Rethinking Hobbes and Locke on Toleration

  • Susanne Sreedhar
Part of the Boston Studies in Philosophy, Religion and Public Life book series (BSPR, volume 6)


On a natural reading of his philosophy, Hobbes appears as a paradigmatic opponent of religious toleration. His official position is that the church is subordinate to the state, which in turn has the right and duty to determine what religious doctrines will be espoused and what forms of religious worship will be practiced by members of that state. However, the received view of Hobbes as anti-tolerationist has been increasingly challenged in recent decades. In a seminal article, Alan Ryan (1988) suggests that we might understand Hobbes as allowing more room for religious diversity than had previously been thought. Richard Tuck (1990) followed with the stronger claim that Leviathan was in fact a “defense of toleration.” Tuck argues that Hobbes, especially in his later works, supported many of the tolerationist policies advocated by John Locke and so should be read as a kind of intellectual ally to Locke, as least on this particular issue. Ed Curley (2007) accepts the idea that Hobbes’s philosophy is “favorable to toleration”, but insists on a “more nuanced verdict”, namely, that the Latin Leviathan is more so than the English Leviathan.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Boston UniversityBostonUSA

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