Second-Order Arguments, or Do We Still Need Tolerance in the Public Sphere?


A number of widely discussed court decisions on cases of insults against religious feelings in Russia, such as the relatively recent “Pokemon Go” case of blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky or the lawsuit filed against an Orthodox priest by Nikolai Ryabchevsky in Yekaterinburg for comparing Lenin with Hitler, make pertinent the question of why toleration becomes so difficult in matters concerning religion. In this paper, I revise the classical liberal concept of toleration (David Heyd, Peter Nicholson, and John Horton), arguing that it is challenged by contemporary philosophers, who see no room for applying this concept in the “domain of identities”. The most prominent case of “primordial” identity, that is, the notion of identity as a given, is the claim of devoted believers for recognition. Should we replace the principle of toleration by the principle of recognition since the latter better corresponds to identity claims? To address this question, in the first part of the article I describe the mechanism of tolerant attitude (Nicholson, Heyd) and in the second part, I analyze the debates about the possibility or impossibility of inner religious toleration (Avishai Margalit, Cary Nederman, and Maxim Khomyakov) and further compare toleration and recognition as normative principles. In the light of the debates I took part in the conference hosted by the University of Southern Denmark in October 2019 as part of the project “Religious Majority/Minority in Public Space in Russia and Northern Europe: Historical-Cultural Analysis”, I come to the conclusion that the principle of toleration is preferable to the principle of recognition because the “second-order” arguments for toleration in a secular state will be universally acceptable (pragmatic argument) and, therefore, the principle of toleration is more logical (analytical argument). Following Peter John’s thesis about minimal recognition embedded in toleration, it may also be concluded that we need a normatively charged idea of citizenship, which could provide us with universal “second-order” foundation.

Author Biography

Aleksei V. Loginov, Ural Federal University, Yekaterinburg, Russia

Aleksei V. Loginov, Cand. Sci. (Philosophy), is Associated Professor at the Department of Philosophy, Ural Federal University, Yekaterinburg, Russia. He teaches courses in Social and Political Philosophy. His main research interests include theories of distributive justice, debates on toleration in contemporary political thought, and theory of ideology.


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How to Cite
Loginov, A. (2019). Second-Order Arguments, or Do We Still Need Tolerance in the Public Sphere?. Changing Societies & Personalities, 3(4), 319–332. doi:10.15826/csp.2019.3.4.080