Tolerance and Community: A Medieval Communal Functionalist Argument for Religious Toleration Academic Article uri icon


  • Liberal political theory has claimed to be the unique advocate of religious toleration. But a theory of religious toleration is not solely a hallmark of liberalism. This is demonstrated as both a philosophical and a historical claim by appealing to the theory of communal functionalism which formed an important strain of political thought during the Latin Middle Ages. The defense of religious toleration proposed by the fourteenth century author Marsiglio of Padua is closely examined. Marsiglio advances the view that religious difference should not be an impediment to civic intercourse and inclusion, nor a matter of public regulation. Marsiglio's theory is able to inform current discussions about toleration of religious and other personal differences. Traditionally, the justification of religious toleration has been closely associated with liberal political ideas and practices.1 Indeed, many proponents of liberalism have claimed for themselves a virtual monopoly on the defense of the right and liberty of free people in matters of conscience and worship.2 Most recently, Rawls (1993), in Political Liberalism, proclaims,. 1994, Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

published proceedings

  • The Journal of Politics

author list (cited authors)

  • Nederman, C. J.

citation count

  • 5

complete list of authors

  • Nederman, Cary J

publication date

  • November 1994