The conditions of tolerance
The philosophical tradition of liberal political thought has come to see tolerance as a crucial element of a liberal political order. However, while much has been made of the value of toleration, little work has been done on individual-level motivations for tolerant behavior. In this article, we seek to develop an account of the rational motivations for toleration and of where the limits of toleration lie. We first present a very simple model of rational motivations for toleration. Key to this model is an application of David Ricardoâ€™s model of trade to thinking about toleration. This model supports the claim that we always have reasons to be as tolerant as possible. We then explore why we do not always see tolerant attitudes in the actual world, and point to some potential preconditions for toleration that the initial model does not capture. Subsequently, we examine a more detailed model that allows us to investigate more carefully the conditions under which tolerant behavior can be rewarded. We conclude by arguing that a consideration of self-interested motivations for toleration is essential to the success of a robust theory of toleration for a diverse society, but that even this approach has its limitations.
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