The Institute for Philosophy & Religion (IPR) lecture series, Toleration and Freedom in a Global Age" continues with a lecture by Susanne Sreedhar, Department of Philosophy, Boston University.
Prominent in common understandings of the philosophical history of toleration sits a familiar story: the 17th century as battleground, with Locke, the champion of individual rights of conscience and proponent of separation of church and state facing off against the dreaded enemy, Hobbes, whose all-powerful Leviathan leaves no space for dissent - political, religious or otherwise. This familiar tale has a happy ending: the victory of the former over the latter paved the way for modern theories of toleration.
Of course, the victor in this tale has been scrutinized as much as he has been venerated; Locke's theory has received both positive and negative commentary by subsequent readers. Hobbes's views on toleration, on the other hand, have received little attention in the years since. It is as though Hobbes's defeat left him unworthy of criticism rather than subject to it. Most contemporary debates about the nature and limits of toleration - and there are many - begin by assuming what Hobbes explicitly denies: namely, that the state should not impose religion on its people. This paper challenges the contours of the familiar story, reframing the received understanding of Hobbes's position and, thus, disrupting a too-easy telling of his relationship to Locke.
Susanne Sreedhar is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Boston University.
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