Essay Toleration

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Jolley's analyses and expositions are challenging and illuminating, even if one does not always agree with their outcomes.

His concern is to show by these chapters that Locke bases his case for toleration on several arguments, and not on one only, as his nemesis, Jonas Proast contended.

That argument turns on the claim that coercion is of no use whatever in establishing belief of any sort, and that any attempt to do so is futile and irrational.

This is the argument that Jeremy Waldron has seized upon as the 'crux' of Locke's defense, along with Proast's qualified denial of it, which Waldron accepts, and which therefore leads him to characterize it as fatally flawed.

It was the impact of that event and his experience of a perhaps less cruel persecution of the Dutch Remonstrants that prompted Locke to think about toleration at the very time he was clarifying his position on the limits of knowledge and belief.

The remaining chapters are topical, each devoted to a concept or argument that Locke employed to define the nature and scope of toleration and defend its practice.

It is on this moral basis that a just and durable social contract is possible.

It should be noted that this idea of man as a bearer of a divine law, who is obliged, even in a state of nature to care for the rest of mankind, is a type of Christ. Morality is the great theme that unites Locke's thought and brings all the parts together in a coherent if not always consistent whole.

The book begins with an introductory chapter that ranges over the last four decades of Locke's life and provides historical context, focusing on key events that became occasions for Locke's reflections on toleration.

The Exclusion Crisis (1679-81) occasioned by Protestant opposition to the Catholic James, Duke of York, as successor to Charles II occasioned Locke reflections on the origin and scope of political power.


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