The virtue of tolerance is often considered as a key ingredient of democracy and stable world order. John Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) and Two Treaties of Civil Government (1690), and Baruch Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise (1670) testify to this connection, and define as a political ideal, the tolerant, secular, and democratic society.
Today, the virtue tolerance is the point of reference for both civil society and for many political forces. For instance, the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination is crucial to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 1995). As outlined in article 1.4 of the UN Declaration of Principles of Tolerance, (the virtue of) “tolerance means that one is free to adhere to one's own convictions and accept that others adhere to theirs”, and emphasizes the importance of acceptance and respect of diversity among citizens. Accordingly, at the state level, the virtue of tolerance is enshrined through legislation, international commitments, conventions and through social justice.
Unfortunately, social science does not provide a clear idea of toleration. In regard to theory, a large share of empirical research on toleration orients from intolerance (the dislike of outgroups) and so has also focused on the absence of negatives. A citizen without this dislike is considered tolerant by default. The properties that enable the virtue of tolerance remain unidentified. Furthermore, the measurements of toleration essentially capture dislike of out-groups but not the virtue of tolerance.
In order to observe and operationalize the virtue of tolerance, we need to identify the properties of which it consists. The overall research questions to be addressed in this thesis are the following: What is the nature of toleration? What are the consequences of the virtue of tolerance?