John Rawls on Toleration - Dictionary of Arguments
Tolerance/Toleration/Rawls: The characteristic feature of arguments for freedom of consciousness and thought is that they are based only on one concept of justice. Tolerance is not derived from practical necessities or reasons of state. Morality and religious freedom follow from the principle of equal freedoms for all. A limitation can only be justified by the fact that otherwise greater injustice or a loss of freedom would follow. Arguments for freedom are not derived from specific metaphysical or philosophical doctrines. Neither do they presuppose that all truths can be derived in a way that corresponds to the Common Sense, nor that everything in a definable sense is a logical construction of observable rational scientific studies.
It is actually appealed to the Common Sense, but without these further assumptions.
Tolerance/Locke/Rousseau/Th. Aquinas/Aquinas/Rawls: There is an important difference between Rousseau and Locke, who advocated for limited tolerance, and Thomas Aquinas and the Protestant reformers who did not(1)(2).
Locke and Rousseau limited freedom on the basis of what they considered to be clear and obvious consequences of public order. If Catholics and atheists could not be tolerated, it was because it seemed obvious that one could not rely on such people to abide by the limits of civil society.
RawlsVsLocke/RawlsVsRousseau: Perhaps a larger historical overview would have convinced the two of them that they were wrong.
Intolerance/Protestants/Th. Aquinas/Aquinas/Rawls: for Thomas and the Protestant reformers, the reasons for intolerance are rooted in belief itself. That is a crucial difference, then at this moment they can no longer be refuted with empirical arguments.
Intolerance/Rawls: must it be tolerated? For example, some political parties in democratic states would restrict constitutional freedoms if they had power. For example, there are people who hold positions at universities and at the same time reject intellectual freedoms. It might seem that tolerance towards them would be contrary to the principles of justice. We discuss this using the example of religious toleration:
Question: 1. would a religious sect have any reason to complain if it is not tolerated? Under what circumstances do tolerant sects have a reason not to tolerate other intolerant sects? 3. if they have this right, for what purpose should it be exercised?
Ad 1.: a person only has the right to complain if principles that he or she respects are violated. Otherwise, the person acts inconsistently. A problem may arise if a specific interpretation of a religious truth is to be extended to the community in its validity.
Ad. 2.: Tolerant sects have no right to suppress intolerant sects. On the basis of the principle of justice, they would have the right to complain about a violation of the principle of justice. Question: Does a threat to the security of tolerant sects justify an exception? This follows from the right to self-preservation accepted in the initial situation of a society to be established.
Ad. 3.: Basically, the stability of a well-ordered society is guaranteed by the two principles of justice (see Principles/Rawls). This stability also means that people trust that this prosperity is not immediately threatened by intolerant phenomena. An exception to this is a sect, which quickly becomes a threat.
(1) For Protestant reformers see J. E. E. D. Acton, "The Protestant Theory of Persecution" in The History of Freedom and Other Essay, London, 1907.
(2) For Locke see J. Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, incl. The Second Treatise of Government, ed. J. W. Gough, Oxford, 1946, pp. 156-158._____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
A Theory of Justice: Original Edition Oxford 2005