Three Versions of Liberal Tolerance: Dworkin, Rawls, Raz

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The idea that the exercise of state power should be limited so as to permit free choice in matters of personal conduct has been central to liberalism ever since John Stuart Mill defended the harm principle. However, this surface agreement conceals deeper disagreements. One disputed matter relates to the nature of the tolerant state: is it a state that refrains from improving our moral character by coercive means is it a state that takes no interest whatsoever in the moral character of our lives? A second matter relates to the philosophical justification of tolerance. Should it be justified by relying on distinctively liberal values, such as personal autonomy and self-determination? Or is a less controversial justification available — one that can be endorsed by non-liberals as well as liberals? This article explores these issues. It examines the views of Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls and Joseph Raz, arguing that Rawls?s version of liberalism provides both the best conception and the best justification of the liberal ideal of tolerance.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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  • Jurisprudence provides a forum for scholarly writing on the philosophy of law. While demanding the utmost intellectual honesty, clarity and scholarly rigour, its editorial policy is distinctively open-minded in relation to philosophical approach. A main purpose of the journal is to encourage scholarship which explores and transcends the categories and assumptions on which contemporary jurisprudential debates are conducted, and to stimulate reflection upon traditional questions concerning the nature of law, politics and society. The journal's unique reviews section will provide in-depth discussion and analysis of major developments in the field. Jurisprudence aims: " to encourage research exploring the relation between questions in the philosophy of law and debates in related branches of philosophy, including but not limited to political philosophy, moral philosophy, the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of mind; " to support study of the intellectual history of the philosophy of law, both for its own sake and in order to shed light on contemporary jurisprudential questions; " to encourage careful research illuminating relations between jurisprudential questions and theoretical debates in anthropology, sociology, cultural and literary studies. Replies and correspondence pieces will be generally discouraged, although may be acceptable if the intention is to deepen and extend an original line of thought, and not merely to reiterate or amplify an earlier argument.

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