normative limits of toleration, for instance, usually also constitute the limits of liberalism (and vice versa). Justifications of these limits result in similar paradoxes (e.g., paradox of liberalism; paradox of drawing the limits of toleration; foundational paradox of toleration) and tend to evoke related criticisms (critiques of `illiberal´ forms of liberalism or `non-tolerant´ theories of toleration etc.). Moreover, both liberalism and toleration are ideas and ideals brought forward to enable and regulate civilised political disagreement and conflict, while they are at the same time also the objects and sources of disagreement and conflict. As allied and deeply ambivalent ideas, they constitute responses to the fact of pluralism and simultaneously reflect this pluralism in terms of a diversity of competing conceptions and justifications.

Following up on the 2015 workshop (The Politics and Ethics of Toleration), this workshop aims to shed light on the nexus between different versions of liberalism (e.g., political liberal; liberal perfectionist) and toleration (e.g., respect conception) by focussing on their shared theoretical and political challenges. We welcome contributions from the standpoint of ideal and non-ideal theory on issues such as the following:

  • historical controversies on the relation between liberalism and toleration (e.g., Augustinus, Bayle, Locke, Voltaire, Mill, Humboldt)
  • contemporary challenges to liberalism and toleration in different cultural and societal contexts (e.g., the rise of right-wing populism as decidedly anti-pluralistic doctrines across the European Union and in the United States; the Hindutva Movement in India)
  • the relation between liberalism and intolerant and/or illiberal groups
  • universalist vs. particularist justifications of liberal toleration/ liberal toleration and human rights
  • critiques of liberal conceptions of toleration (e.g., power-theoretical critiques; critiques of repressive tolerance; postcolonial critiques; communitarian critiques; republican critiques)
  • competing conceptions of pluralism and their relation to liberalism and toleration
  • religious toleration and liberalism
  • the relation between democracy/democratic citizenship, liberalism, and toleration
  • multiculturalism, liberalism, and the toleration of groups and within groups
  • liberal justifications of education and of education to tolerance
  • toleration, liberalism, and identity politics
  • modus vivendi, liberalism, toleration, and moral progress
  • the role of facts and a commitment to truth in theories of toleration and in liberal approaches to politics
  • toleration, liberalism, and state neutrality
  • the place of autonomy and/or liberty in liberal conceptions of toleration
  • liberalism, toleration, and political emotions
  • applied issues (e.g., debates about sex education, headscarf debates, debates about migration)

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July 25, 2017, 5:00am BST

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