Are Toleration and Respect Compatible?



Toleration and respect are often thought of as compatible, and indeed complementary, liberal democratic ideals. However, it has sometimes been said that toleration is disrespectful, because it necessarily involves a negative evaluation of the object of toleration. This article shows how toleration and respect are compatible as long as ‘respect’ is taken to mean (what some moral philosophers have called) recognition respect, as opposed to appraisal respect. But it also argues that recognition respect itself rules out certain kinds of evaluation of persons, and with these, certain bases for toleration: if recognition respect is really distinct from appraisal respect, and if the fundamental rights assigned to people on the basis of recognition respect are to be equal rights, then recognition respect must itself involve a refusal to evaluate certain basic agential capacities of persons when deliberating about how to treat them. Even where ‘respect’ means recognition respect, then, there is some truth both in the thesis that toleration and respect are compatible, and in the thesis that they are incompatible. The different truths in these two theses help to shed light on the nature of toleration considered specifically as a liberal democratic virtue. This point can be illustrated by showing how the foregoing analysis provides a plausible solution to the so-called ‘paradox of the tolerant racist’.