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Andrew Jason Cohen

ISBN: 978-0-745-65557-4 March 2014 Polity 200 Pages


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In this engaging and comprehensive introduction to the topic of toleration, Andrew Jason Cohen seeks to answer fundamental questions, such as: What is toleration? What should be tolerated? Why is toleration important?

Beginning with some key insights into what we mean by toleration, Cohen goes on to investigate what should be tolerated and why. We should not be free to do everythingÑmurder, rape, and theft, for clear examples, should not be tolerated. But should we be free to take drugs, hire a prostitute, or kill ourselves? Should our governments outlaw such activities or tolerate them? Should they tolerate “outsourcing” of jobs or importing of goods or put embargos on other countries? Cohen examines these difficult questions, among others, and argues that we should look to principles of toleration to guide our answers. These principles tell us when limiting freedom is acceptableÑthat is, they indicate the proper limits of toleration. Cohen deftly explains the main principles on offer and indicates why one of these stands out from the rest.

This wide-ranging new book on an important topic will be essential reading for students taking courses in philosophy, political science and religious studies.

Acknowledgments viii

Introduction 1

1 The Topic and Its Historical Relevance 8

2 Two Approaches to the Normative Issues 19

3 The Harm Principle 36

4 Other Principles 55

5 Extending the Harm Principle 86

6 Children and the Paradoxes of Toleration and

Liberalism 111

7 General Defenses of Toleration 125

8 Conclusion 151

Notes 157

References 168

Index 173

"Cohen tells us that the history of liberalism is the history of toleration. The claim survives reflection: few events in human history have been more important than when your religion ceased to be regarded as a good reason to kill you. Toleration is remarkably bold yet remarkably engaging, simply written, and brimming with insight."
David Schmidtz, Center for the Philosophy of Freedom

"Cohen's book provides an exemplary analysis of what toleration is (and is not), and a lucid assessment of the reasons - strong and weak - why it is so valuable."
Hillel Steiner, Professor Emeritus, University of Manchester and Research Professor, University of Arizona

"Written in an accessible style and unafraid to embrace controversy, Andrew Cohen provides a lively and challenging introduction to the meaning and justification of toleration. He robustly defends his own principles of toleration, and his conclusions about some of the examples he discusses, along with the arguments in favour of them, are especially likely to stimulate debate and discussion, both among students and their teachers."
John Horton, Keele University

"The iron-fisted King Feris treated everyone equally but tolerated little, while King Juris tolerated everything except for harm to others. Who would not prefer King Juris? And who would argue that toleration is not important? Andrew Cohen's snappy, often amusing, style makes the issue come alive, and is more effective than a straightforward argument for the importance of toleration. Cohen also challenges society-wide shibboleths by arguing that drug use, pornography, and prostitution by and with consenting adults ought to be tolerated, but corporations as they are currently instituted ought not. The book is a fine introduction to toleration."
Neera Badhwar, University of Oklahoma (Emerita) and George Mason University (Affiliate)