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A Matter of Respect: On Majority‐Minority Relations in a Liberal Democracy


Journal of Applied Philosophy

Published online on


In this article, we engage critically with the understanding of majority‐minority relations in a liberal democracy as relations of toleration. We make two main claims: first, that appeals to toleration are unable to capture the procedural problems concerning the unequal socio‐political participation of minorities, and, second, that they do not offer any critical tool to establish what judgements the majority is entitled to consider valid reasons for action with respect to some minority. We suggest supplementing the reference to toleration with a specific interpretation of respect for persons; all persons should be treated equally as self‐legislators and as if they were opaque to our judgement as regards their agential abilities, on which their capacity for self‐legislation supervenes. Minorities are disrespected in this sense whenever are treated merely as the addressees of the rules constraining the formulation and pursuit of their life‐plans, rather than as their co‐authors on an equal footing with the majority, and whenever their treatment in politics and society is considered as legitimately influenced by the majority's judgement of their agential abilities, either directly or by indirect inference from the evaluation of the content of their beliefs and practices.