Immanuel Kant on toleration
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 02:49 by Andrew McEwen Bain
This thesis provides an account of Kant’s views on toleration, derived from the exegesis of relevant sections of his corpus. It begins by systematically surveying all direct examples of toleration-language in Kant’s works, and analysing these with a view to articulating Kant’s understanding of toleration as it relates to both the moral and political spheres. The thesis then turns to consider how ideas of toleration are used more broadly in his work, in selected texts where explicit toleration-language does not appear but where toleration does figure conceptually or indirectly. Other contemporary readings of Kant on toleration are then evaluated in light of the conclusions reached. Although it is a study of toleration-terminology and related conceptual thinking across all of Kant’s corpus, the thesis primarily concentrates on works produced within the context of the political turmoil in the aftermath of the French Revolution, specifically Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, The Metaphysics of Morals, and Toward Perpetual Peace, alongside with his earlier (1784) essay What is Enlightenment? The thesis argues that it is possible to identify in Kant a constructive concept of toleration, while proposing that any reading of Kant on toleration should be the result of a more systematic and comprehensive study of toleration in his works than some other recent reconstructions in the contemporary literature. It will be suggested that for Kant toleration functions to support and facilitate both personal-moral and political progress along Kantian lines, even though Kant’s conception of toleration contains significant limitations. These conclusions emerge more clearly from some of the works studied than others, but nonetheless are argued to be present in a number of Kant’s writings of the 1780s and 1790s in relation to a variety of moral and political questions.