Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Political Science

Committee Chair(s)

Anthony Peacock


Anthony Peacock


Robert Ross


Harrison Kleiner


Tolerance is a difficult and controversial concept in political rhetoric. For many, tolerance requires the acceptance of what one believes is evil. Still, most of us feel as though we must accept the differences of others on some level. This thesis is an attempt to better understand tolerance. To do so, it uses the concept of natural law, or the idea that all law should justified through one, universal theory of good. This would seem contradictory, as natural law supposes that a single vision of the good life exists for all. Yet the natural law theory of one legal theorist, Thomas Aquinas, rests on the idea that every person possesses the ability to comprehend what is good through reason.

This additional caveat of Aquinas’ natural law provides us with a specific understanding of tolerance that exists to provide space for others to reason and learn about what is good. This will stand in contrast to the more common justification of tolerance today: that a truce between competing sides in necessary to keep the peace and maintain order. This is a sentiment sometimes echoed by John Locke, whose liberal vision of government allowed each individual the ability to choose. We will see, however, that liberal government is difficult without authentic deliberation- something only available in a view of tolerance that confronts moral differences and seeks to amend them in a reasoned way.