The Difficulty of Tolerance: Culture, Identity, Membership

T.M. Scanlon is Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity.
Photo: Harvard University

One source of intolerance lies in the concern that people have with what their society is going to be like: what its prevailing norms of conduct will be, and what forms of religion and what styles of life are regarded as “normal.” This concern leads people to object to the presence, especially the visible presence, in their society of people of other religions, and object to public recognition of homosexual relationships, because these threaten to change their Society in important ways. This source of intolerance presents a challenge, because concerns of this kind about the nature of one’s societies are, in themselves and within limits, both reasonable and unavoidable. Tolerance requires that we give everyone with whom we share a society (a “social space“) the ability to influence what that shared space will be like. This raises several problems: Why should we grant others the right to this influence, and to whom must we grant it? Another problem is that the boundaries of permissible influence are always indeterminate, leading to conflicts over exactly what must be allowed, such as conflicts over religious dress. The lecture will reexamine these problems.

When: Thursday, May 28th, 6:15 p.m.

Where: Kiel, Leibnizstrasse 1, Klaus-Murmann-Lecture-Hall

The poster as PDF:

This event takes place within the 350th anniversary of Kiel University, which will be celebrated throughout the whole year of 2015. From sports events, concerts, lecture series and exhibitions to conferences and research projects: With over 2000 individual events in its calendar the state university opens itself and invites everyone to celebrate its big anniversary together. For more information, visit