Is Tolerance Political? An Interview with Denis Lacorne

Denis Lacorne is the author of The Limits of Tolerance. Enlightenment Values and Religious Fanaticism (Columbia University Press, 2019), the English translation of Les limites de la tolérance (Gallimard, awarded the Prix Montyon by the Académie Française). In his book, which is intellectually very inspiring because of the many questions it addresses and raises, Denis Lacorne traces the emergence of the notion of tolerance from its early thinkers to the Age of Enlightenment and finally questions the notion and its various understandings through more recent events in France and the United States. What is tolerance? Is tolerance political? Interview.

What is “genuine” tolerance?

There is no “genuine” tolerance, but several forms of tolerance and several definitions of the terms which may conflict with one another. The latin root of the term, the verb tolero, means to accept, put up with or bear a burden. Politically it refers to a prince or a sovereign who accepts, permits or recognizes as legitimate a minority religion, without giving it the same rights as the official or established religion. This permission is always conditional and could be withdrawn at any time. This is what I call the “old definition of tolerance”. There is also a different definition...

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