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Toleration: Philosophy and Practice


Admission requirements

  • Students in the BA programme Philosophy: first year has been successfully completed.

  • Prerequisites for students from other departments (including contractstudenten): first year BA has been successfully completed as well as the following course in philosophy: History of Modern Political Philosophy. This course has a limited number of places available for students from other departments.


This course aims to introduce students to the theory and practice of toleration. It seeks to familiarise students with the major contours of toleration as a concept, with its historical origins in the early modern period, and with key writings both from this period and through the Enlightenment to the present. It then aims to apply the understanding generated by these studies to the practice of toleration in modern times, and to explain how and why it remains a contested political value.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • historical justifications of toleration;

  • the historical background to these justifications in the early modern period;

  • the conceptual structure of toleration as a concept and value;

  • modern theories of toleration;

  • the implications of toleration as a value for contemporary political argument in such areas as multiculturalism, sexual politics, censorship, drugs regulation and personal freedom.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • iInterpret texts by Spinoza, Locke, Bayle and others in the early modern history of toleration;

  • reprise and evaluate arguments made in these texts;

  • comparatively analyse the strengths and weaknesses of different construals of toleration, and their place in broader political theories;

  • knowledgeably discuss the development of modern theories of toleration by liberals and their critics;

  • articulate the theoretical backdrop to contemporary political arguments over toleration.


See Collegeroosters Wijsbegeerte 2014-2015, BA Wijsbegeerte (BA Plus-traject or Standaardtraject), derde jaar.

See Timetables Philosophy 2014-2015 , Timetable Undergraduate Courses in English

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

To be announced.

Assessment method

  • Examination and interpretation of documentary material (unseen examination) (30%)

  • Assessed essay chosen from a set list of topics, 2,000 words (60%)

  • Oral presentations in class (10%)


Blackboard will be used as an online discussion forum, and for posting of the course reading list, course assignments, selected readings and online links.

Reading list

Required literature will be made available on Blackboard.


Please register for this course on uSis.
See Inschrijven voor cursussen en tentamens
See Registration for courses and examinations

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the collegerooster in the column under the heading “”.

Exchange students and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs
Registration Studeren à la carte: not applicable


Prof.dr. G.F. Newey