Toleration and Tolerance. Models, Metamorphoses, Implications

Am Anfang des ersten Satzes der europäischen Überlieferung, im Eingangsvers der Ilias, taucht das Wort »Zorn« auf, fatal und feierlich wie ein Apell, der keinen Widerspruch duldet.

Peter Sloterdijk, Zorn und Zeit. Politisch-psychologischer Versuch,
Frankfurt (Main): Suhrkamp 2006.

Coincidentia oppositorum, - la coïncidence des contrastes; l'unité de ce qui a été désuni, c'est ainsi que Dieu est défini par Nicolas de Cusa, le philosophe le plus profond du quinzième siècle, qui fut un précurseur de Copernic et du sens moderne de l'individualité, car il enseigna qu'aucune chose ne pouvait être remplacée par une autre et que, bien qu'elle ne puisse être comparée à aucune autre, elle représentait cependant l'univers à la place qu'elle occupait.

Georg Simmel, Mélanges de philosophie relativiste. Contribution à la culture philosophique,
Bibliothèque de philosophie contemporaine
, Paris: Félix Alcan 1909/10.



Also the Western world has certainly witnessed intensive and, all too often, turbulent clashes with what could generally be called "otherness".

In Western tradition, the history of discovering otherness, difference and strangeness, yet also individuality is long, lined with thorns and measured in the cycles of wars waged, pogroms organised, and gallows and stakes raised. The blood-soaked confrontation of major collective identities has been accompanied by brutal histories of exclusion of minority groups and those bearing particular stigmas. A field that has been especially fertile for such confrontations is the religious identity of the Western world (res publica christiana), reinforced in the Middle Ages, and united institutionally and linguistically.

Numerous particular political and business interests have led, however, to a search for alternative solutions in encounters with "otherness". The first proposal of the type was elaborated early in the 15th century by a Polish scholar, the Rector of Kraków Academy, Paweł Włodkowic (Paulus Vladimiri) in his Tractatus de potestate papae et imperatoris respectu infidelium. Born in this way, the idea of tolerance would grow to the rank of "value" not only of the Enlightenment, but also of what we proudly refer to as "the culture of the Western world".

However many cases of examples of past tolerance we could enumerate, in the face of the havoc of religious wars, we can easily point to the practices of conciliatory pursuits and developing theoretical models that gained in popularity after 1648. The English were evidently the leaders in this field, pointing to certain subtleties, clearly distinguishing the notions of "toleration" and "tolerance", and defining the semantic difference between the two notions. Thanks to the theoreticians of the Enlightenment, Lumières, and Aufklärung, tolerance became something more than just a slogan: a foundation of the Enlightenment.

Although with time tolerance grew into a more or less questioned "value" of the culture of the Western world, the problem of "otherness" returned with national and territorial rapaciousness in the 18th century, and the conquests and racial and cultural pogroms that they entailed. Postulated by Locke, Spinoza, Bayle, and Voltaire, the culture of tolerance would therefore be somewhat cherished, somewhat contested, and somewhat downright rejected.

It was only the totalitarian experiences of the 20th century that brought about the rediscovery of the significance of tolerance on a great scale and its role in the global dimension in 1995 (UN). Exported and assimilated, the culture of tolerance introduced global standards of civil and political attitudes, at the same time building new models of societies organised around the idea of understanding "otherness", respect, and farreaching tolerance.

The intensive changes taking place in the global context led to metamorphoses of entire communities that – parallel to the civic constellations transforming at an exasperating pace – either accept the new social morphologies that originated as an aftermath of the changes, or point to their failure.

Faced with increasing social, economic, and financial tensions, the International Day for Tolerance established by the United Nations is becoming – as never before – a challenge for the entire globalised world. The challenge is the more significant as also at stake are further values of the culture of the Western world, which remain at odds and are put to test in the economic and political race against other cultural models which do not share such values with the Western world and find the very notion of tolerance alien.

In appreciation of the defining character of the history of tolerance in the Western world, the Villa Decius Association, together with the Jagiellonian University in Krakow's International History of Ideas Club and History of Ideas Research Centre, have the honor of inviting you to a conference entitled: Toleration and Tolerance. Models, Metamorphoses, Implications, which will be held from 18th to 20th October 2012 at Villa Decius in Krakow. The spectrum of problems discussed is treated extensively and in an interdisciplinary manner: from pointing to cases of practices, via the definition of the conceptual framework, to the definition of new adaptive solutions, in the context of both internal social contention and the challenges of global economy and politics, which are closely entangled with one another.


Krakow, January 15, 2012                                                 Michel Henri Kowalewicz

Published Date: 13.05.2014
Published by: Konrad Szocik

zobacz również