On consensus vs convergence justification of tolerance

Résumé (en) :

Tolerance can be seen as both a political principle and an individual attitude, and its justification can be made from consensual universalist reasons or by a convergence of different particularist reasons. In this paper, I argue that a consensus justification is not sufficient for a tolerant society and that convergent justifications provide ground for the personal attitude and the political principle.

One goal of contractualist theories is to justify the coercive power of the State: « The great social contract theorists – Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant – all held that for a political order to be legitimate it had to be agreed upon by or justified for each person. » (Vallier and D’Agostino 2014) Following this tradition, Rawls maintains that the basic principles of justice, on which the society is based, are justified because rational persons (idealized through the veil of ignorance) would all accept them. Their justification comes from the fact that they make consensus. As a principle of tolerance « it seems that equal liberty of conscience is the only principle that the persons in the original position can acknowledge. » (Rawls 1999, 181) Ignoring the group to which they belong, individuals in the original position cannot take the risk to be in a position where they cannot act as their conscience dictates. They will thus all recognize equal liberty of conscience for every group. Particularities of individuals and their beliefs are here not relevant for the justification of tolerance.

The political principle alone is not sufficient for a tolerant society, we also need tolerant individuals (Dilhac 2014, 14). Tolerant individuals actualize the principle of tolerance, but they need not to abide by it because they accept the universal justification. Indeed, individuals can have personal reasons that are not necessarily the same reasons that are invoked in universal approaches such as Rawls’s. Nevertheless, they still can be valid and effective. Furthermore, I suggest that reasons that come from one’s own worldview, personal opinions or convictions can provide a stronger ethical motivation that an abstract universal justification that engages only a small part of a person’s identity. Finally, on this justification by convergence view, each particular justification would provide sufficient ground for its actualization for the concerned individual(s).

Ce contenu a été mis à jour le 12 juin 2017 à 14 h 24 min.