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Abstract

Tolerance, the mere “putting up” with disapproved behaviour and practices, is often considered a too negative and passive engagement with difference in the liberal constitutional state. In response, liberal thinkers have either discarded tolerance, or assimilated it to the moral and legal precepts of liberal justice. In contradistinction to these approaches I argue that there is something distinctive and valuable about tolerance that should not be undermined by more ambitious, rights-based models of social cooperation. I develop a conception of tolerance as a complementary principle and an interim value that is neither incompatible with, nor reducible to, rights-based liberalism. Tolerance represents a particular, non-communitarian expression of the general dictum that the liberal state, having released its citizens into liberty, rests on social presuppositions it cannot itself guarantee.