Montaigne: The embodiment of identity as grounds for toleration

Res Publica 7 (3):247-271 (2001)
One of the most important issues today is the conflict between identity groups. Can the concept of toleration provide resources for thinking about this? The standard definition of toleration – rejection or disapproval of a practice or belief followed by a constraint of oneself from repressing it –has limits. If we seek to make political and social conditions of toleration among diverse people a stable reality, we need to flesh out more deeply and widely what that depends upon. The essence to which it has been reduced was not toleration’s original impulse. In the sixteenth century, the objective was to create conditions of peaceful collective life among diverse groups of believers. I examine one strand of change in moral valuation underpinning political toleration: ideas about the body, time and the self as explored by Michel de Montaigne. We can extract from this analysis a way to think about grounding toleration today: a recognition of the value of particular, embodied selves.
Keywords Montaigne  body  self and identity  time  toleration
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