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Abstract

Toleration and respect are types of relations between different agents. The standard analyses of toleration and respect are attitudinal; toleration and respect require subjects to have appropriate types of attitudes towards the objects of toleration or respect. The paper investigates whether states can sensibly be described as tolerant or respectful in ways theoretically relevantly similar to the standard analyses. This is a descriptive question about the applicability of concepts rather than a normative question about whether, when and why states should be tolerant or respectful. The problem of institutional application is that institutions in general and the state in particular arguably cannot have attitudes of the required kind. This problem is distinct from, and broader than, well-known problems about whether political toleration is normatively legitimate. To make sense of political toleration or respect, the paper proposes that the analysis of institutional toleration and respect should not be solely agent-centred (as in attitudinal analyses) or patient-centred (as in explanations of the good of toleration or respect in terms of the effects of being tolerated or respected). The analysis should also include features about the relation itself. We can describe institutions as tolerant or respectful in a sense relevantly similar to the standard analyses if we focus on the public features of the relation between institutions and citizens or groups, without ascribing attitudes in the problematic sense.