Toleration, Value-pluralism, and the Fact of Pluralism
In his Two Faces of Liberalism, John Gray distinguishes two traditions of liberal thinking about toleration. One conceives toleration as a route to rational consensus on the best way of life; the other holds that there is no single best way of life but rather many ways of life in which human beings can flourish. Gray argues that the first tradition has come to dominate liberal thinking and that it encompasses the work of contemporary liberals as diverse as Rawls, Dworkin, Hayek and Nozick. It has become so dominant that Gray sometimes describes it simply as ‘liberal toleration’. He believes that this tradition, with its aspiration to secure rational consensus on how we should live, is fundamentally misconceived. It has always been mistaken, but its error has been made more conspicuous by the sheer range of the different ways of life that toleration has to encompass in the late modern world. Gray argues that liberal thinking needs to relocate itself in the second tradition which recognises the goodness of many different ways of life, none of which is better than the rest.