Locke's political arguments for toleration

History of Political Thought 19 (2):167-185 (1998)
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This paper argues for a new perspective on Locke's account of toleration by looking at a set of important but neglected arguments for toleration. Standard accounts which view Lockean toleration as justified solely on considerations of conscience fail to explain Locke's preferred form of toleration, the process by which he overcame his earlier objections to toleration, and the importance of considerations regarding the practicability of religious toleration. The paper argues that attention to Locke's political arguments provides a more complete account of his toleration, which integrates his views on toleration with his wider political theory. These political arguments arise from, and are intimately related to this theory of consent and his epistemological views. The political arguments allow Locke to formulate a response to the then prevailing problematique of toleration exemplified by Samuel Parker's objections. These arguments not only establish toleration as a natural right, but also a necessary condition for maintaining legitimate political society. They also explain his intolerance of atheists and Catholics on grounds other than prejudice



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Sophie Chen
NanJing University

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