Education for Democratic Tolerance, Respect and the Limits of Political Liberalism

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Criticisms of autonomy‐based justifications of toleration as an educational aim and as a political principle assume that personal autonomy can provide only a partial justification of toleration and that it serves as a basis for illiberal educational enforcements of a particular conception of the good. In this article, I defend an autonomy‐ and respect‐based conception and justification of education for tolerance as a democratic virtue against its critics. I will first provide a short analysis of the concept of toleration as well as of some methodological problems concerning the application of general normative conceptions and rationales to particular cases. In a second step, I reconstruct key elements of the specific normative role and function of toleration in educational circumstances. This leads me to the third section, in which I criticise political liberal conceptions of equal respect, that tend to ignore the pivotal educational role of personal autonomy in grounding and facilitating political respect and the virtue of democratic toleration. In the case of developing agents who have not yet acquired a stable conception of the good (and thus no stable reasons for objection or acceptance), educators appropriately express their respect for them as persons and future citizens by enabling them to question and criticise their socially acquired convictions about themselves and the political world. My discussion will show that personal and political autonomy are inseparable and coordinated educational and political ideals and that the demands and preconditions of autonomy, political respect and education for tolerance as a democratic virtue are mutually supportive and intertwined.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Pages (from-to)515-532
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


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