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Political Theory Paper #2

Political Theory Paper #2 - The Toleration of Toleration...

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The Toleration of Toleration After working his way through the library in this imagined scenario, Locke finally finds his way to the section containing Marcuse’s “Repressive Toleration”, at which point he probably stops dead in his tracks after reading the first page. Their stances on toleration are so different, it isn’t hard to imagine the two authors coming to blows if they ever met each other in person. However, Locke would find some things in Marcuse’s essay that he could agree with. The best way to imagine such a scenario is to go inside the mind of a John Locke as he reads a document written almost three hundred years after his time. The first paragraph of “Repressive Tolerance” would hook Locke into reading the rest of the essay. In it, Marcuse states that “what is proclaimed and practiced as tolerance today, is in many of its most effective manifestations serving the cause of oppression.” Locke’s main point in his letter is that a lack of tolerance causes civil unrest and useless violence. He also goes on to say that “The Toleration of those that differ from others in Matters of Religion, is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ…that it seems monstrous for Men to be so blind, as not to perceive the Necessity and Advantage of it, in so clear a Light,” (Locke, pg.25). Although Locke’s letter only concerns religious toleration, we can be fairly certain that Marcuse’s opening would pique his interest. From there, Marcuse expounds upon his theory of repressive toleration by claiming that “Tolerance is extended to policies, conditions, and modes of behavior which should not be tolerated because they are impeding, if not destroying, the chances of creating an existence without fear or misery,” (Marcuse, pg.1). This directly contradicts Locke’s argument that tolerance is the only way to guarantee a future without conflict, for it is the “refusal of Toleration to those that are of different Opinions,… that has produced all the Bustles and Wars,” (Locke,
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pg.55). As he continues reading, Locke would stumble upon the next passage in which Marcuse says that “Tolerance is turned from an active into a passive state,” (Marcuse, pg.1), where “It is the people who tolerate the government, which in turn tolerates opposition within the framework determined by the constituted authorities,” (Marcuse, pgs.1-2). Locke would disagree with this because Marcuse is implying the government is a nuisance and unnecessarily bothers the people. If a state of true tolerance is maintained, there will be no need for people to tolerate the government because it will not be affecting them in matters of opinion. For Locke says that “Things never so indifferent in their own nature, when they are brought into the Church and Worship of God, are removed out of the reach of the Magistrate’s Jurisdiction; because in that use they have no connection at all with Civil Affairs,” (Locke, pg.39). Although he speaks only of religious practices, we can extrapolate this statement to include private opinions as well. If the
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Political Theory Paper #2 - The Toleration of Toleration...

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