After a lunch of sandwiches, salad, and cookies, the second Friday session – “Certainty, Probability, and Reasons: Reasons for Toleration” – began with Douglass Casson’s talk “Toleration without Sovereignty: Locke on Reasonableness, Judgment, and Absolute Dominion”.
Douglass argued that there is an incompatibility between Lockean toleration and modern notions of sovereignty. More specifically, he argued that much of the confusion surrounding Locke’s arguments for toleration is a consequence of the fact that it is wrongly assumed that Locke means his arguments for the toleration of religious dissent to be such that would be convincing to a single, absolute, and permanent sovereign authority. In the Two Treatises, however, we see Locke describing a state with multiple claimants to sovereignty under changing conditions; Douglass argued that Locke’s arguments for toleration in the Letters can be best understood as being intended to provide reasons to tolerate religious dissent within just such a sovereign-less context.
The second talk of the afternoon was Michael Borgida’s “Civil Interests and Locke’s Political Reason for Toleration”. Michael talk had three distinct parts. First, he argued that the mandate argument has a privileged role in Locke’s argument for toleration. Second, Michael examined how the mandate argument evolves of the course of Locke’s three letters and argued that the version of the argument found in the third letter is a good argument. And third, he examined the structure of Locke’s third letter and in doing so argued that, although Locke offers a number of different sorts of arguments for toleration, the core argument is political rather than epistemic, religious, or psychological.
Saturday’s sessions are titled “Locke and his Friends: Latitudinarians, Arminians, and Socinians”and “Toleration and the Ethics of Belief”. The former features talks by Patricia Sheridan (Gelph) and Elliot Rossiter (Douglas College), while the latter features talks by Jonathan Walmsley (Independent Scholar) and Elizabeth Pritchard (Bowdoin). [Alastair Croby]