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Locke’s theory of toleration and its critics

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Title: Locke’s theory of toleration and its critics
Author: Raabe, Peter Bruno
Degree: Master of Arts - MA
Program: Philosophy
Copyright Date: 1994
Issue Date: 2009-02-10
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Abstract: It has been argued that Locke's theory of toleration is not only flawed in some respects, but that it lacks relevance for present day North American society since it addresses only the conditions and concerns of Locke's own civil society and historical period. But a detailed analysis of the arguments in the Letter, along with an examination of the criticisms of his letter levelled at him by his contemporary, Jonas Proast, especially, on the issue of the use of force to promote belief, shows that Locke's theory of toleration is in fact logically sound and quite rigorous. Furthermore, an examination of some of Locke's other writings reveals that Locke has based his theory of toleration on sound political and epistemological foundations. A scrutiny of later criticisms by Joseph Priestley, Susan Mendus, Jeremy Waldron, and John Rawls shows that they also fail to diminish either the force of Locke's arguments or the relevance of his theory of toleration to present day issues surrounding religious freedom. Although Locke's intolerance of atheists is shown to be misplaced, it is argued that his approach to universal religious toleration is not at odds with modern approaches from individual rights. It is also argued that he is not mistaken in his assumption that matters of state can, and must, be separated from matters of religion if the peace and security of a state are to be maintained. Locke's theory of toleration is therefore shown to be neither parochial nor historically bound.
Affiliation: Arts, Faculty of
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/4392
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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